BYU’s third starting WR position might be Keanu Hill’s to lose. But first, he must answer two questions

The rising junior is competing with Kody Epps and Chase Roberts for time

(Tyler Richardson | BYU) Wide reciever Keanu Hill participates in BYU spring football practice, Thursday, March 18, 2021.

Provo • At the end of every BYU practice this spring, Keanu Hill does something a little bit outside of his comfort zone.

Huddled in the back of the weight room, the junior convenes a meeting with the rest of the wide receivers. He doesn’t say much, but he leads the group in stretching.

The whole scene is a small hat tip to Hill’s future next year, addressing the two biggest question marks that have plagued him into the offseason: Will Hill become a leader and claim the last open starting spot in the wide receiver room? And will he stay healthy enough to do so?

“You know he is riding a great wave of confidence right now from the back half of last season,” Fesi Sitake, BYU’s wide receiver coach, said. “He has changed his body and his mind. I’m just impressed how he has grown.”

Much of the discussion this offseason is about which younger receiver will fill the void as the third starter. The pecking order has been fairly clear: It is Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua and everyone else. Hill is among the candidates to step in, along with Kody Epps and Chase Roberts.

And conventional wisdom would have it as Hill’s job to lose. He has the most game experience — playing 24 games. He is the biggest of the receivers — standing at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. But nagging injuries and a lack of opportunity have made this an open race.

“I feel like I’m at the three spot,” Hill said. “But I’m not that worried about that stuff right now. I’m working on my craft. I feel like I am a leader now, trying to help the younger guys. I would say [I’m more mature].”

Sitake agrees with his assessment. He admits game experience is something he values, and Hill has the most of it.

He also sees Hill has one of the more versatile weapons in the receiving room. Last year, Hill was limited in where he could play on the field. He was a bigger body, but not accustomed to playing every position.

“I trust him to put him anywhere on the field now,” Sitake said. “Whereas before he was more of a one-dimensional type player. He knows the playbook now.”

But where Sitake departs from Hill’s comments is that this year, he will likely play four or five guys. It means the competition, even if Hill wins the starting position, will likely continue throughout the season.

So the second question, of Hill’s health, will prove to be more pertinent. Last year, Hill was dinged up with injuries early in the season. Although he played in 13 games, he didn’t make his biggest impact until early November.

In the final three games of the regular season Hill had over 50 yards receiving. Prior to that, he had zero. He finished the season with 18 catches for 343 yards and two touchdowns

“One-hundred percent I’ve done things [differently],” Hill said. “Whether it is the hot tub, or stretching at night. Really anything I can do.”

For Hill, it comes back to embracing his new role leading stretches after practice. Last year, he was quieter. But this season, he is taking a more active role trying to prepare himself both physically and mentally to be a starter.

Because for him to be a starter, he has to answer two questions: one about his health and one about his ability to lead.


- Jacob Conover has separated himself as the backup quarterback in spring camp thus far. Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said on Monday that Conover is now getting the majority of the reps behind starter Jaren Hall.

- Linebacker Viliami Tausinga entered the transfer portal on Monday after never playing a snap at BYU. The second-year player was sitting behind at least five players at the position.

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