PROVO — After spending the past 13 years catching passes in the Canadian Football League, Ben Cahoon is trying to get his hands around his new job as BYU's receivers coach this spring.
"It's challenging, but I'm enjoying the challenge. Every day is different, which is fun," he said. "There's a ton of tasks that you've got to tackle every single day, whether it's recruiting or game-planning or getting ready for practice or position meetings or dealing with academics. It's never-ending. It keeps you on your toes."
Cahoon, who was hired in February, has made an immediate impact on the coaching staff and the players in the program.
"The best thing that he's been able to do is put cleats on and go out and run a route better than the receivers can," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "That lends credibility to what he's doing."
Last summer, the 5-foot-9 Cahoon — a former Cougar wideout who retired from the CFL in January with an all-time record of 1,017 regular-season receptions and 13,301 yards for the Montreal Alouettes — worked out with the BYU receivers in order to keep his skills sharp.
"We weren't being coached by him, but we saw him run around," said senior receiver McKay Jacobson. "You can look on YouTube and see his highlights. Now, it's fun to have someone who has been in our shoes, doing what we're doing. It's a cool thing. He'll show us the drill, exactly how it's supposed to be done. You can tell this guy has walked the walk."
"He wasn't the tallest or fastest receiver, so he had to rely on other things that he can teach us to help us become better receivers," said sophomore wideout Cody Hoffman.
"Coach Cahoon knows his stuff real well," Jacobson added. "He's done a great job coaching us up, having us be accountable for what we're doing out here. He's helping us a lot with technique. It's been good."
Still, the learning curve for Cahoon, as he transitions from player to coach, has been steep.
"I came in without any knowledge of this offense," he said. "As of three weeks ago, I knew nothing about this offense. The first few weeks here, we didn't even talk about X's and O's. It's been hard to try to get prepared for the guys, meetings and practice and learning the offense. But every day it gets better."
Cahoon is working with a stable of talented receivers, including Jacobson, Hoffman, Ross Apo, JD Falslev, Matt Marshall, Spencer Hafoka and Rhen Brown. How would he describe the receivers as a group?
"They're just willing and working hard. They're still young and learning and trying to figure out their repertoire of tricks. They're willing to experiment and test them out. They're liking what they're trying, figuring out how to manipulate a defensive back. Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman are big dudes, and they can run and make plays for us. That's exciting."
Cahoon added that there's plenty of work to do.
"I'm very pleased with the wide receivers, yet they know, and I definitely know, that we've got a long ways to go," he said. "But there has been visible progress, that's been perceived by lots of people besides me. Most importantly, the guys can feel it themselves. I think we're building momentum."
Doman said Cahoon is building momentum as a coach.
"He's learning where to position himself and what to say in given moments, and all that takes time and experience, which he doesn't have," Doman said. "He's gradually molding into this really good football coach. The position mastery and fundamentals he's teaching has brought so much value to our program."
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: The Cougars did not practice Wednesday but will resume spring drills today. That session will be closed to the media, however.
Friday marks the annual Alumni Day at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Hundreds of former BYU players have been invited to watch practice. "I think it's turned into a great day for former players to come back," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Not so much to watch practice, but to renew friendships with old teammates they haven't seen for a long time. That seems to be the highlight of the event."