Provo • Perhaps the most glaring of all the shortcomings Ty Detmer’s BYU offense had in 2017 was at receiver.
The group collectively was below average by almost any statistical measure. Receivers struggled to get off the line of scrimmage against man-press defense, couldn’t get open consistently and seemed to have more than their share of drops. There were no big-play guys.
Of course a revolving door at quarterback didn’t help. Due to injuries, three QBs started, five guys threw passes and a true freshman, Joe Critchlow, was pressed into duty and started the last three games.
It was telling that a freshman tight end, Matt Bushman, led the Cougars in catches (49) and yards (520). The most productive receiver was then-sophomore Aleva Hifo, who finished with modest numbers: 37 catches for 437 yards.
Detmer and receivers coach Ben Cahoon were not retained by coach Kalani Sitake in the great offensive overhaul of the winter of 2017-18. Now the task of getting more out of a receiving corps that lost only Jonah Trinnaman (24 catches, 305 yards) to graduation belongs to new receivers coach Fesi Sitake, the coach’s cousin.
The former Weber State offensive coordinator said after the Cougars’ seventh practice of spring camp Monday that he has enough talent and playmakers among the 11 players listed as receivers on the spring roster to return the forward pass to the BYU offense.
“You can always add more, but I think we have enough guys to win games with right now,” Fesi Sitake said. “We definitely have a handful of guys that I think are great players who will be great for us here.”
Sitake said the unit’s emerging leader is junior Micah Simon, a Texan who caught 27 passes for 386 yards and a team-best three TDs last season.
“He’s the alpha,” Sitake said. “He’s the one that gets all the receivers together and does the extra work in the meeting room and here on the field. I have been very pleased with what he has brought.”
Simon said the unit has “a lot to prove” after not delivering in 2017 and seeing its coaches let go.
“I feel like we have a chip on our shoulder, most of us, and we are trying to give that same mentality to everybody,” Simon said. “Just looking at last year in review, seeing how we played, we know that we could have done a way better job.”
Sitake is excited about another Texan, redshirt freshman Tariq Buchanan, who already has made some big plays in camp when he’s been healthy.
“He has an upside,” Sitake said. “When he is in, he does good things.”
Buchanan caught a 45-yard touchdown strike from Beau Hoge in a scrimmage last week and said he is ready to contribute in a big way after he was asked by coaches to redshirt last season to concentrate on his schoolwork and improve his ball skills and strength.
“I’m ready to showcase my speed and my skills,” he said.
Hifo, junior Akile Davis, sophomore Neil Pau’u and junior Inoke Lotulelei also are having good camps. Senior Trey Dye has made the move from running back to receiver, while returners Beau Tanner, a senior, and junior Talon Shumway have been limited by injuries.
More help is on the way. Dylan Collie, the onetime Cougar who transferred to Hawaii, is back as a graduate transfer and will join the team this summer. So will highly touted freshman Gunner Romney of Chandler, Ariz.
Romney, whose brother Baylor Romney is one of seven QBs in camp, attended Monday’s practice. Collie is the brother of arguably the greatest receiver in BYU history, former NFL receiver Austin Collie. He’s a proven commodity.
“I pretty much have everything I would want, just not the depth yet,” Sitake said. “I have the sure-handed slot receiver that is really quick and elusive and has a great feel for the game. I have the big guys who have big, strong hands and are physical. And then I have the burners. If I can get a few more bodies, which I think are coming in this fall, then we will be squared away.”
And make last season’s failures a distant memory.
BYU RECEIVERS IN SPRING CAMP
• Tariq Buchanan, redshirt freshman
• Akile Davis, junior
• Trey Dye, senior
• Aleva Hifo, junior
• Jared Kapisi, sophomore
• Inoke Lotulelei, junior
• Neil Pau’u, sophomore
• Rickey Shumway, senior
• Talon Shumway, junior
• Micah Simon, junior
• Beau Tanner, senior