BYU needs a No. 1 wide receiver. Will somebody step up this spring or will the Cougars go searching for a transfer?

Fesi Sitake said he will consider both veterans and younger depth receivers in the portal, depending on what spring practice dictates

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fesi Sitake at BYU football practice in Provo on Monday, March 6, 2023.

Provo • Fesi Sitake didn’t shy away from what transpired since BYU football disbanded after the bowl game.

The Cougars’ passing game coordinator admitted he tried and missed at bringing in several receivers in the transfer portal. He keyed in on an FCS guy, but it fell through. He looked at a few others, but they ended up going elsewhere.

And Sitake also didn’t shy away from what will happen after spring practice, where he will again be aggressive in mining the portal for wideouts. In his view, the Cougars need all the depth they can get at the position going into the Big 12 — that part is without question.

The only part that is up in the air is who he will go after in this transfer cycle once spring is over. Will it be a veteran, No. 1 option-type of receiver? Or will he need to bring in more of a depth guy to complement who is already in the room?

“Spring is going to dictate a lot of moves that we end up going after,” Sitake said. “I am always going to look in the portal and I’m not afraid to say that to guys. … It is the fine line of making sure your current guys feel the belief. But we also have to maintain a standard going into the Big 12. We have to build high-quality depth.”

BYU’s receivers room is in the crosshairs as its first Big 12 offseason arrives. It is a group that lost nearly all of its veteran leadership, including Puka Nacua, Gunner Romney and Brayden Cosper. It is left with a younger core with experience — Kody Epps, Chase Roberts and Keanu Hill — but none have been a week-in, week-out No. 1 option. Behind them sit a bevy of inexperienced players trying to crack the rotation for the first time.

And so this spring with be a litmus test of sorts for Sitake. If he sees enough from the current room where he feels they can play at a high level, he can feel more comfortable getting a complimentary piece for depth. If not, he can look at a veteran option.

“When spring is done, I have to ask and answer, who is ready to roll with this top group,” Sitake said. “If there are guys ready, great and we keep the momentum into the summer. If I can’t answer that comfortably, that is when I look into other alternatives and that is where the portal can come in.”

For Sitake, he doesn’t necessarily believe a No. 1 option has to emerge immediately out of Roberts, Epps and Hill this spring for him to feel comfortable . With Epps out of spring practice with a shoulder injury from last year, it would be hard for the competition to play out fully anyway.

Instead, Sitake said he is evaluating the overall quality of the starters. Then, later, a No. 1 option can shake out.

“I want a stable and then it works itself out,” Sitake said. “Kody was the leading receiver last year before he got hurt. Puka ends up being the leading receiver but he missed four games. There are so many factors that change throughout the course of the season that sometimes it is not worth going all in on guy. That is why you got to keep things open and flexible. It is a fine line between being too specific and too broad. That is why I like to roll with three or four receivers.”

Roberts, who had 357 yards and three touchdowns last year, said he views this spring as a chance to step into that No. 1 role.

“There is no one main dude right now,” he said. “We’ll see when spring ball starts who kind of steps up and who will be that guy. But for now we’re all fighting.”

Beyond just the main three, BYU is also evaluating the younger players like Parker Kingston and Hobbs Nyberg to see if they could be legitimate Big 12 backups. Their progression will also factor into the decision of whether they need a veteran or depth guy — or potentially both.

“This is a huge spring for them,” Sitake said. “That is what one of the main points for me.”

When looking at either depth or a veteran, Sitake said his search will include both Power Five receivers and lower-division players. One school of thought was BYU needed a player who has been at the Power Five level as it goes into the Big 12, something that doesn’t exist on this current roster.

“The experience supersedes any division,” Sitake countered. “Power Five is important and I think there is some value to that. But I think your ability to make plays, your in-game experience, is what I look at. I think you factor in the level of play, but your can’t hold it against a kid and let it handcuff you to that decision.”

Either way, BYU will go after a transfer receiver. At this point is just a matter of evaluating the spring, and seeing who it will be.

“I will never turn down a veteran guy who is proven, if he fits,” Sitake said. “I also think there is value getting a guy who has two or three years that has the potential to be a super impactful guy. It is a case-by-case deal. But if you really want to get better and you find a veteran guy who has played in a lot of games, has a lot of catches and he fits, you’d be foolish not to get him.

“So after spring there will be a new wave of guys and we will hit it again,” he finished. “Any window we can hit the portal we will.”