What do receivers Jonny Harline, Nathan Meikle, Michael Reed, Matt Allen and Zac Collie all have in common? They all played their first meaningful minutes as a Cougar in BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae's new offensive system last season, and all proved to be productive in that system. After a full season of playing in the new offense, look for this group of receivers along with some old and new faces to get even better.
Adjusting to a new scheme can prove difficult. Systems usually take time to install properly. Considering the productivity the receivers had last season Cougar fans should be very high on the receiving prospects this coming season.
As fall practices commence, not many position battles will be fought in earnest at the receiving position. Just like running back, the starting receiver rotation appeared to be set after the spring.
The Deepest Position
The Cougar offense will not be lacking able bodies at the YR (tight end) position. Coach Anae will have four very capable options to fill one position. Of course, the offense went with two and even three tight ends sets last season, and that trend is likely to continue in 2006.
Jonny Harline (6-4, 240, Sr.) was the leading receiver for the Cougars last year. taking the field for the first time at tight end after completing to eye-popping practice performances the prior spring and August. Harline's great leaping ability and soft hands made him John Beck's favorite target to the tune of 63 receptions balls for 853 yards. There is no reason not to expect similar production this coming season.
Harline will be joined by Daniel Coats (6-3, 256, Sr.) who is as well-seasoned as any senior on the team after seeing the field regularly in each of his previous three years. Coats got his hands back last year, dropping almost zero balls on his way to 21 catches for 189 yards. Coats is BYU's best-blocking and most well-rounded tight end consistently blowing opposing linebackers off the ball. Coats contributions will again be high this coming season.
Coats and Harline will be the major players at the YR position as they look to pack a prolific punch for the Cougar offense. They will be joined by Andrew George (6-4, 226, Fr.) and Vic So'oto (6-3, 240, So.), two up-and-comers who turned in impressive performances during spring practices.
So'oto was a very physical presence throughout spring practices. He expects to continue asserting himself in two-a-days. So'oto is a classic tight end type who proved to be an effective blocker in short-yardage, thriple-tight formations. Look for So'oto to fill a similar role this coming year in short-yardage situations and possibly work his way into more passing situations.
Andrew George will be the fourth YR receiver in the rotation, but he may also find himself as an HR. He excelled at both positions during spring practices. George is an instant mismatch where ever he lines up. He is faster than any linebacker and taller than any defensive back.
The upside for both So'oto and George is tremendous. Both are in the early stages of their college careers, so they have lots of to develop before taking over for Harline and Coats.
The mainstay this fall at the HR or slot receiver will again be Nathan Meikle (5-9, 175, Sr.), who hopes to build on his impressive Las Vegas Bowl outing. When evaluating Meikle's wares it's difficult to imagine him playing any position other than the HR position in Anae's offense. It's a position where sure hands, a quick pivot, and precise routes are of the highest order, and Meikle has all three.
Look for Meikle to be among the team leaders in catches this coming season. He will make a living running patterns underneath the coverage and will be a safety-valve for Beck on many occasions. Meikle is a hard worker who earned playing time and a scholarship despite being buried on the depth chart as a walk-on running back.
Dependable on the Outside
At the X and Z receiving positions will be Zac Collie (5-11, 190, Sr.) and Matt Allen (5-11, 180, Jr.), a couple of upperclassmen who run good patterns, have good hands.
The spread offense depends heavily on timing. A quarterback needs to know that his receivers will be in a specific place at a specific time on any given passing play. Allen and Collie run the best patterns on the team of any of the receivers. They both will be dependable options on the outside for Beck all season long. Collie recently beat the forty time of his freshman all-American brother Austin.
Michael Reed (6-2, 198 So.) had a breakout game against Air Force last year and ended the season as a rising option in the Cougar offense. Reed will try to solidify the starting XR position during fall practice.
Few true freshmen have created more buzz than McKay Jacobson (6-0, 185). The 2005 Texas 5A Wide Receiver of the Year is hardly a self-promoter, however. He quietly goes about his business during off-season workouts. Despite his efforts to keep a low profile, Jacobson was voted the MWC freshman of the year but the conference media.
Jacobson ran the fastest forty on the team and will provide a legitimate deep threat down the field. After graduating from high school a semester early, Jacobson participated in spring football practice, which helped his progress tremendously. He will likely be the most well-prepared true freshman ever to take the field at BYU.
As if the above options were not enough, Matt Smith (6-2, 185 Sr.) has been as good as any of the receivers in off-season workouts. Smith won a starting spot at ZR after spring practice in 2005 before tearing his ACL in the spring game. It has been a battle coming back, but after hobbling his way through spring practice Smith again looks fully healthy and ready to make some noise.
Ryan Neely (6-1, 180 Jr.) impressed from day one of spring practices. Due to the many other options at receiver, Neely could be slated for a redshirt year. Bryce Mahuika (5-10, 185 Jr.), like Smith, was set to start at receiver in 2006 before his own season-ending injury. Mahuika is back and should share time with Meikle at the HR spot.
It is hard not to hype this group too much. Fall practice should reveal an even more cohesive unit at every receiving position than we saw at the close of last season and into spring practices. With a senior quarterback at the helm and an experienced set of receiving targets, the BYU passing offense is set to put on a show like the teams of years past.
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