Mitch Mathews providing a big target

On the first day of fall camp last week, Mitch Mathews scored touchdowns both during scrimmaging and skeli drills. In fact, the first touchdown of fall camp 2013 was made by Mathews. He also made an impressive one-handed grab over the middle. At 6 feet 6 inches, Mathews is a tall target, but he's also a target that can get in and out of his routes well and get downfield in a hurry when needed.

During fall camp last year, Mitch Mathews stood out due to his physical prowess. Then during this past spring, he stood out for other reasons: his route-running capability and his speed to go along with his size. This fall camp, he's adding a new element to his ability as a wide receiver.

"I feel more confident out there," said Mathews. "I just feel like this is another day. It's not daunting and it's not scary, but it just feels like we just had spring camp. Fall camp just feels good and there is no mystery about it. I think there is a lot of confidence and I'm feeling really good about how things are going and that is something that I was talking to Kurt Henderson and my brother about in the locker room."

How hard players work out during the summer is often a topic of conversation, but Mathews feels the proof will be in the pudding now that fall camp is here.

"Over the summer I've worked harder than I've ever worked," said Mathews. "I feel like this summer was some of the better results than we've ever had. We've been doing the same practices over the summer without the coaches, so when we came in for fall camp I just feel like we never really stopped practicing. The only difference is when we work with the coaches now it's a lot faster with more urgency and a little bit harder because they're pushing us. It's pretty much the same practices over the summer except now it's a more faster with the coaches. I'm in the best shape of my life, and so fall camp feels like we just got done with spring camp. It's as if spring camp was last Friday and fall camp was the next day. The first day of fall camp was a very good first day and it was like we just finished spring ball."

The offense was a little rusty to start fall camp, but Coach Anae was very pleased overall.

"The chemistry and how the offense meshed together for a first-day performance was something that has never happened before," said Mathews following last Saturday's practice. "I mean, in our receiving meetings before practice we didn't even go over the plays or the offense. Coach Holliday was like, 'You already know what we're doing because you did it over spring and during the summer. We're going to talk about different things in our meetings because you all already know your stuff.'

"Usually the receivers coach will be right there and tell you what to do. They'll often say, 'Okay, you need to slant here or cut there,' and things like that. The first day of camp, all Coach Holliday did was patrol and watch. To us receivers, that was a really good feeling. That's something that has never happened before, at least not since I've been here."

The chemistry between receiver and quarterback must improve this year in order for the quick-fire offense to be effective. Mathews understands this, and so does Taysom Hill.

"I'm really good friends with Taysom Hill and I love the guy," said Mathews. "We're always hanging out together off the field and we do things together to build our relationship. When we do get on the field, it's exciting."

To further improve his pass-catching skills, Mathews has also tried to transform his body.

"I've lost a little bit of weight so I could be extra lean," Mathews said. "My body fat is down, and so I'm in better shape than I was before. It's easier to beat someone when you're extra conditioned [and] when the guy you're going up against is not. I go up against Jordan Johnson and he's the fastest player I've ever gone up against, and so when he's tired and I'm tired, whoever has the better conditioning will win. He's so fast that you have to be in better shape than him, which is hard because he works his butt off. I have to work as hard as I can to be in better shape so my level of performance doesn't drop so I can have that competitive edge."

There is a change in the physical development of the receivers. Much of that change has come under the inspiration and direction of Coach Holliday.

"Something that we are working on is being in such good shape that we can have that competitive edge over our opponents," said Mathews. "We're looking to sustain our speed, be faster and quicker over longer periods of time. We want to sustain our level of speed and endurance to maintain our competitive edge. To do that, we have to change a few things.

"Coach Holliday has coached a lot of players into the NFL. All he's talked about with us is they were able to do so because they dropped their body fat percentage. They all got skinnier and they may not have liked it because they want to get stronger, but in the end they were faster, quicker and were able to be in better shape than the rest, and those things allowed them to be better than the rest."

Along with the rest of the receiving corps, Mathews has replaced size for speed and endurance. It makes sense that the physical characteristics that allow a receiver to be better at his job might not be the same requirements for linebackers and safeties.

"In the weight room all of my lifts have been lower and all of my max lifts have all been a little bit lower," said Mathews. "However, at the same time I've been a little bit faster in all my speed tests. I've been able to run the conditioning test faster now than I've ever been. What that translates for receivers is it means we're all faster and quicker [rather] than big, bulky and strong but slower. It's easier to catch a ball when you're faster and in better shape than you've ever been. That also translates into better confidence, and so those are some of the things that will make us as a group better overall."

Receiver breakdown

BYU's receivers will be a much more effective group than they were over the course of last season. Much of that will be due to having a quarterback that can stretch field and make more throws to the field side. Mathews gave a look at how the receiver group is shaping up.

X-receiver

"Right now it's Cody Hoffman, me, my brother Marcus Mathews, and Colby Pearson at the x-receiver position. We have a lot of talent out there on the short side of the field."

H-receiver

"At the h-receiver there's J.D. Falslev and Eric Thornton. Thornton had a really good first day of fall camp and even caught a pass for a touchdown."

Y-receiver

"At the Y-position there's Brett Thompson, Devin Mahina and Terenn Houk and Kane Friel. I'm not sure of the order because the H and Y-position is sort of interchangeable. Some guys play both positions, and so I don't know the order of who is starting where at those positions."

Z-receiver:

"On the other side of the field it's Skyler Ridley as the current starter. Then it's Ross Apo and then Kurt Henderson and then Michael Davis, so we have some speed on the outside at that position. Then in spring I played a little bit of both X and Z-receiver, so it's good to know both sides in case Coach asks you to go in. You have to make sure you know both sides of the field and that's what a lot of have right now."

New player alert

The receiving group is looking very good, and by the time fall camp ends, they'll be very dangerous entering the 2013 season.

Mathews had a lot to say about speedy true freshman Michael Davis.

"He's really fast!" said Mathews. "He's really good and he's very fast. I mean, you have to bow down to his speed and his hands. He loves the game and you have to give him credit because he's putting in the effort to get better every single day. I mean, no incoming freshman ever really knows the plays, and so he's in that learning phase, but he has all the tools to be great and he's working towards that."

Although a sophomore, slot receiver Eric Thornton made some waves on the first day of fall camp, diving for one touchdown catch and making a sideline grab for another.

"Eric is fast and he's shifty," said Mathews. "He's fast, good and very confident. He's a great player."

Apparently Colby Pearson has also caught his eye. Pearson is a 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound freshman out of Idaho who was a first-team all-state player. He hauled in 65 passes in 2011 for 1,245 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was also a first-team all-state player as a defensive back for Blackfoot High School.

"Then Colby Pearson showed us some things that I haven't seen from a freshman player before," said Mathews. "He's quick off the line and has really good speed and doesn't play like a freshman. We have some really good guys and I love them all."


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