|Matt Bushman scores BYU's only TD against UMass (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News).|
Longtime BYU Cougars beat writer Dick Harmon declared last week that tight end Matt Bushman had been "officially inducted into the mythical tight end club." He uses Bushman's multiple Freshman All-American citations as justification. I have to admit, when I first saw the headline, I was taken aback. I have a lot of respect for Harmon and the work that he has done over the years. I am also 100% on board with Bushman being BYU's starting tight end. In fact, I was impressed enough with his play this season that I made him the subject of one of the site's weekly trivia questions last December. However, I feel it is premature to put him in the same group as Clay Brown, Gordon Hudson, Chris Smith, Chad Lewis, Itula Mili, and Dennis Pitta--just to name a few.
As stated, I respect Harmon. Therefore, I thought it would be good to find out what BYU fans thought. Am I on an island thinking Bushman wasn't there yet? This week, Blue Cougar Football polled site visitors and Twitter followers asking them, "Has Matt Bushman already earned a spot in BYU's 'tight ends club'?" The composite results are listed below.
Official Poll ResultsHarmon is certainly entitled to his opinion using whatever criteria he wants, but in this case, he appears to be in the minority.
Some poll voters provided feedback on Twitter. They see Bushman's potential to be great, but don't think he is there yet. @Cougar_Nate and @CougHouston think it takes more than one season to join the BYU TE club.
As I pointed out in the December trivia question, Bushman had more receiving yards this season than Chad Lewis did in his best season, but Lewis had three strong seasons while splitting time with Itula Mili. I think having more than one good season is a good rule of thumb when judging whether someone is worthy to join the club. However, I am willing to make an exception for a guy like David Mills. In his one season with significant playing time, Mills had over 1,000 yards and was a crucial part of BYU winning the National Championship.
Another respondent reasoned that Bushman benefited from BYU lacking established wide receivers.
He was basically the only target for QBs to throw to last season. Let’s see him string a couple seasons together before we anoint him the next Lewis, Pitta or George. I really hope he does end up in that conversation though.— BDH5 (@SotaCoug) January 18, 2018
This reminds me of what basketball analysts say about players on bad teams who score over 20 points per game. Even the worst basketball teams score over 70 points per game. Just because one of the players has big stats that doesn't mean he is an All-Star. Someone has to do the scoring.
Bushman had 520 yards receiving last year. That was the most on the team. As a team, BYU passed for 2,530 yards in 2017. Not good, by almost any standard, but someone had to catch passes to get to that total. Which is what Bushman did.
On a minor tangent, I would point out that 520 yards was just 20.6 percent of BYU's passing yards for the season. By comparison, Cody Hoffman had 38.8 percent (1,248 of 3,214) of BYU's passing yards in 2012, and Mitch Mathews had 25.4 percent (922 of 3,623) of BYU's passing yards in 2014. I wouldn't go as far as saying Bushman was the "only target" last season.
Bushman is completely deserving of the Freshman All-American honors he has received. In fact, he had such a better season than any other freshman tight end it is a joke that he wasn't the only freshman tight end to make the various Freshman All-American teams. (I'm looking at you, ESPN.) However, we can't overlook that these are All-American teams for freshmen. It's not the same as Hudson, Smith, and Pitta's consensus All-American status.
The vast majority of starting tight ends in college football are sophomores, juniors, and seniors, so they are disqualified for the Freshman All-American team. Furthermore, many great freshman tight ends didn't get to play this season because the school they chose to attend had one of those sophomores, juniors, or seniors as an established starter. The competition is a lot less fierce for a spot on the Freshman All-American team because you are up against much fewer players. No all of the freshmen tight ends who did see significant playing time did so as a result of being in the right place at the right time (i.e. injuries to upperclassman starters), and not because of actual superior skill.
All that being said, it doesn't appear to be a question of if but when Bushman will join the club. After all, his very first reception was a highlight reel grab--no matter what the player's year in school.
Sure it’s premature, but, barring injury, the only way to see MB not being among the best we’ve seen, is for Grimes not to use him the way Detmer did. Kid is a force.— rick platts 🤙 (@rise_upcougars) January 16, 2018
It doesn't look like last season was a fluke. Bushman has the size and skills needed to be great. His stats should be better next season, and when his time in Provo is done, it will probably won't be a question in anybody's mind whether he belongs with the greats.
It has been tough this decade to see a void of greatness at tight end, but that doesn't mean we lower the standards for getting into the club.
Thank you to everyone who participated. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll "Who is the best defensive lineman Steve Kaufusi coached at BYU?"
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org