Utes behind the lines: Tight ends

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah has struggled on offense this season against Pac-12 teams, particularly after starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was sidelined early as a result of a non-throwing arm should injury. And with tight end Dallin Rogers having season-ending knee surgery, the offense continues to struggle.

However, the tight ends for the Utes hope to make an impact for the remainder of the season, giving junior college transfer Jon Hays the protection he needs, as well as open targets for some extra yardage.

Westlee Tonga:

Player Profiles:
Westlee Tonga:
  • Number: 80
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Hometown: Spring, Texas
  • High School: Spring HS
  • Height /Weight: 6-4 /250
  • Birthdate: 07/29/1988
  • Experience: 1VL
Jake Murphy:
  • Number: 82
  • Class: Freshman
  • Hometown: Alpine, Utah
  • High School: American Fork HS
  • Height /Weight: 6-4 /255
  • Birthdate: 09/21/1989
  • Experience: RS
Dallin Rogers:
  • Number: 89
  • Class: Junior
  • Hometown: Placerville, Calif.
  • High School: Union Mine HS
  • Height /Weight: 6-3 /245
  • Birthdate: 08/23/1989
  • Experience: 2VL
Kendrick Moeai
  • Number: 81
  • Class: Junior
  • Hometown: West Jordan, Utah
  • High School: Copper Hills HS
  • Height /Weight: 6-5 /260
  • Birthdate: 03/28/1990
  • Experience: 2VL

Signing with Utah in 2007 as a tight end, Westlee Tonga returned to the Utes in 2010 after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This season, Tonga has had a small role, but has had one reception for 12 yards. In high school, Tonga was second-team all-district as a senior in 2006.

Tonga said his favorite team has been the Philadelphia Eagles, mostly because his brother in-law Reno Mahe, who played for BYU, played for the Eagles. "He helped me a lot with football," Tonga said. "He still does, so it's always pleasant to go and pick his brain about things I struggle with."

Growing up in Texas, Tonga decided to play football in Utah because of his family. "I had family out here and they wanted to pay for me and I wanted to let them," he said. "It was a good deal. It worked out for both of us."

Tonga said his favorite moment with the Utes was beating BYU. "It's a toss between this year and last year," he said. "Last year was a little more intense, but this year there was no bad feelings. It's hard to beat."

When not playing football, Tonga enjoys listening to music and playing his guitar. But there is one song that Tonga said he always listens to before a game. "Miley Cyrus, ‘Party in the U.S.A,' on repeat." Although an unlikely song for a football player to listen to prior to a game, Tonga said it reminds him of his brother.

"My brother's on a mission and he played it in a talent show before he left so it reminds me of him."

Jake Murphy:

Son of 18-year Major League Baseball veteran Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves, Jake Murphy entered the season as the co-starter at fullback, spending time also at tight end. This season, Murphy has three receptions for 51 yards and one touchdown. In high school, Murphy was named first-team all-State, all-region and all-Utah Valley with his 44 receptions for 853 yards and 13 touchdowns at American Fork High School.

Following graduation from high school, Murphy originally signed with BYU for football, but decided to go to the University of Utah after an LDS mission. Murphy said he decided to go to Utah for himself. "A lot of it was for myself, mainly just from within," he said. "Me and my roommate Mike Honeycutt have been good friends since high school. It was just a plus that he was up here."

Prior to every game, Murphy said he likes to listen to his iPod. "I like calm stuff three hours before the game and once it gets closer I'll listen to Jay-Z, Kanye West, stuff like that." He also said he writes "Family First" on his left bicep before every game, saying he started that tradition in high school. "I guess that's the only thing I've done with my whole life."

When not on the football field, Murphy said he like to draw with his father. "I really like to draw. … Me and my dad like to do things like that, drawing painting, stuff like that."

Dallin Rogers:

Junior Dallin Rogers plays several roles for the Utes, playing as both tight end and fullback in Norm Chow's offense. Rogers played for the Utes as a true freshman in 2007 before going on an LDS mission. Returning to the team in 2010, Rogers has been a strong tight end and viable receiving option for the team. Before suffering a season ending knee injury against Pittsburgh, Rogers had 22 receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Last season, Rogers played in 12 games as a tight end, ending the year tied in catches among tight ends with 11 receptions for 167 yards. In high school, Rogers was an athletic threat, being named three-time first-team all-Sierra Valley Conference tight end/wide receiver, third-team all-state all-purpose and first-team all-Metro two consecutive years. Rogers had 62 receptions for 1,107 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior, adding 61 catches for 1,033 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior.

They didn't promise me playing time. They said I'd have to earn it. Other schools around here weren't very honest with me.

–Dallin Rogers

Attracted to the University of Utah, Rogers said it was the coaches that sold the program. "When I was getting recruited, the coaches were extremely honest with me and they didn't sugar coat it," he said. "They didn't promise me playing time. They said I'd have to earn it. Other schools around here weren't very honest with me. … When I came to this campus, I just felt calm and I said this is where I want to be."

Prior to every game, Rogers said he has a pre-game ritual; however, he said the ritual is secret. "I definitely have pre-game rituals that I've had since I was a little kid -- they've stuck with me," he said. "I can't tell you, it would ruin it." Although his rituals are secretive, Rogers said music helps him prepare for an upcoming game.

"It varies, but I like to mostly listen to calm music. I think naturally before any game people get amped up. That kind of music makes me a little too excited and I start forgetting things," he siad. "I listen to calm music just to relax."

Off the field, Rogers said he likes to take it easy: "I'm a big family man. I just try to hang out with my family. I love to golf and I love to fish."

Kendrick Moeai:

In his third consecutive year with the Utes, Kendrick Moeai is the team's starting tight end, adding eight receptions for 37 yards this season. Last year, Moeai averaged a team-high 20.5 yards per reception, ending the year with 11 total catches for 225 yards. In 2009, Moeai had four receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came against Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Moeai is a hard-working contributor on the field, but off the field, he said he takes a more simple approach. "Outside of football I'm kinda lazy, I'm not going to lie," he said. "It's always about movies and video game."

Growing up a Denver Broncos fan, Moeai said he followed the game of Shannon Sharp. "He's always been my kind of ideal guy. Everything, the attitude, just the way he'd come out and carry himself. He was just a great guy, a great player."

*Email: jfurlong@ksl.com*Twitter: @JFurKSL

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