But a new question arises: Should the offense’s focus be in the air, who will be on the receiving end? BYU graduated its leading wide receivers — Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo and Talon Shumway. Those three provided the bulk of production.
But it's not all for naught, Gunner Romney and Dax Milne both return with experience.
Last season, Romney caught 377 yards and two touchdowns on 31 receptions and Milne added 285 yards and two touchdowns on 21 receptions.
“Guys like Gunner Romney and Dax Milne, that were with us last year, very well could have had the same production as our seniors last year,” BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake said. “It had nothing to do with the stuff they didn’t do, but everything to do with what the seniors did and what they did to step up to the plate. When we are all on an even playing field and guys are producing I jnow for myself, and other coaches, we are probably going to lean on seniority.”
Then there’s also the return of Neil Pau’u.
A year after being arrested on campus for driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.147 and interfering with signs and signals, Pau'u rejoined the team during spring practice.
During the 2018 season, Pau'u contributed 216 yards and one touchdown on 18 receptions.
“Those two [Romney and Milne] did some great things last year, but I think the reason that they weren’t able to take off on their own, like they have the potential to do this year, was just the play that the seniors had last year,” Sitake said. “So I am really excited for guys like Gunner, Dax and Neil Pau’u to step into that role and do more.”
Since the 2019 season ended, Romney said he and Milne have taken a larger leadership role with the group, something that’s “fallen into place.”
For Romney, the added responsibility has meant shifting his mentality from just worrying about himself to worrying about the entire receiver group, and making sure they're all getting their workouts in and staying on top of things.
He's also made sure to pull aside the younger guys to help teach them the playbook and show them the ins and outs of being a receiver.
Bringing the group together and making sure everyone is one the same page is even more important now as the Cougars, and everyone else, navigates through the current pandemic.
“These are really unprecedented times,” Romney said. “And we’ve had a lot more free time than we’ve ever had as student-athletes, and we’ve had a lot more responsibility on ourselves because we don’t have the coaches on us 24/7 … Being in that leadership position, it’s more of a responsibility to get on the guys and encourage them to be smart about what they’re doing and to keep working toward the end goal, and to know that everything they do right now will have an impact on the season.”
And then there is tight end Matt Bushman, who could have the biggest impact of all on the Cougars’ aerial game.
Bushman, who decided to forego the NFL Draft and instead come back to Provo for his senior season, led all receivers last season with 688 yards and four touchdowns on 47 receptions and will be looking to have another strong season to buff up his resume before looking to go pro.
Either way, Sitake is looking to have a minimum of five guys game ready at all times.
“I just want there to be a healthy competition where guys are pushing each other,” Sitake said. “Besides the guys that are coming back, all four of the guys I signed, of the four incomers, any one of those guys could crack into that rotation.”
Whoever ends up winning the QB1 battle, it appears he’ll have plenty of options down the field to throw to.
“There really is a big list of guys and I’m excited just like everyone to see who is going to work their way into that rotation,” Sitake said. “I feel like I have a good solid group to test out and see who is going to step up to the plate and be game ready.”