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Provo • Thank partly to cold and rainy conditions in BYU's annual spring scrimmage Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Ty Detmer didn't learn much about his offense, except that starting quarterback Tanner Mangum still struggles when the football is wet and soggy.
But the second-year offensive coordinator did find himself a tight end, maybe two.
Freshmen tight ends Matt Bushman and Joe Tukuafu shined throughout the dismal day, brightening up an otherwise dismal performance by Mangum and the watered-down offense against a just-as-diluted BYU defense.
Bushman, a three-star recruit from Arizona who returned six months ago from a church mission to Chile, caught six passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns, including a 65-yard catch-and-run TD in which the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder took a pass from freshman Kody Wilstead and outran several defensive backs to the end zone.
Tukuafu (6-4, 280), who prepped at East High before signing with Utah State and then departing on a church mission to Argentina, caught two passes for 62 yards. Bushman will surely make an impact this fall, even when 2016 TEs Tanner Balderree and Hunter Marshall return from injuries. Tukuafu's eligibility for 2017 is still up in the air.
"I think the tight ends had a pretty good day," said coach Kalani Sitake. "I don't know the numbers, but Matt Bushman, I said it before: He's a special player. He's big and he's smooth and he can do a lot of things.. … I think the tight end position altogether is doing really well. Joe Tukuafu has done well, too."
Detmer said Moroni Laulu-Pututau, who moved from receiver to tight end before spring camp began, had a tight hamstring and did not play Saturday. But he liked what he saw from Bushman and Tukuafu.
Bushman, who is also on the BYU baseball team this spring, is "getting better and better with reps," Detmer said. "It was impressive for him to run away from people right there. We haven't really seen that [in practice, because they don't tackle]. … Those are the things we were looking for today, individual ability. We wanted that to come out in a live situation."
Sitake said the process to get Tukuafu eligible depends on "getting some releases and stuff like that," but in the meantime "we have to keep practicing and playing like he is going to [be eligible], and then if not we will just have to adjust."
Bushman was so good that BYU officials made an exception to the longstanding rule that says newcomers can't speak to reporters until after they have played in a game. He said he grew up in Tucson, Ariz., idolizing former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta, now with the Baltimore Ravens.
"Honestly, I was just trying to catch the ball," Bushman said. "It was a rainy day and I just tried to not slip out there. ... The quarterbacks got me the ball and the line did a great job protecting. I was fortunate enough to make a couple plays."
The other receiving stars were Grant Jones (3 for 42), Neil Pau'u (4 for 40) and Micah Simon (2 for 31).
Mangum got the bulk of the reps among the five quarterbacks who played, and delivered a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bushman to complete a 65-yard drive in an 11-on-11 non-tackling series. All told, Mangum was 17 of 23 for 203 yards, but intercepted four times.
Redshirt freshman Isaiah Kaufusi, cousin of Bronson and Corbin, intercepted Mangum twice, while cornerback Chris Wilcox and linebacker Butch Pau'u got a pick apiece.
"I thought we had some good things and some bad things," Sitake said. "I wasn't really happy with some of the throws that Tanner made today. He has a lot of confidence in his throwing ability, and our defense did a great job of taking away a lot of the looks and makes it really difficult on a quarterback to throw the ball and thread the needle."
Mangum acknowledged the mistakes and vowed to improve, while Detmer chalked them up to junior quarterback who is comfortable enough with the schemes that he is starting to get "greedy" and "trying to manufacture big plays."
Sitake wasn't as lenient.
"I am a little hard on Tanner because I expect him to be perfect every time, so when he is not it is a little disappointing for me," Sitake said. "I don't mean to be negative. I love Tanner, but the last thing he needs is someone to tell him he's great when he made some mistakes. It's OK, he can take it. He's a big boy. Our expectations for him are a little bit higher than anyone else on the team, and he expects more from himself as well."
BYU scrimmage highlights
• Freshman tight end Matt Bushman catches six passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns for the BYU offense.
• Backup linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi makes two interceptions and Chris Wilcox and Butch Pau'u also come up with picks for the BYU defense.
• Alternating between 11-on-11 and "Skelly" scrimmages, Tanner Mangum completes 17 of 23 passes for 203 yards, but is intercepted four times.