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BYU football fall practice position preview: the receivers

Published: Monday, July 28 2014 10:00 a.m. MDT

UTEP wide receiver Jordan Leslie pulls in a pass for a touchdown against Colorado State in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Fort Collins, Colo., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)  (David Zalubowski, AP) UTEP wide receiver Jordan Leslie pulls in a pass for a touchdown against Colorado State in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Fort Collins, Colo., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (David Zalubowski, AP)

PROVO — There's perhaps more intrigue surrounding BYU's receivers entering fall camp than any other position group on the team, and with good reason.

Despite the huge loss of four-year starter and record-setting receiver Cody Hoffman, along with two other starters, the Cougars look very promising at receiver, with a good mix of returning experience and influx of incoming talent.

Coaches will work throughout the August practice session sorting out the rotation and devising schemes to implement what looks to be an extraordinarily talented group of receivers.

So who are the established players, and which players look primed to make an impact this coming month leading up to the kickoff versus Connecticut?

Brandon Gurney gives a preview of what fans can expect to unfold during the fall practice session.

Ross Apo makes a catch as BYU football practices and scrimmages Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 at Lavell Edwards stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Ross Apo makes a catch as BYU football practices and scrimmages Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 at Lavell Edwards stadium. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Returning experience

Junior Mitch Mathews (6-foot-6, 206 pounds) and senior Ross Apo (6-3, 207) lead the list of returning players. Mathews proved very able when healthy last season, while Apo continues to pursue the hype assigned him out of high school in his final season.

Sophomore speedster Michael Davis (6-2, 180) played cornerback last season but switched back to receiver just before spring practices and impressed.

Senior Devin Mahina (6-6, 247) has been beset by injuries and scheme changes but will give it a final go this fall at tight end. He'll compete with junior Terenn Houk (6-4, 213), who had an outstanding spring practice, senior Brett Thompson (6-3, 220), who returns from injury, along with sophomores Bryan Sampson (6-4, 210) and Brad Heap (6-3, 220.)

BYU's Kurt Henderson runs for yardage following a reception during practice at the Smith Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) BYU's Kurt Henderson runs for yardage following a reception during practice at the Smith Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Other returning players include junior receiver Kurt Henderson (6-1, 180), who showed well in spring, sophomores Colby Pearson (6-0, 190), Luke Nelson (6-1, 180) and Mitchell Juergens (5-10, 180) and freshman Khalil Bell (5-9, 168), among others.

Key additions

Junior college transfer Nick Kurtz (6-6, 205) already provided a glimpse of his potential this past spring and looks to be a heavy contributor this season.

Others joining the roster include UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie (6-3, 210), who will look to make a big impact in his only season at BYU, and junior college speedster Devon Blackmon (6-1, 185). Both players have received preseason praise from coaches regarding their abilities, so noting their progress and acclimation to BYU's system will certainly happen throughout August.

Brigham Young Cougars receiver Michael Davis catches a long pass  during the BYU Blue and White game in Provo  Saturday, March 29, 2014. Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Jordan Preator (11) defends.   (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars receiver Michael Davis catches a long pass during the BYU Blue and White game in Provo Saturday, March 29, 2014. Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Jordan Preator (11) defends. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Stanford transfer Keanu Nelson (5-11, 184) will also work to make an impact in his only season in the program. True freshman Trey Dye (5-10, 178), the son of former BYU great James Dye, will compete at the slot position along with Nelson.

Additions at tight end include towering freshmen Matt Sumsion (6-8, 220) and Colby Jorgensen (6-7, 230) along with Grant Jones (6-5, 190.)

Dark horse

Players such as Jordan Leslie and Devon Blackmon have received a lot of press this offseason, and perhaps justifiably so, but don't forget about Michael Davis and his intriguing skill set.

Davis enters fall camp with a full year under his belt and a complete practice session competing at receiver. He also brings unique breakaway speed to the outside position, which he showed on numerous occasions in spring.

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Mitch Mathews (10) looks for running room after a reception as the Georgia Tech defenders close in during a game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, October 12, 2013.  (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Mitch Mathews (10) looks for running room after a reception as the Georgia Tech defenders close in during a game at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, October 12, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Given his size and speed combination, along with his experience, Davis appears poised to make a big impact at receiver this year.

General outlook

The competition at all receiver positions looks to be high entering fall camp with no solid starters returning. Players like Mitch Mathews and Kurt Henderson will likely see first reps on the outside, but that could change on almost a weekly basis.

The progress of the promising newcomers at the position will likely make for one of the best storylines throughout August and even into the season, with several players appearing capable to start.

Furthermore, how each receiver is used and how offensive coordinator Robert Anae will tweak his offense will certainly be worth noting, although Anae could prove reticent to provide much detail.

Bryan Sampson TE participates in the first day of spring practice for the BYU Football Team on Monday, March 14, 2011, at BYU.  (Jaren Wilkey/BYU) Bryan Sampson TE participates in the first day of spring practice for the BYU Football Team on Monday, March 14, 2011, at BYU. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

Email: bgurney@desnews.com Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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