BYU spring practice preview: Receivers

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2013 12:20 p.m. MST

This is part three of a six-part series previewing the various positions of BYU's football team leading in to spring football. In this piece, Brandon Gurney takes a look at the BYU's receivers. In part two, Brandon reviewed the offensive line.

PROVO — If you want a preview of the receivers that will be vying for playing time this spring, just watch a recording of any game last season. The group returns almost entirely intact from last year which should provide a huge boon for the overall production.

Throw in what hopes to be a rejuvenated offensive system under new offensive coordinator Robert Anae, and the prospects for the team’s receivers is relatively high. How Anae will shake things up with regards to alignments and patterns lends a lot of intrigue, and we’re certainly going to get a taste of all of that over the next month during the spring practice session.

Returning starters

Cody Hoffman surprised some when he announced that he would return for his senior season, but it was a return readily welcome by fans, coaches and teammates. Entering his senior season, he has drawn legitimate comparisons to Austin Collie with regards to production and upside which obviously speaks volumes to what he’s accomplished while at BYU.

Hoffman should thrive in a Robert Anae system that historically relied on short and intermediate routes. The 6-foot-4 senior has proven adept at most every facet of being a productive receiver and that should only continue or even improve with a new offensive coordinator.

Ross Apo is an interesting study. The 6-foot-3 junior has seen decent production and contributed heavily in each of his first two seasons, but is still yet to scratch his tremendous potential.

Apo’s athletic makeup is similar to Todd Watkins who thrived in Gary Crowton’s vertical passing game, but struggled to find a niche in Anae’s largely horizontal system that was run in 2005. Granted that Anae has evolved and should include much more vertical options than his 2005 offense allowed, but it’s readily apparent that Apo will need to prove more adept in the short and intermediate passing game moving forward.

It all starts this spring for Apo and it will certainly be worth noting how involved he is with the team’s overall production from day to day.

JD Falslev is coming off of a good season and could benefit greatly playing in Anae’s system that may make greater use of the HR receiver, which is essentially the slot position. The 5-foot-8 senior has shown a great ability to make plays and should prove very productive this spring.

At tight end, Kaneakua Friel returns as the team’s leading producer at the position from last season. The 6-foot-5 senior will have a host of fellow seniors nipping at his heels, however, and will work to separate himself as the clear-cut starter in spring.

Other tight end options

Tight end has been a marquee position at BYU throughout its recent history, but has seen a significant drop-off in overall production since 2010. Friel saw mixed success last season while other seniors have battled through injuries since joining the program.

Austin Holt is one of the more prominent options at tight end although the senior is strongly considering a switch to defensive end. Holt has long been regarded as the team’s best blocking tight end, but sat out last year due to injury.

Devin Mahina is still around after incurring his own injury problems as is Richard Wilson. Both players saw scant production last season, but should be healthy and ready to compete for the starting spot this spring.

Marcus Mathews may prove happier than anyone in the group regarding Anae’s return as offensive coordinator given his relatively slight frame for a tight end and natural receiving skills. He’s proven to be someone who can contribute heavily when split out in wide formation, but struggles in tight formations out of a three-point stance.

Bryan Sampson is home from his LDS mission and hopes to establish himself this spring and someone who can contribute to the position.

Other wide receiver options

While the two starting wide receivers appear to be set there remains a lot of intrigue on who will fill out the two-deep roster. Anae and new receivers coach Guy Holliday will have a lot of options to file through during spring and into the fall.

Most of the existing group includes players who have shone during certain practice sessions while others have produced during game-time situations. The group is led by senior Dallin Cutler (5-9, 185) who was set to contribute heavily last season before going down with injury. Skyler Ridley (6-0, 180) saw a lot of good production early last season and will again add his services to the receiving corps.

Two of the most intriguing options are Mitch Mathews (6-6, 200 So.) who lends a unique size and speed combination to the group and Terenn Houk (6-4, 213 So.) who has proven to be a quality possession-type receiver during most practice sessions. Other options include Kurt Henderson (6-1, 192 So.), Cody Raymond (5-9, 170 So.), Jordan Smith (6-4, 203 Jr.), and Brett Thompson (6-3, 220 So.)

Overall it's hard not to like the potential of this year's receiving corps. If Apo reaches his potential and a tight end steps up to provide good and consistent play, then this could prove to be one of the better receiving groups the program has every posed.

This is part three of a six-part series previewing the various positions of BYU's football team leading in to spring football. In this piece, Brandon Gurney takes a look at the BYU's receivers. In part two, Brandon reviewed the offensive line.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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