Forcing the downfield game

This season BYU will have a bevy of tall receivers on the outside to attack defenses downfield with. In addition to 6-foot-3-inch Ross Apo and 6-foot-4-inch Cody Hoffman, BYU fans can expect to see 6-foot-6-inch Mitch Mathews and his 6-foot-4-inch older brother Marcus running routes on the outside as well.

X-receiver Cody Hoffman hasn't participated in spring camp because he's on the tail end of recuperating from offseason surgery. Ross Apo, on the other hand, has been participating at the z-receiver position. Along with Apo, Marcus Mathews has practiced at the z-receiver position, but he's also been switching back and forth to both sides of the field in Hoffman's absence.

"Right now they've got me at x and z-receiver," said Marcus. "I haven't gone inside at all, but that's okay. As long as I'm out there running around catching passes, I'm fine with that. I feel like I'm getting much better every day and I'm 10 times better now than I was at the beginning of spring camp."

At 6 feet 6 inches, Marcus is a large target on the outside who can run well. He's made a big jump from being a tight end at the h-receiver position to being an outside receiver. He credits a lot of his rapid advancements to new receiver coach Guy Holliday.

"Let me tell you what, Coach Holliday is the man!" he said. "I'll tell you that right now. He really is a great coach and I've never had a coach like him. He's really helped me to be able to do the things that I'm able to do now and I'm so much better. In fact, he's getting all of us better and it's easy to see because we're all catching a lot of balls, running good routes and beating our defense downfield."

Coach Holliday has been developing BYU's receivers through his more vocal style. He is knowledgeable and is able to communicate effectively to each individual player under his tutelage.

"First off, he knows his stuff," said Marcus. "Then second, he knows how to push you. He is the hardest guy and will get on you big time if you're not doing things right. Then at the same time he'll compliment you when you do get it right and stay consistent. He has the perfect balance of constructive criticism. It just works how he does things. He knows his stuff and he knows how to deliver it, so we learn it. He also knows how to teach it to each receiver in a way we each can understand it. I think that's important because we're all different."

Now that Marcus is permanently on the outside, he's played every receiver position within BYU's offense at various times. So, what's it like being so talented that the coaches are able to plug him in at any receiver position?

"Well let me tell you, it's crazy," he said with a laugh. "I can do it all. I feel bad for my brother Mitch because he can't hang with me. He doesn't have a chance.

"No, we help each other out a lot because we run so many plays and go so fast. If Mitch is running a lot of downfield routes, I'll take the longer routes so I can give him a break. He'll do the same for me, so we help each other out a lot that way."

All joking aside, the two brothers have had a very good spring camp so far. Both have been playing outside receiver and even been on the field together at the same time.

"The Mathews boys will be in all the time at the same time," said Marcus with a smile. "I mean I feel like me and Mitch are two of our better receivers and two of our better options. The way we're going to be running things, yeah, there's going to be a lot of subbing in and out. There has to be if we want to keep up with the type of tempo we're running. That means we'll probably be in together at times doing our thing out on the field. It's going to be good."

The up-tempo pace that the offense goes at is part of the new scheme that Coach Anae is installing.

"It's simple but effective," Marcus said. "We don't have that many plays, but the plays that we have, we can run nine different options from each play that we line up in. It can be a run, a pass, a screen and a swing all in the same play. We can run the same play every single time, and to the fans and the defense it looks different every single time because now we're throwing it deep or running the ball. It's simple but very effective."

The passing attack might resemble older Cougar offenses more than what's been seen the past few years. BYU fans should expect a fast-pace offense, but one that is wide open with big-play potential.

"There is tons of downfield stuff," Marcus said. "I mean, there was probably one stretch where Kurt Henderson and I were each running go routes on the outside pass plays. I mean, it was probably like six plays in a row. That's never happened before. It was always if there is a deep route to run, that's just an option. This year there's going to be more of an option to run downfield a lot more than there was for us last year. It's exciting because the offense is going to open up."

The coaches are forcing the players to become more familiarized with a downfield passing game.

"The mentality is much different from the coaches to the quarterbacks," Marcus said. "The coaches will tell the quarterbacks, ‘Hey, you're going downfield with this play and I don't care what the defense is doing. Hit the x-receiver on the go,' and things like that. Coach Anae wants the quarterbacks to throw downfield, he wants us to learn to get open downfield and he wants us to run it effectively. We're doing it really well right now I think.

"The difference between us this year and last year is Coach Doman was more about getting the completion by going short, short, short to keep moving the ball downfield slowly but controlled. Coach Anae isn't afraid to open up the offense and take those shots. He's forcing us to learn and be masters of the downfield pass. He's forcing us to do it and I like it a lot because we're becoming more comfortable with it where it's becoming second nature to us."

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