Cahoon reflects on receiver progress

In his second year with the charge of developing BYU's receivers, Coach Cahoon has seen his players make very good progress. Whether or not the group that's taken the field this year will look the same next year is anyone's guess.

From the start of the season to now, Coach Cahoon has been pleased with the overall performance of his receiver group.

"Yeah, I'm happy with the progress that I see out there," said Cahoon. "I'm happy with how hard the guys work and how much it matters to them and their ability to make plays. We're not going to make every single play, but for the most part those guys have made some incredible plays for our team and our quarterback this year. I love working with them and I love their effort."

Having been a successful player, both at the college and professional level, Cahoon gave some insight into what makes a great pass-catcher.

"You have to have great confidence in your ability to catch the ball and make plays," said Coach Cahoon. "That extends from doing it over and over and over. So, it's repetition, it's confidence, it's doing nothing as a coach that's going to destroy that confidence, and keep guys expecting to make plays."

He admits that while he's responsible for his players' development, there is some player management that comes with the territory as well.

"My guys want the ball. They're playmakers and they've been stars on their team and they want to make a difference in the game," said Cahoon. "So, you have to understand that as a coach and treat them with that respect and balance those egos that come with wide receiver play. There's only one ball to go around, so you have to delicately navigate that and try and juggle a bunch of egos that go around in that room. The guys in that room, to their credit, they've been unselfish and have worked for each other. I'm really proud of them."

BYU's offense has seen three different starting quarterbacks throughout the season. Whether the players admit it or not, it does have an impact on how they play.

"Probably the biggest thing is timing, when the ball comes out, and how quickly it comes out when you're coming out of your break and how quickly it gets on top of you," said Coach Cahoon. "The more experienced guys, for the most part, the ball gets on top of you a little more quicker than some of the guys that aren't sure. You want to make sure you have separation before you totally let it fly.

"Anyways, you never want to go into the season with a dozen quarterbacks. You want to have your guy and build that chemistry. That's the amazing thing that happened in the New Mexico State game. James Lark came in and hadn't had a bulk of the reps all year. He came in and slung it and let it fly and, you know, guys made plays. He just came in and chucked it."

As for receiver Ross Apo, Cahoon said his season has been "kind of up and down."

"He comes to work every day and works hard," said Cahoon. "The last three, four, five games of the season he's run really good routes, and he's caught the ball really well in practice and in games. He can't control how many balls come his way. When you have a guy that's been as hot as Cody [Hoffman], guys figure out a way to get him the ball in critical situations. I think Ross has felt that a little bit."

"I just want to keep getting better and better," said Apo. "I came here to play wide receiver and kind of think now I know what it really takes to be better at doing that. In the past I kind of felt that it would just come to me, but that's not the case. You have to go out and get it and that's what I'm looking forward to doing."

When Jake Heaps signed with BYU back in 2010, Apo came with him as part of a class considered one of the best in BYU history. Heaps eventually lost his starting job and transferred to Kansas. Meanwhile, Apo – who was ranked 14th nationally among receivers in his recruiting class – is still trying to find his identity and chemistry with the starting quarterback.

"I don't think friendship comes into play at all, it shouldn't, but comfort level does," said Coach Cahoon. "When a guy is dependable, and he's always where you expect him to be, and when you throw it to him he catches it, you want to go to him more often."

Coach Cahoon feels Apo has had to go through a sort of personal learning curve that has allowed him to have more success.

"I think he's realized that maybe he wasn't playing as high-level as he expected to or maybe he wanted to," said Coach Cahoon. "He made a concerted effort to do less thinking by studying his plays in the off-time, and running more consistent routes and being consistent in that spot."

Some believe that with a more efficient quarterback who's able to utilize the wide side of the field, Apo would develop more. Hoffman has grown to become a trusted playmaker simply because he's built up a rapport by making plays with the opportunities he's been given.

"Cody has earned everything he's gotten and that's how he's earned it," Cahoon said. "It's not because [Hoffman] was buddies with Riley or roommates or anything. Riley knew that if he chucked it his way it was going to be complete, so if you're a wide receiver and you're not doing that with your quarterback, then you have extra work to do to earn the trust and confidence of the quarterback. Ross has been doing that as of late."

There is a real question of whether or not Hoffman will jump to the NFL after this year.

"I have a few scouts that are in the NFL and I've given my feeling what his strengths and weaknesses are at the end of last season and over the summer," said Coach Cahoon. "We haven't had any discussion on whether he should go [to the NFL] or not."

Whether or not Hoffman joins the league after this season is up to him.

"Well, he's gotta make that decision himself, and he's gotta make an educated decision and smart decision," said Cahoon. "That will be a private conversation we have, if we have it, if he seeks out my advice. And he might not."

Reflecting upon his own choices following college football, Cahoon said, "I had no choices. He's going to have some choices. My choice was I had to beg someone to give me a shot, but he's going to have to decide whether he enjoys another year of school, whether he feels he's ready to go to the next level, or whether he feels he needs to work a little bit more, and whether he wants to come back and lead our team next year. Those are all tough decisions. I can totally understand if he went either way. I heard that he says he's 50-50 and I think that's fair."

Either way, Cahoon views Hoffman has the potential to one day play in the NFL.

"I do, especially if he asserts himself and works on a few things," said Cahoon. "Without a doubt. He's good enough to play in the NFL. I think another year would be good for him to polish some things up and to improve some things that will help his stock."

Cougar fans hope Hoffman returns to BYU to do just that.

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