PROVO — BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark remembers practices just prior to the 2018 season well, when he had just two healthy options at the position to coach up: Matt Bushman and Dallin Holker.

It’s not a prospect any coach desires — hoping to develop as much talent possible at a position for the coming arduous season where injuries are certain to occur.

My, how things have changed, though.

“The guys are learning pretty quick. They’re doing a good job, so hopefully we can keep it up.” — BYU tight end Matt Bushman

Clark begins the 2020 spring practice session with tight ends aplenty listed up and down the roster, with most of them able to participate fully.

“It’s great. It’s a lot of fun having all these guys,” Clark said. “You can wear them down pretty quick, so this gives us some fresh bodies, and now they have to figure out what to do, and that’s another issue.”

The issue alluded to comes with the relative inexperience of Clark’s position group.

Sure, there’s wily veteran Bushman heading the team meetings and practice regimen, but beyond that are a bunch of freshmen and sophomores — almost none of whom have much experience to rest on. But that’s not to say the group isn’t talented by any stretch, with both Clark and Bushman encouraged with what they’ve seen through one week of spring practices.

“The guys are learning pretty quick,” Bushman said. “They’re doing a good job, so hopefully we can keep it up.”

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The spring practice roster includes 11 players listed at tight end, although at least a couple of those will be playing a sort of H-back or fullback position in the case of Masen Wake and Kyle Griffitts. Still, Clark is coaching up all 10, with several coming into focus as potential contributors come the 2020 season.

Chief among those potential contributors is Isaac Rex, a 6-foot-6, 247-pound redshirt freshman who saw some experience last season which is aiding him this spring, among other factors.

“He’s a big guy — a big target who is getting strong,” Clark said of Rex, while adding, “He must have caught 10 balls today. He played really well,” following Friday’s practice session, which involved a lot of live reps.

Clark quickly added the name of Carter Wheat, although the 6-4, 239-pound redshirt freshman is being limited this spring due to injury.

“He’s a really good route-runner, but he’s been hurt, and we’re holding him out,” Clark said.

Among the wounded who have shown a lot of promise when healthy is Hank Tuipulotu (6-3, 240), who has suffered not one, but two torn ACLs since arriving at BYU with coaches hoping he can finally show his abilities on the field this season.

“I feel really good about those four,” Clark said, referring to his current frontline group of Bushman, Rex, Wheat and fullback Wake, although much is yet to be sorted out.

Others in the mix this spring are Alema Pilimai (6-4, 245, So.), Nate Heaps (6-4, 260, Jr.), junior college transfer Lane Lunt (6-4, 230, Jr.) and Bentley Hanshaw (6-6, 220, Fr.), who recently returned from two-year mission service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Clark is putting a lot of pressure on his relatively young group, hoping to get as many as possible up to speed within the offensive system.

“I just want them to compete and understand the offense,” Clark said. “I can’t emphasize enough that it’s a complex offense, and they got to know (a lot). If they can master what we’re putting in, then we can hit the ground running in the fall.”

Tight end Matt Bushman walks off the field after a BYU spring football practice in Provo on Friday, March 6, 2020. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Helping out the cause considerably is Bushman, who provides a wealth of experience Clark’s otherwise young group can take notes from.

“They learn from how he does it, but not only from how he does it, but how he practices, how he comes to meetings, and how he practices, how he is in the weight room,” Clark said. “Just the way he handles himself all the way around is a great example for those guys to follow.”

All-America candidate Matt Bushman’s return saves BYU from being totally inexperienced at tight end position in 2020

Bushman is focused on becoming an NFL-ready tight end this spring, while maintaining the great form he’s employed throughout his career, taking notes from watching NFL standouts like Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) and George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers).

“It’s been really beneficial, and I’m going to keep learning from those guys,” Bushman said of all the film he’s watched on what could be considered the top two tight ends in all of football.