Having had nearly a full year under Robert Anae's offense, this spring has seen some nuances creep in with regards to who runs which types of routes, what type of receiver mans which specific position and what patterns are run out of which formation.
"Yeah, it's different," said sophomore receiver Michael Reed. "We're doing some different things out there, but it's all within the basic offensive philosophy. We just know it so much better this time around that we're able to slowly add things and do more things as an offense. It's fun."
"It's not all that different; we're just doing things better," added junior receiver Matt Allen. "We're just able to know what to do within the offense. A lot of the stuff is the same, it's just a lot better this time around since we know what we're doing."
Getting the Ball to the Outside
A major point of emphasis this spring has been to get the ball to the outside receivers more frequently. The message is getting through to John Beck who found the XR and ZR (outside receivers) early and often today.
"We want the ball, I mean, you want to get as many passes thrown to you as possible," said Reed. "We have some great guys on the inside like Jonny Harline, Daniel Coats and a lot of others who can hopefully draw some attention away from us on the outside. We need to prove capable to step it up, though, and maybe in turn we can take some pressure off of them."
"During the season last year we didn't see a lot of balls thrown to the outside," said Allen. "I think you're seeing a lot more balls thrown to the outside this spring and it's good. It will help free up a lot of what goes on with the inside guys we're hoping, and of course I love it as an outside receiver."
Outside receivers are most notable for their go routes and out patterns, but their contribution goes deeper than that. One aspect of their game that is largely unnoticed is the role they play in the run game.
"We're blocking a lot better this year," said Allen. "It's been something we've emphasized a lot and something we're working hard at. Our blocking could be the one area where we improve most and that would be great. It's something I know I take a lot of pride in, giving Curtis [Brown], Fui [Vakapuna] or whoever a few extra yards. I take pride in that and I know the other guys do as well."
Mixing It Up
Anae and company are expanding each position's responsibilities this year. The best example of that this spring is Andrew George seeing the majority of his reps at the HR position.
Nathan Meikle, manned the HR last season with all 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds of his shifty frame, and he will do the same this year. In certain situations, however, coaches will opt to bring in the 6-foot-4, 226-pound George.
"It's all about match-ups," explained Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We like the idea of creating mismatches on the inside with two taller, more athletic receivers like Jonny and Andrew George. It's just the progression of the offense and what they're able to do. That's the main reason for playing Andrew George at the HR in certain situations."
"I love it," George declared. "I'm for any formation and will play anywhere if I can get on the field more. I mean, after serving a mission and then red-shirting having to watch the entire season from the sidelines and on TV, I'm ready to go. Just get me out there, I'll play wherever.
"Having guys like Jonny and Daniel ahead of you has been great for me. I've learned a lot watching them play, and I'm a better player because of it. Now I'm just anxious to help them out."
- As mentioned, Beck was very impressive today, going unofficially 11-11 for 136 yards in contact drills. Beck had the offense going in rhythm. He hit receivers quickly and often.
- On the receiving end of Beck's passes were Allen, catching two passes for 15 yards, and Coats, catching two for 34 yards including a 24-yard touchdown pass. Both McKay Jacobson and Reed caught a pass a piece from Beck. Jacobson also impressed onlookers by making a couple of one-handed grabs in one-on-one drills.
- Bryce Mahuika hauled in a couple of passes as well. One of which was a-50 yard catch from Jason Beck where he got behind the coverage on a post pattern. George and Matthew Smith also had a good showing with the second team today.
- The defensive highlights included Kyle Luekenga busting through the line for a sack. Terrance Hooks had an interception of a Jason Beck pass while Markell Staffieri and Bryan Kehl converged on Curtis Brown in the backfield dropping him for a loss.
- Recruit Logan Walls was in attendance as part of a two-day unofficial visit to Provo. Walls is a 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive line recruit from Dawsonville, Georgia. His early offers include BYU, Hawaii and Georgia Tech.