In less than a month the Cougars will be back on the field trying to wear opponents out with the Go Fast Go Hard offense. As we break down the BYU offense, we will take a look at the receivers that will play a key part in the success of the team. The loss of Cody Hoffman can't be minimized, but Coach Anae will attempt to fill the void by utilizing a number of replacement pass catchers.
The Cougars will have a good combination of returning receivers, transfers, and newcomers that will look to make their impact in the passing game. With the loss of Brett Thompson, due to career ending recurring medical concerns, the receiving corps only has three seniors on the roster in tight end Devin Mahina, tight end Keanu Nelson, and wide receiver Ross Apo. With a young group of receivers the future looks bright for the next few years. Positions will be up for grabs and players will look to grab their spots. It was also just recently announced that Michael Davis is moving to the defensive side of the ball, giving other players a chance to find their place on the field.
Although a number of receivers will see the field during the season due to the speed of the offense, and the number of plays Anae plans on running, the players will have to earn their spot. The talent on the team is high and the coaches will allow players the opportunity to stand out and make their presence known. With this in mind, let's take a look at the tight ends.
Many believe this position to be an underutilized area of the offense, and would provide another dimension to the offense if used. In a post media session after Tuesday's practice, Nate Meikle tweeted out:
Anae: TE's didn't get balls last year cause they didn't earn it. I can't mandate success.— Nate Meikle (@nate_meikle) August 5, 2014
For those that are looking for good things to come from the tight end position, this could point to more use if they live up to their potential. If the group struggles, you can bet that even more four wide receiver sets will be put on the field.
Based on the roster and the preliminary depth chart, expect Devin Mahina to be the starting tight end for the Cougars. Mahina is a bruising player that wouldn't mind running over, or through a player in order to get a few extra yards. Earlier this summer, Mahina was named to the Mackey Award Watch List as one of the top 40 tight ends in college football. He was also named to Phil Steele's preseason All-Independent Second Team. Mahina could be backed up by another big body in Matt Sumsion who comes in at 6-8, 250 lb, and would love to solidify a position in the rotation. Bryan Sampson is also in the mix for the backup tight end position and will provide some depth and competition for the Cougars.
An interesting note coming out of fall practice is the fact that Nelson and fellow receiver Jordan Leslie are set up as slot receivers that can replace the tight end if needed. By bringing these inside receivers into the mix, it could limit the traditional tight end if not producing. When the season gets underway, it will be up to Mahina and his crew to earn their time on the field, and if they can maximize their talent it will go a long ways in limiting the defensive options.
If the season were to start today, the rotation you would see with the wide receivers is quite impressive. Most likely you will have a combo of Nick Kurtz, Mitch Mathews, Mahina or Leslie start. Depending on the formation you might even throw in one more receiver for good measure. Not only is this group very talented and will be expected to show immediate results, the players rotating in are impressive as well. Behind Kurtz you would have Kurt Henderson, behind Mathews you will have Ross Apo and Devin Blackmon. All of these players are looking to make an immediate impact on the offense and want to be out on the field. There are a number of other players waiting in the wings, but will need to beat out this talented group.
First on the list is Nick Kurtz. Kurtz is a 6-6, 205 lb receiver that will go after the ball wherever it is. He impressed the coaches in the spring, even with a limited knowledge of the playbook. He loves to go after the ball and will look to make defenders pay. Being a junior college transfer he will have some experience and will not have to make as many adjustments as the average newcomer.
Mitch Mathews is a name people will recognize because of what he did last year. He is another big receiver at 6-6 and 206 lbs, and had his coming out party at Utah State. Against the Aggies, Mathews recorded three touchdowns on five catches and 112 yards. He will also look to go after the ball, but can also be utilized in the face or jump ball situation.
Projected Wide Receiver/Tight End Depth Chart:
13- Kurt Henderson
Jordan Leslie is another newcomer to the Cougars, but has been impressive without knowing the entire playbook. Coming in at 6-3 and 210, Leslie is looking to make a difference after putting up decent numbers in a running offense at UTEP. He has already established himself as a guy that will go after the jump ball and will make the play regardless of where the ball is thrown. Look for Leslie to make plays down the field and in the middle.
Ross Apo is another known name to Cougar fans, but he will need to work hard to stay on the field. He is a talented receiver that comes in at 6-3 and 207 but has a reputation among fans to not finish the play. Highly touted out of high school, the Senior needs to make his mark this year by catching the ball and making sure he creates separation.
Devon Blackmon is the smallest of this bunch as the comes in at 6-1 and 185, but he is also the speediest of the group. He will look to stretch the field and keep the defense honest. Thus far in camp, he has had a struggle with keeping a hold of the ball. If he can work this out, he will be a downfield threat that will provide plenty of opportunities for himself and the other receivers.
With the depth and the talent the Cougars have this year, the offense could be looking at a special season. Coach Anae wants to utilize the passing game and the success of the receivers will go a long way in determining if the Cougars are a run first or pass first offense. Add the backfield players such as Jamaal Williams to the passing game and you have a scary combination.
Taysom Hill must be better with his accuracy and the offensive line must give them time to get open. As the receivers become more comfortable with the timing issues, look for the downfield pass to be utilized much more in the coming year. The speed and size of the Cougars will facilitate the long ball, opening up the middle and edges and providing the short game and the running game a dimension not seen to date.
These are only a few of the receivers that could make an impact in 2014. Who do you think will have a breakout year? Let us know in the comments below!