Entering the 2020-21 college football season, the one position group that Utah felt strongly about was the tight ends.
The Utes felt comfortable going into battle with juniors Brant Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham listed as the potential starters.
Kuithe is the household name, coming on very strong last season and garnering multiple preseason conference and All-American awards. He finished last season with 34 catches for 602 yards and six touchdowns, while adding six carries for 102 yards and three more scores.
He had two major breakout games last season — against UCLA when he caught five passes for 132 yards and a score — and against Colorado when he caught three passes for 63 yards and two scores while adding two rushes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
“I don’t know if teams really know how to account for him because he can’t be covered by a linebacker and even safeties struggle with him,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said last season. “One of the strengths of Andy (Ludwig, Utah offensive coordinator) is he puts guys in position to maximize their ability and what they do best. He’s certainly done that with Brant Kuithe.”
Fotheringham isn't as athletic or well-known nationally as Kuithe but he's just as important to Utah's scheme. He caught just 16 passes for 156 yards and one score last season, all despite starting 14 games.
An extremely talented blocker with ideal size and frame, Fotheringham spent the majority of the offseason working on his route-running and catching capabilities.
But now Kuithe and Fotheringham have company in the tight end room as Dalton Kincaid transferred in from the University of San Diego (FCS-level) this summer.
According to the Utah coaching staff, Kincaid is extremely talented and if eligible this upcoming season, could be a huge difference maker for the Utes.
"He has adjusted fabulously, and he brings another athletic tight end with size, and he can catch the football. He's got very soft hands; that's probably his strong suit, is receiving and route running," Whittingham said of Kincaid. "His blocking has come along. He was not completely up to the level we needed him at when he got here, physicality wise in the run game, but he has made great strides in that as well.
"I believe he's going to be a tremendous player before finishes here."
Listed at 6-foot-5, 240-pounds, Kincaid amassed 68 receptions for 1,209 yards and 19 touchdowns during his two years at San Diego. He brings size, athleticism and versatility to the tight end group, especially when paired with Kuithe and Fotheringham.
“When you bring two or three tight ends onto the field and you run a pass play, you don’t know if they’re running or passing because that’s a heavy set,” Fotheringham said. “So when you have three tight ends that can run good routes — or two tight ends that are versatile in the pass game — then it really opens things up because defenses have to be honest and respect the run game. So that just really opens things up in the pass game.”
As of now, Kincaid is ineligible for the upcoming season. But Whittingham and his staff have made an appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility.
Regardless of whether or not Kincaid contributes this season on the field, his mere presence on the field has pushed his teammates to be better. But if he does get onto the field this year, Pac-12 defenses have been warned.
“He is really a top-tier, Pac-12 tight end,” Whittingham said. “We have three guys that are really playing good football and have a high ceiling.”
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