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It’s been a long road back for Brant Kuithe, but the destination is in sight.

The veteran Utah tight end hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 24, 2022, when he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus. The recovery from the ACL surgery, plus the development of a cyclops lesion — which led to another surgery to remove it — kept him from the field during the 2023 season.

“It’s awesome. It’s great having him and you’re reminded of everything that he did going back to 2021.”

—  Utah tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham on having Brant Kuithe back on the field

But that’s all in the past.

“It was rough watching it from the sideline, but we all went through it. But that was last year. That’s in the past, you can’t really dwell on it, and good thing we have a whole new season coming up,” Kuithe said.

Kuithe, along with quarterback Cam Rising, who also missed all of 2023, is back for another go-around in Utah’s inaugural season in the Big 12 and has been healthy as spring practices wrapped up.

Rising and Kuithe displayed their connection in the spring game — a 14-yard catch on fourth-and-3 and an 11-yard catch. Kuithe was wearing a yellow vest and wasn’t allowed to be tackled but looked smooth running routes.

Kuithe is one of Rising’s favorite targets, and being out there definitely provides a level of comfort for Utah’s quarterback.

With great hands, big-play ability, smooth route-running, solid blocking and speed after the catch, Kuithe has proven to be invaluable in Andy Ludwig’s offense.

“It’s awesome. It’s great having him and you’re reminded of everything that he did going back to 2021,” tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham said.

The 6-foot-2, 236-pound tight end has 148 receptions for 1,882 yards and 16 touchdowns during his career at Utah and in his last fully healthy season, 2021, had a team-high 611 yards receiving and six scores on 50 receptions.

The first piece of business for Kuithe this spring was knocking off the rust. While Kuithe did practice during the 2023 season, it will have been almost two years since he played in a game come kickoff against Southern Utah in late August.

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With that in mind, Kuithe has been approaching each practice like it is a game in order to be ready when kickoff comes.

“You got to practice every practice like it is a game. You come prepared, you come ready to go, you have intention and you give great effort all practice long and when he’s been out there, that’s exactly what he’s been doing,” Whittingham said.

“We also have the summer conditioning program and fall camp to continue to knock that rust off if there’s that. And I would say yeah, you look at him from the first practice of spring till yesterday’s practice, practice 13, he has knocked some rust off. You’ve seen growth every single practice.”

The combination of a healthy Kuithe alongside emerging tight end Landen King means that Utah fans will likely see two-tight-end sets, or three-tight-end sets, like Ludwig liked to do when Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid were playing together.

“We like to feature tight ends if the personnel warrants it, but I think this year it should really be a much more prevalent personnel group for us,” Ludwig said.

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In Kuithe’s absence and with the injury to Thomas Yassmin last season, King stepped up at the position with 14 receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns, while being one of Utah’s most sure-handed pass catchers.

Both Kuithe and King are from Texas, and the Auburn transfer picked up a lot of knowledge from Kuithe last season, and is continuing to do so heading into the fall.


“Brant, he’s like my right-hand man. I talk to Brant every day. I hang out with him every day. He’s from Texas, so I mean we already had the bond for real and he’s just trying to give me every little nugget I could get and I’m just trying to learn off him. But every time we in film, I’m watching everything he doing,” King said.

Other options to join Kuithe on the field are UCLA transfer tight end Carsen Ryan, who had 13 receptions for 205 yards and three touchdowns, Dallen Bentley, who had just one reception for seven yards last season but has made strides this spring, and Miki Suguturaga, who is primarily a blocking tight end.

“Yeah, we look good. Every single year we’ve added guys in and it’s kind of a different dynamic,” Kuithe said. “I’m happy to see some of the guys make plays last year and kind of get their name out there and this year’s going to be a good year to take that next step forward.”

Utah tight end Brant Kuithe (80) catches a pass before the start of their NCAA college football game against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

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