Flashback: Sophomore Tight Ends Stepping Up

The Brigham Young Cougars need a tight end to step up this year. I have been calling for 500 yards receiving this season in the season previews by one of the four sophomores vying for the starting spot. Three former BYU tight ends have done just that.

Gordon Hudson (1981)

With Clay Brown graduating, Hudson assumed the starters role. He filled the void left by Brown. He also became a team leader. In the three major statistical categories (receptions—67, receiving yards—960, touchdown catches—10), Hudson led the team. His 67 receptions were the third most in a season in BYU history (currently 8th most). The 960 receiving yards was the fourth most in a season in BYU history (second most by a tight end). These season totals earned Hudson second team All-WAC honors.

In the game against Colorado State, Hudson caught 11 passes for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns. His biggest game of the season came in the regular season finale versus Utah. Hudson set an NCAA record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single game with 259 yards on 13 receptions. He also scored two touchdowns against the Utes. That performance earned Hudson recognition as the WAC offensive player of the week.

Itula Mili (1994)

Fresh off his mission, Mili showed no signs of rust. Mili was fourth on the team with 33 receptions and third on the team with 503 receiving yards, only 98 yards less than the team leader. Mili caught four passes for touchdowns. As impressive as those numbers are in their own right, Mili put up these numbers while splitting time with second team All-WAC tight end Chad Lewis.

Mili scored the first points of the season for BYU with a 7-yard touchdown against Hawaii. He had 101 yards receiving on just 4 receptions in the Utah State game. The Fresno State game was Mili’s biggest. He had another huge game in the stats department—108 yards and two touchdowns on 5 receptions. The two touchdowns were clutch. Trailing the Bulldogs 21-18 with under a minute to play in the first half, Mili put BYU on top at the break, 25-21, by scoring his first touchdown from 25 yard out with 22 seconds to play. Later in the fourth, Fresno State had cut the BYU lead to one. That is when Mili gave BYU some breathing room with a 68-yard touchdown reception. BYU eventually won 32-30.

Dennis Pitta (2007)

Like Mili, Pitta had just returned from his mission, but he was expected to fill the void left by Jonny Harline. Pitta did one better than Harline in receptions, totaling 59, which led the team. With those 59 receptions, Pitta amassed 813 yards and scored 5 touchdowns (both figures were second best on the team). At season’s end, Pitta was picked the first team All-MWC tight end.

Pitta found the end zone in his first game back, helping BYU to a 20-7 win over Arizona. He exploded for 113 yards in game three on just six receptions. Pitta followed that big game with a 114 yard output on just five receptions the next week. He didn’t have any more huge games or make any dramatic plays, but Pitta’s reliability to play well helped BYU finish with a second consecutive 11-2 season.

BYU did not win less than 10 games in any of these three seasons. BYU would gladly welcome comparable or better results in both tight end production and wins in 2011.

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