Without the thinning affect of losing players to the defense, the receiving corps has swelled, causing coaches to shuffle players around among the four receiver positions. Coaches noticed that the outside receiver position was in need of some reinforcing so they adjusted things accordingly. One of the moves they made was to push speedy slot receiver Bryce Mahuika out to Y receiver.
"One thing the coaches said is that there were some guys that had a hard time getting off the jam and getting of the line at the snap of the ball," said Mahuika. "One of my specialties is getting off the ball really quick and coming off the jam into my routes. Even though I'm not exactly very tall, I like to jump, so that will be an important thing for me when I go down field. I have a 43-inch vertical so we'll see if we can exploit some of that down field.
"The other thing is the coaches wanted some of the faster guys on the outside and I was one of the faster guys. That's one reason why they threw me out there. The last time I ran the forty I ran in the upper 4.3 area, so I should be able to get that back over the summer."
Mahuika uses both his speed and upper body strength to get off the line of scrimmage if the DB's look to jam him. Much of Mahuika's success against aggressive defensive backs comes from the time he puts in at the weight room. Mahuika is certainly a physical specimen, and his teammates have taken notice.
"We started in the off-season in the same workout group and I would see his big guns are everyday," said McKay Jacobson. "I thought if you can give me a couple of years I can have some big guns like that."
After suffering an injury that required surgery last season, Mahuika was greeted by the news he had been switched to outside receiver when he showed up for spring ball. Coaches saw what Mahuika could do and switched him to the outside where he could continue being a contributor within the offense.
"I guess they wanted me to be a part of this offense and to try to get me the ball which is a nice compliment," said Mahuika. "I was pretty surprised at the beginning of spring and hadn't really ran very much as far as coming back from surgery. I was a little nervous coming out here and thinking, ‘Man I haven't even sprinted yet.' It's been alright, though. Obviously I'm not 100 percent yet, but I feel good enough to come out here and compete and have some fun.
The position switch actually allows Mahuika to be on the field more even though he is learning all new routes and assignments. When coaches brought in two running backs, the slot receiver had to sit out. Every time Fahu Tahi was in lead blocking for Curtis Brown last season, the slot receiver got to watch the play from the bench.
"We're going to be running the two back set this year and the coaches said because of that I wouldn't be in the game as much as they wanted so they moved me to the outside," said Mahuika. "It's fun standing on the sidelines and having Coach Anae say, "Hey get in there!" He calls the play and then throws you in there. It's fun to know that he wants you in there on certain plays because he knows what you can do."
Mahuika has gained a greater understanding of how each position helps the other thanks to the switch. He has also seen first hand how the two different positions require different skills.
"On the inside you have to be really shifty and quick in order to shake people and maneuver against bigger guys like linebackers," said Mahuika. "It's quite a bit different than being on the outside where you have just the DB and you have to spread the field and get down field and do the comebacks and streaks and stuff like that. It's a lot different type of deal being on the outside.
"I think having the speed is the ultimate thing when you play on the outside because of how the outside receivers fit within the offense. You also have to play against the defenders a bit different also. When you're out there you have to get right off the ball so you can close the cushion quickly between you and the DB. You want to eat the cushion the DB's give you with your speed, then you're going to get them into trouble. You can make them turn or you're going to come back or just run right by them. If you're fast that's the big thing and obviously being able to go up and get the ball. You can kind of manipulate them a little more to create your space rather than being in the middle of the field and in the middle of the different layers of the defense."