Mitch Mathews, BYU's Jeff Samardzija

Mitch Mathews brings a rare blend of size and athleticism to BYU's pass-catching corps, and because he creates a challenge for those covering him, the coaches are going to use him in various ways. Could BYU fans see their very own version of Notre Dame's Jeff Samardzija beginning to emerge?

After what Mitch Mathews would call a subpar performance last year, he hopes this year will be much, much different. And it looks like that will probably be the case in Robert Anae's new offense.

"I want to be a guy that they can count on," Mathews said. "I want to be that guy they can look at and say, ‘Anytime we need him, whether it's at the h-position or a slot back, or an outside guy, we can count on him.' Last year there was so much stress and pleasure coming off my mission, I just wasn't myself. I didn't know if anyone could count on me because I wasn't who they knew I could be because I was fresh and learning a new offense.'

The big 6-foot-6-inch receiver is expecting to play multiple positions within Coach Anae's offense.

"This year, I was told I was going to play a little of h-position, which is the slot back, and then go outside too. Knowing that they can have me as an inside receiver and an outside receiver too makes me feel good, because they can trust me to be versatile."

Watching Mathews run through similar drills as his shorter receiver cohorts, there is no sympathy from Coach Holliday.

"We're getting pushed beyond our limits by Coach Holliday, and that's a good thing,' said Mathews. "When you're getting pushed like that, there's a camaraderie between each other that comes with that. We've all got each other's back, whether it's first string, second string. We're getting pushed and we're going to have each other's back. You know, that is something that I felt was missing last year. I felt like last year that everyone was kind of out for themselves, but this year it's more of a team thing."

While the receivers were being developed last year in terms of technical aspects, this year their mental toughness is being tested like never before.

"[Coach Holliday] has eyes in the back of his head," said Mathews. "If you run a bad play behind him, he is on you. He squeezes everything out of you and I think that's refreshing. Both Coach Cahoon and Holliday are great technicians. Coach Cahoon played a lot of years in the pros. He always preached that he wasn't the biggest but he could get into the open ‘cause he ran routes perfectly.

"What Coach Holliday is good at, because he played in the pros too, he pushed us to our limits. They ran us hard, and he got us into the habit of when we were tired, we were still technicians. He made us be technicians when we were tired. This year we were pushed to better conditioned."

That could be the key that puts BYU's receivers over the top and makes them some of the most feared pass-catchers to face. When you add the experience of Coach Anae and see his vision of what a powerhouse offense could look like, the good old days of a high-scoring BYU offense could be just around the corner.

"With Coach Anae back, he knows how to score points," Mathews said. "When he was here my true-freshman year in 2009, I remember beating teams because we could score so many points, and that's such a good feeling knowing that we're about to step on the field against this defense who thinks they can stop us."

In evaluating Mitch Mathews, it's clear that he has a ton of potential that could make him a future target of opposing defenses. Mathews chews up ground with a long stride, and his 6-foot-6-inch frame make him a standout target. He reminds one of a developing version of former Notre Dame receiver Jeff Samardzija. In fact, the Samardzija/ Mathews comparison was made on Cougar Sports 960 radio with Ben Criddle and Alema Harrington.

"Thanks, that's cool that you said that," Mathews said when told about the comparison. "It's great you said that because he is my college idol. Coach Omer tells me all the time he wants me to be like Samardzija. He was a baseball/football guy and I'd like to be that. He was big but didn't play lurpy."

During last fall camp, BYU coaches were looking for a fourth wide receiver to come in off the bench, but with this type of face-paced offense, the coaches could now be looking for a fifth and even sixth receiver to rotate in to keep the pace fast and furious.

"That's true, that's needs to happen ‘cause ... if you think about defense, you never see a corner running off the field but you'll see receivers, and so if a corner is in, you know this is eighth play of the drive and this is our third receiver coming in, our third receiver is fresh. We have so many good receivers this year that if we have a fresh third receiver, he can go and be fresh full speed and that DB is going to be tired by that eighth play. So it's going to be cool to see. We have guys that ... coaches can really trust – running into H, taking out Jamaal [Williams]. Whoever is coming in, I know for sure when I high-five them they can take my place and we're going to be okay. We are going to need six guys."

Mathews has the goal to be one of those guys coming in when needed.

"I want to be a guy they can trust," Mathews said. "Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I'd like to be in rotation. We have Cody [Hoffman] coming back, and it is nice having him there, ‘cause a lot of times there is that number one receiver, when they key in on them, you can make a name for yourself while they are keying on other players. I want to be able to make a name for myself that says I'm on the field, that I can get open just as well."

He'll need to increase his speed while adding some weight to his frame. Since last season, Mathews has done just that.

"Faster, definitely faster," said Mathews about how he's improved. "I have gained a little weight coming off my mission. I heard people saying, ‘Who is this six-foot-six skinny kid walking around?' I also learned the game more last year, so that is something I have as well. Coming off my mission after being gone for two years, I had to learn the game better. From last year to this year, I'm heavier and faster. I feel like I know the offense really well. I have confidence, which leads to the coaches having confidence in me."


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