Who will be BYU’s next Matt Bushman? Here’s one possibility
Matt Bushman remains BYU’s brightest hopes for a great 2020 season — if there is one — but who will fill his shoes when the big senior finally leaves the Cougars’ program?
PROVO — Matt Bushman is expected to live up to a lofty standard as a BYU tight end, following names like Dennis Pitta, Andrew George, Jonny Harline, Itula Mili, Chad Lewis, Clay Brown and Gordon Hudson, to name a few.
But who’s going to be the next Matt Bushman?
I asked him.
The BYU senior was the first player the university trotted out for media availability this week as the Cougars kicked off fall football camp.
That speaks volumes on how he’s viewed by coaches, teammates and the public relations folks. He’s a veteran playmaker, leader, spokesman and kind of the epitome of what the program likes in a poster guy. He even pitched the benefits of wearing a mask — that simply being obedient is a worthy factor in that controversial ask.
Bushman is big, fast, has great hands. He will be counted upon to be a big target if and when the college football season finds a way to being played this fall. And to prepare for it, he is in the best shape of his life.
I asked Bushman to break down tight end depth at BYU. Then I asked who will be the next Matt Bushman.
The first name he mentioned both times was the tallest and biggest in the tight-end room, 6-foot-6, 247-pound freshman Isaac Rex, from San Clemente, California.
Without looking at any notes, Bushman rattled off the names of all the tight ends: Kyle Griffitts, Bentley Hanshaw, Layne Hunt, Ben and Hank Tuipulotu, Masen Wake and Carter Wheat.
Bushman gave short commentaries on each of them, and his expectations for Rex, an unproven prospect, are high.
“Yeah, we have a pretty big group with tight end right now,” he said. “Isaac Rex has been working hard. He’s young, but the coaches are expecting him to just do his job, be out there and be a reliable guy for this team. He’s been working hard and he has been back and forth from California to Utah. I was working out with him here and there during the quarantine.
“Carter is just a really good athlete. We’re confident that he can step up and do what the coaches need. There’s a new guy, Layne Hunt, who came from a junior college, and he’s going to be competing in there also. So it’ll be interesting to see who is in when we have those 12- and 13-personnel packages, who’s gonna fight for those spots. There’s gonna be a lot of competition.
“We have Masen Wake, who’s like more of a fullback. He likes to hit and when he comes at people, it’s like a semitruck.”
Bushman then broke down the Tuipulotu brothers, welcomed the return of Hanshaw after missionary service and said Griffitts is a senior who is versatile.
“It’s an exciting young group. There’re a lot of players, but only a couple of spots so they’ll really be fighting for those few extra chances. When we have those bigger tight end packages it’s going to be interesting to see who takes over,” said Bushman.
Practices are closed to the public and the media as COVID-19 protocols limit who can be present during drills.
So, don’t look for eye-witness reports hyping plays made, catches hauled in and TDs produced in these sessions.
So, who is the next Bushman?
Well, the senior went through the right political platitudes as he got his thoughts together.
“It’s hard, there’s only ... everyone’s a little bit different and I think a lot of them have potential,” he began.
“I think we’ll see a lot of Isaac Rex this year. He’s a bigger body. He’s a bit taller than me and he can move.” — BYU tight end Matt Bushman
“I think we’ll see a lot of Isaac Rex this year. He’s a bigger body. He’s a bit taller than me and he can move. So, if he can just get out there and stay confident, I think he can be a really good player this year and he has a lot of potential. I look forward to running out there and making plays with him.”
Rex is the son of former BYU All-American tight end Byron Rex and played in the Polynesian Bowl as a high school senior. He helped San Clemente High win a California state championship and led his team in playoff receiving. He was also a successful basketball player and was named San Clemente High’s Athlete of the Year as a senior.
As a junior, he played alongside Utah’s starting tight end Chad Fotheringham.
Rex’s resume checks out. So does his genetics, and he earned a scholarship.
Talking about genetics and scholarships, remember Bushman’s father-in-law, Chad Lewis? Well, he walked on without a scholarship, conquered all as a top-tier collegian, and then earned multiple NFL pro bowl honors.
Potential is a wonderful thing.