A receiving tight end can be a weapon in college football, as they are often too big to be covered by a defensive back and too fast to be covered by a linebacker. Utah got solid production last season from tight end Westlee Tonga. Tonga finished the season fourth in receptions with 30 and third in yards with 391. He also was tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns. However, Tonga has graduated, so who will step up in 2015 to replace him?
Siale Fakailoatonga – 6-4, 251
Fakailoatonga was second on the depth chart in 2014 behind Tonga. As wide receiver injuries began to mount, Utah ran some two tight end sets with Tonga and Fakailoatonga. Fakailoatonga finished last season with two receptions for 26 yards. He was getting praise for his blocking ability as well later in the season. The former walk-on will be a junior next season.
Harrison Handley – 6-5, 244
Handley was third on the tight end depth chart. Handley enrolled early as a freshman in 2013 but ultimately redshirted. He did not see game action last season as a redshirt freshman. Handley showed in high school he could be an effective pass catcher, topping 100 yards in three games his senior year. He finished the season at Alta High School with 64 receptions for 779 yards and eight touchdowns.
Evan Moeai – 6-4, 241
Moeai showed promise in fall camp, moving up into the two deep. Moeai played against Idaho State in the first game of the season after the starters were pulled, but he appeared to be injured. No word was released on what the nature of his possible injury was, but he did not appear in any other games in 2014. Without knowing the nature of the injury, it is impossible to know if he would still be hobbled in spring practices.
Possible Contenders in 2015 Class:
Utah has two players currently committed in the 2015 class who could play tight end: Noah Togiai* (6-5, 185) and Caleb Repp* (6-5, 197). Both would have to add weight to play tight end in the Pac-12 as each are under 200 pounds. With neither having signed a letter of intent, there is no guarantee they end up at Utah (Togiai seems the more likely to flip since he is only listed as a soft verbal according to Rivals.com). Repp is currently a big wide receiver but may not have the speed to play wide receiver in the Pac-12 (clocked at 4.74), meaning he would be more of a receiving tight end. Togiai is also a good basketball player and would to play both sports at Utah. (It was reported today that Utah has cleared the way for the Hunter High School two-way player to play both in a Utes uniform.) Tight ends with a basketball background have shown the ability to be successful since the skills on the hardwood often translate to the gridiron.
*Stats and highlights courtesy of Hudl.