Most fans, in sorting out the position in their minds, didn't have Mike Muehlmann among their top two options at the position, but this spring has served notice that maybe they should have. By making plays during most practice sessions, Muehlmann's well on his way to proving himself as the top option available to coaches at the position.
"Spring has been going well and it's been a lot of fun," said Muehlmann. "I'm working hard to get good chemistry with the quarterbacks and I'm still making some mistakes because I'm still young at the position, but overall, I feel it's going very well."
Even though he is young as a redshirt freshman, this fall he'll stand as the second-most experienced player at the position, which plays to his advantage. What is also playing to his advantage is a successful spring outing that will wrap up this coming Saturday.
Muelhmann joined the team following his mission service last spring and was admittedly not ready to contribute given how recently he was removed from his mission. Like most returned missionaries, being a year removed from his service has made a world of difference.
"I feel much better out there than I did last spring, no question," he commented. "I still feel that I'm not all the way back quite yet, but by the end of fall camp, I think I'll be there. Like I said, I'm still making too many mistakes, but with time, I think I'll be where I need to be this fall."
Regardless of the mistakes he's still making, Muehlmann is settling in nicely at the position and doing a lot of good things that are necessary to play tight end at BYU.
"I'm definitely making less mistakes than I did last fall," he said. "I know my assignments better and I'm making more plays. The biggest benefit to me this spring has been the chances I've had to play assignment football and just show that I can play assignment football. My technique is better too."
Muehlmann, like the rest of the tight ends, had two of the better tight ends in the country to learn from last year, which was a huge benefit for all of them. While both Dennis Pitta and Andrew George have moved on, Muehlmann still is learning from them even through their absence.
"It's been a huge benefit and I don't know if learning from them will ever stop within the next four years that I'm here," he explained. "I try to watch film on them every day, and when you have film available to you of guys executing the position perfectly, you watch it and I'm very sure that I'll be watching film on them and how they played for the next four years."
While Muehlmann and his teammates are very aware that they're all competing for the same spot, the common goal that overrides any personal ambition is the good of the team. The dynamic that has emerged with the competition has been positive and beneficial for all parties involved.
"Oh, we're obviously aware that we're competing against each other for the same spot, but we're a very close group," said Muehlmann. "In team meetings we're always laughing with each other, having fun. We make fun of each other when we make mistakes, but then we do whatever we can to help each other out by not making the same mistakes. When I see someone make a mistake, I help him and they do the same with me. The biggest goal we all have is team unity and to get the best guys out there. If it's me, then great, but if not, then I'm all for that guy and him being successful because it's all about the team. We're all like that and that's why we're so close as a unit. There's more important things to us than being the top guy."
The tight end Muehlmann is splitting reps with this spring, and subsequently the player he looks to be competing with most intensely, is Devin Mahina. Mahina, like himself, has shown very well so far upon his return from his mission.
"Devin is a stud," Muehlmann said. "He's so tall and he's doing a great job every day out there. It's not an easy thing just coming in with the million things you need to think about and still make plays, but he's doing it. He's pushing me for sure and it's great to have that competition. We're both making each other better and it's the same with all of us. We're pushing each other and helping each other because we have a lot to live up to at the position."