Utecht taking place among nation’s top tight ends

Brian Hall

In July, Minnesota football coach Glen Mason addressed the media during the Big Ten football kickoff luncheon.

He stated then he believed junior tight end Ben Utecht was the nation’s best tight end.

Now, two weeks into the season, Utecht is doing his best to prove his coach right.

Against Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday, Utecht hauled in a career-high seven catches for 78 yards and the first three-touchdown game of his career.

“Through two games he has been pretty good,” Mason said. “If you have the mismatch there he has a chance to make some big plays. That’s not going to happen every week, but if people are cheating, they may pay the penalty.”

Utecht is tied for first in the nation with four receiving touchdowns. He also places third on the Big Ten and first on the Gophers lists with five catches per game.

Mason believes Utecht’s success stems from a combination of both a year-to-year development as well as the matchup problems the tight end creates.

Utecht, a former wide receiver, is normally too fast for most linebackers to cover, and his 6-foot-6 frame makes it tough for defensive backs.

“I normally don’t say things I don’t mean,” Mason said. “Some guys go throwing praises around all the time. When I say I think I have the best tight end in college football, that’s a big statement for me.”

Starting backfield to play

mason indicated Tuesday he expects quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq and running backs Thomas Tapeh and Marion Barber III to all play Saturday.

“I’m counting on them,” Mason said.

Each sustained minor injuries in last Saturday’s game at Louisiana-Lafayette. Barber III has been suffering from a hamstring injury for the past two weeks, but Mason said the injury is slowly improving.

Big time, Big Ten

the Big Ten features several top matchups this week, including two contests of the top 20 ranked teams.

No. 7 Michigan travels to South Bend, Ind., to face off against No. 20 Notre Dame while No. 6 Ohio State hosts No. 10 Washington State. Previously ranked Penn State invites No. 8 Nebraska into Beaver Stadium.

“I know we feel the responsibility on behalf of the Big Ten to play as well as we can and be successful this weekend,” Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. “We do feel the need to represent the Big Ten. I think that is important.”

Meanwhile, Iowa hosts in-state rival Iowa State while No. 15 Michigan State and Indiana take on a pair of undefeated teams in California and Kentucky, respectively.

Rogers, Doss prove status

Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers and Ohio State safety Mike Doss are living up to their status as the preseason conference offensive and defensive players of the year.

Rogers is the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the week after he caught nine passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns last week in a win over Rice.

The junior wideout leads the conference in receiving yards per game at a 146.5 yard average and is second in the Big Ten, collecting passes at a 6.5 per game clip.

Doss shared this week’s defensive honor with Minnesota’s Eli Ward. Doss had an interception which he returned for a score in the Buckeyes victory over Kent State.


Brian Hall covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]