Refining Hoffman, Apo into big-time threats

A receiver with excellent size and athleticism, sophomore Cody Hoffman got his feet wet last season playing in all 13 games, 10 of which he started. Hoffman led the offense with 527 total yards on 42 receptions and seven touchdowns, and was BYU's primary kick returner. Meanwhile, freshman Ross Apo redshirted last year. This year, Hoffman and Apo are poised to explode on the Cougar football stage.

Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo aren't your old prototypical BYU type receivers. At 6 feet 4 inches and 205 pounds, Hoffman has that rare combination of speed, quickness and athleticism that BYU fans had longed to have in the receiving corps for some time.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 202-pound Apo possesses similar physical qualities. Both a year wiser, and with a new coach, Hoffman and Apo figure to be among the main receiver weapons in this year's offense.

"I can't say too much, but I just know what's going on, so I can work on the little things to get better," Hoffman said. "Spring practice is going really well."

"This year I know my assignments a lot better," Apo said. "Coming in here my first year, I was really raw. I'm sure you guys saw that. This year I know what's going on and I've had some time to sit down with O'Neill [Chambers] and Luke [Ashworth], and they've both really helped me to understand things better. Now that I know everything, I can run around and play my regular game."

During one-on-one drills, Hoffman is skilled in technique – although there is still room for improvement – and asserts his athletic dominance on the field.

"I would say that I'm becoming more refined this year," Hoffman said. "We're doing a lot more footwork drills that allow us to get into and out of our breaks. That's big for me because I'm a bigger wide receiver, and so learning how to use my feet better to get in and out of my routes will help me be more effective in the game when I run my routes. It will help me get open."

Like Hoffman, Apo is learning a lot about playing the wide receiver position.

"Oh, Coach Cahoon has helped me a ton!" said Apo. "He wasn't the biggest or the fastest receiver, so he's always depended on the little things to get open. So if you combine those things with someone who has talent, the sky's the limit. I think it's going to help me, and not only me, but everybody else."

Under their new position coach, the receivers have been utilizing a number of drills designed to help with muscle memory, reflexes, ball control, concentration and hand-eye coordination.

"Tuesday is more of a chill day because on Monday we ran really hard doing different types of conditioning drills, nothing with the ball really," Hoffman said. "So [on Tuesday] we came back a little sore, so we now have to work through it and are taking it a little easier doing catching and other drills, which doesn't take as much work, but we're still getting a good workout with all these different kinds of drills."

The Cougars now run a gauntlet drill that focuses on catching the ball, securing it, and then turning upfield.

"A lot of these are new drills, and it's to help us learn how to quickly put the ball away," Hoffman said. "It's about catching the ball as fast as you can and holding on to it after you catch it."

"Last week we only had one fumble," said Apo. "I think the ball security drills have really helped us a lot."

Then there is a crossing-route drill where two receivers come straight at each other. While converged in the middle, one puts up his hands as if to catch the ball, while the other is actually supposed to catch it.

"It was about concentrating on the ball," Hoffman said. "There's a lot of distractions in a game, so a lot of these drills were about finding and keeping your eyes on the ball. It helps build confidence with some of the new guys. It also helps with concentration and to show how mentally tough they really are."

"Well, we're going to be coming across the middle," said Apo. "You're going to have a hand up, so you might as well practice with that distraction. Our DBs are always crashing down on the ball. They're throwing hands up and pulling on you and it's a distraction. I think we need to get used to that and run that every day."

There's also another drill where the receiver had to quickly turn and catch the ball in flight. It was fast paced and helped the receivers develop good coordination.

"It helps with reaction, because not every pass is perfect," Hoffman said. "You're going to have to learn how to adjust to the ball and sometimes that adjustment comes quickly, so reacting to the ball quickly is a big, important part."

"Last year we did do technique stuff, but now we're doing stuff for different scenarios," Apo said. "We're doing more back ball, high ball and low ball. I'm sure you saw some of the back-shoulder stuff, where if a guy is on you, the quarterback will throw towards your back shoulder."

BYU's young offense has enjoyed a lot of early spring success against a defense that looks to be very tough this year.

"It's just the new offense, really," Hoffman said. "We're just working on executing, and we return a lot of young players from last year, so they know what to do, and we're beating the defense right now."

The offense is using a variety of formations that the offense can run many different types of plays from. There is also an old offensive feature Coach Doman has brought back.

"Well, when I say new offense, I don't mean we're changing what we do best," Hoffman said. "We're just running a lot more different plays and formations and we're bringing the huddle back, and so it's a little bit different, but in the same aspect it's the same. What we've been doing is a lot better and I think it's going to create less predictability and put defenses on their heels more."

Less predictability bodes well for receivers who are becoming more refined. The combination of the two has already yielded early success for an offense not even at full strength yet.

"It's building confidence, and that's the main difference with me this year," Hoffman said. "I have a whole year under my belt and I'm becoming better at what I do with what we are now doing. Coaches know what to expect from me and know what I can do, so I'm here to make big plays and that's what I'm going to do."

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