PROVO — Everybody knows all about BYU senior Cody Hoffman, who is poised to break just about every receiving record in school history this season.
But another wide receiver is emerging for the Cougars — sophomore Mitch Mathews.
The 6-foot-6, 213-pounder from Beaverton, Ore. — known for his long legs and giant hands — has been one of the stars early on in fall camp.
“Two days in, he’s shown that he does have the athleticism I thought he had,” said first-year wide receivers coach Guy Holliday. “Mitch is going to be a really good football player. He’s outstanding athletically.”
During the first practice last Saturday, Mathews caught a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Ammon Olsen.
But Mathews — the younger brother of Cougar wideout Marcus Mathews — was just getting started.
Later, he wowed those watching practice when he reached back to snag a one-handed pass that was thrown behind him.
“It was just a route we have. That’s a five-step slant,” Mathews explained. “I was open and I was hoping he would flop it out there and let me run under it and catch it in the end zone. But he decided to put it on a line. It was behind me — I have humongous hands, I have the biggest hands on the team — so I was praying that if I put one of those mitts back there and hopefully it stuck right in there. That’s what happened. The first thing coach Holliday said, and he was laughing at me, was, ‘That was lucky. Let’s see if you can do it again.’
"So I just looked back and laughed. I have to admit that God gave me big hands to work with. So it was a lot of luck, but it was fun to start that off and have that confidence to know that I can make plays wherever the ball is. That’s a good feeling.”
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae was asked if he expects big things from Mathews this season.
“Oh, absolutely,” Anae said. “Mitch has worked hard. Mitch has made good progress.”
Holliday also has high hopes for Mathews, who has a 37-inch vertical leap.
“His jumping ability is without question, and he’s tough,” Holliday said. “He gets after it. He’s been a pleasure to coach. He’s really coachable, and he cares. He wants to be good. Anytime you want to be good, you’re going to be OK.”
So what role does Mathews see for himself?
“I see my role as being a threat, whether I am backing up Cody or playing with Cody,” Mathews said. “When I’m in the game, I want people to key on me and say, ‘This guy can do this and this, and we can’t let him run free.’ I feel like I’m a threat, having the height and the hands that I have. I feel like the role I have is being a tall, fast player that is in good shape.”
Mathews said he wants to complement Hoffman, as well as learn from him.
“Cody has his spot, and nobody is complaining about that because we know he’s going to help us win games. He is a leader and you look up to him and I’ve learned from him for three years now. It’s time that we learn from him, but we play with him. Defenses are going to key on him, so whoever is on the back side is going to be one-on-one. We’re going to go out there and make plays. I do want to play with Cody and to make plays and be behind him to learn from him.”
Last season, Mathews played in just six games and caught two passes for 27 yards, including a 23-yard reception against Idaho.
Mathews is eager to make a bigger impact — and help his team win more games — this season.
“I took a lot from last season. Some people say, ‘Let’s forget about it. Pretend it never happened,’” Mathews said. “Personally, it was very hard to lose so many close games. But that just makes you tougher. It makes you come into this season grinding your teeth, strapping on your helmet, and going harder than you ever had. I’ve trained harder this summer than I ever have. I don’t want what happened last season to happen ever again. I think everyone has that same vibe.”
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company