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Receivers coach Holliday sizes up BYU's new crop of pass-catchers

First Published      Last Updated Mar 05 2014 10:34 am

It was kind of odd to watch the last 30 minutes of BYU's first spring practice on Monday and have to check the roster to figure out the names of those guys catching passes.

BYU's three leading receivers from 2013 — Cody Hoffman, Skyler Ridley and JD Falslev — are gone (although Ridley was checking out practice as well on Monday). Another receiver who contributed in 2013 before needing season-ending shoulder surgery, Mitch Mathews, also stood on the sidelines and watched, as did Eric Thornton and Ross Apo.

A three-sport athlete in high school, Mathews also took in BYU's 20-3 win over Utah in baseball on Tuesday night.


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In their places were guys such as Nick Kurtz, Michael Davis, Colby Pearson, Kurt Henderson, Terenn Houk and Brett Thompson (who is listed on the roster as a WR this year). That group and Mathews, Apo and Thornton will be joined in the fall by UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie and juco transfer Ashanti "Devon" Blackmon, the speedster who signed with Oregon out of high school.

BYU signed just one prep receiver in February, Trey Dye of Abilene, Texas and son of former Cougar great James Dye.

Makes one wonder if there will be enough footballs to go around. Receivers coach Guy Holliday is going to be a busy man just keeping track of all those pass-catchers. Clearly, BYU moved away from the tight end position in Robert Anae's offense last season, and only four are listed on the spring camp roster: senior Devin Mahina, sophomore Bryan Sampson, sophomore Brad Heap and freshman returned missionary Matt Sumsion.

Matt Bushman, a tight end from Tucson, Ariz., sign in February but will go on a church mission before enrolling.

I caught up with Holliday after practice on Monday to get his thoughts on what could be the deepest group of receivers in years at BYU, and what he hopes to accomplish with them in the next five weeks.

"I want to develop a comfortable understanding of where they are physically and mentally," Holliday said. "Constant improvement, I think, is the key, so we can go into the summer with confidence. I think having success at some point this spring is really important. So we want to get a grasp of the offense for the guys who haven't played, and for the guys who were here, have them step up and try to take a role in the offense like Skyler Ridley did last year.

Somebody will in this 15 periods of practice will emerge. So we will see who that is."

Holliday said the group didn't look great on Monday, and has a long way to go, but Kurtz and Davis made some plays. Davis is back playing WR after coaches needed him to play cornerback last year due to a bunch of injuries at that spot.

"They are still begging for him back. But he does some good things on offense, so we got to keep fighting the fight, hold on to him," Holliday said, noting that Davis' biggest strength is his ability to stretch the field with his speed.

"I mean, he can run," Holliday said. "He runs well and he went and caught a post today. He does that really well. So he gives us, probably, as good as a vertical threat since last year of all the players I had last year. He definitely can stretch the field."

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