Provo • So much hype, so little production.
That's the reality through the first three BYU football games of the 2013 season in assessing the group of receivers that beleaguered starting quarterback Taysom Hill has to work with, after coach Bronco Mendenhall called it the deepest and most talented receiving corps in his nine-year tenure at BYU during fall camp.
Hill's accuracy certainly has been lacking at times he has completed just 35 percent of his passes but several of the receivers, tight ends and running backs who have been the targets of those throws have to share in the blame, they acknowledged after practice Monday.
"Everyone is tightening screws," sophomore Mitch Mathews said. "We really are. Not every incomplete ball is Taysom's fault, by any means. Because a lot of times, it is our fault. We are going to come out this week and be [more] prepared. We have made improvements from the Virginia week to this week, and we are going to get better every week, and we promise everyone that."
Every BYU receiver or tight end who has played has had a significant drop this season, even senior superstar Cody Hoffman. He let a ball slip through his hands in the final drive of Saturday's 20-13 loss to Utah that would have put the Cougars in striking position. Hoffman still has been his reliable self, catching 10 passes for 171 yards in just two games after missing the opener with a hamstring injury.
Mostly, his cohorts' play has been as poor as Hill's throwing.
What is the problem?
"It is technique," said senior Skyler Ridley, the former walk-on who supplanted the injured Ross Apo (shoulder) at one of the starting outside receiver spots. "This last game, some of the timing was a little off on depth on routes, and some other things. Like I said before, that's on us. That's not so much on Taysom.
"I know a lot has been said about the completion percentage, and I think a lot of accountability should be on us for not only dropped balls, but making plays for the QB."
In his blog at Ogletreefootball.com, former BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree says there were eight passes against Utah that should have been caught, and four other times mistakes by receivers led to the incompletions. Ogletree wrote that 10 to 12 of Hill's 30 incompletions were legitimately bad throws.
Ridley, Hoffman, JD Falslev, Brett Thompson, tight end Devin Mahina and running back Jamaal Williams dropped catchable passes. Mahina and fellow tight ends Kaneakua Friel and Richard Wilson have yet to catch a pass through three games after combining for 45 receptions last year.
Junior Marcus Mathews, once a regular pass-catching contributor (27 grabs in 2011), has been relegated to special teams.
"All I can do right now is speculate," Mendenhall said Monday when asked why there have been so many drops. "It is one thing to catch it when you have had a lot of rest in between. It is another thing to catch it when you are sprinting [going out], sprinting coming back, and things are going so fast. So I think there is a mental resiliency and a physical conditioning that is taking its toll. That's what I would say. Whether that's the reason or not, I am not sure."
Mendenhall said that conditioning deficiency won't cause him to ask offensive coordinator Robert Anae to slow down the offense. The Cougars are running a play every 17.5 seconds, fastest in the nation.
"What I am encouraging more than anything is for the pace to remain the same and the execution to catch up with it," he said.
Hill's inaccuracy, combined with the drops and the fact that he's often been running for his life due to a leaky offensive line, has put BYU dead last in the country in passing efficiency.
"There is only one way to go, and that's up," Mendenhall said. "That's where we need to improve."
Player GP Catches Yards Long TDs
Cody Hoffman 2 10 171 32 0
JD Falslev 3 7 84 24 1
Brett Thompson 3 5 80 30 0
Mitch Mathews 3 5 75 26 0
Skyler Ridley 3 5 48 12 0
Ross Apo 3 3 71 52 0
Running backs 3 5 35 14 0
Note: Running backs with receptions are Jamaal Williams (3), Algernon Brown (1) and Paul Lasike (1).