Provo • Much has been made in BYU preseason training camp about the Cougars’ inexperience at receiver.
People tend to forget, however, that freshman Aleva Hifo got as many opportunities at the beginning of last season as now-departed seniors Nick Kurtz, Mitchell Juergens and Colby Pearson. But after catching four passes for 26 yards against West Virginia in the fourth game of the season, Hifo saw his playing time drastically reduced.
“There were times in games where I had miscommunication with the quarterback,” Hifo said Wednesday. “Those early mistakes I made caused me to lose a lot of trust. I can’t have stuff like that, and my playing time dropped off.”
It also didn’t help that Hifo suffered a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season. He played through the pain, then had surgery in January that caused him to miss spring camp.
He’s back in 2017 with a stronger shoulder and a determination to earn the starting spot at slot receiver. He is also getting some reps at the outside receiver positions, where Jonah Trinnnaman and Talon Shumway are the presumed starters.
“Aleva, in the slot, is looking good for us,” quarterback Tanner Mangum said.
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said Friday the staff didn’t lose trust in Hifo, even after a dreadful play against Utah in which a pass from Taysom Hill deflected off the freshman and was returned for a touchdown by Utah’s Sunia Tauteoli.
“We had to balance getting Aleva in there, but still using our experience,” Detmer said. “We had the Juergens brothers playing kind of the same role.”
Detmer said Hifo is battling with redshirt sophomore Micah Simon at the slot position, but could be used in other situations as well.
“He is a dynamic player who gives us a little more of a wiggle than maybe we’ve had in the past,” Detmer said.
Burt not bummed after redshirt year
Riley Burt showed flashes of brilliance carrying the football in 2015 as a freshman out of Box Elder High. He had a memorable 41-yard run against Cincinnati and finished with 14 carries for 86 yards. He was expected to be a contributor in 2016, backing up Jamaal Williams.
But after Burt didn’t see action in the first couple of games, it was decided that he would redshirt.
“I think it was a good decision,” he said last week. “It was made by me, my family and [coach] Reno Mahe. Coach [Kalani] Sitake was obviously in on it, too.”
Burt, who is on the two-deep chart at tailback, said he doesn’t regret the decision, even when Williams and Squally Canada missed games with injuries later in the season.
“I am glad I did it,” he said. “I have grown a lot, gained a lot of weight, gotten stronger and faster.”
Back at it
After scrimmaging at the stadium on Saturday and taking Sunday off, the Cougars resume practices on Monday afternoon at the outdoor practice field. Sitake said Friday this is an important week to get the two-deep solidified and start analyzing which players will make the travel squad for the Sept. 2 game against LSU at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
“Our guys will have lots of opportunities to make some plays and maybe climb the depth chart,” he said of the scrimmage. “We will have more of an idea what the depth chart will look like after it is over.”