Spring Practice Preview: Receiver

At both inside and outside receiver, BYU is set this spring with three returning starters at the three receiving positions. Dennis Pitta, Austin Collie and Michael Reed all return for the 2008 season, giving a lot of security to the receiving spots in the offense. Who will back up at these positions is what will be the focus this spring.

Both Dennis Pitta and Austin Collie returned from their missions in prime form and quickly rose to lead the Cougar receiving corps at both the outside and inside positions. Both players will be working as hard this spring to improve their game in order to improve on the production they put out a season ago.

Along with Pitta and Collie come Andrew George and Michael Reed, both of which saw very good production a season ago. Production is nothing new to Reed, who has been a consistent feature in the regular WR rotation for the past two seasons. George began to emerge toward the end of last season and should be a big part of the offense this coming year.

Having such established returning players at receiver as BYU has entering spring is obviously a huge benefit. All four players mentioned will be working hard to improve on their respective symmetry with quarterback Max Hall in hopes of seeing even greater collective production this coming year.

Add in Bryce Mahuika, who will be back this year, and the depth becomes even greater. Mahuika plays the HR position, which was all but done away with in the offense last year. We'll be watching to see how the HR position is utilized this spring and where Mahuika lines up most. Last season Mahuika saw most of his time on the outside, as coaches opted for two-back sets the majority of the time.

Promising through Practice

At the forefront of those competing for spots in the regular WR rotation will be a couple of players who have been standouts with the second-team, third-team and practice squad over the 2006 and 2007 seasons respectively. Ryan Neely provided solid play in 2006, while Landon Jaussi was a standout on the practice field during 2007.

Neely was ready to make a push toward the regular WR rotation before going down with a season-ending injury. He should be ready to go this spring and has already proved to be a consistent option during practices. Neely doesn't stand out in any particular facet of the game, but does everything well, from running good patterns to catching the football.

Jaussi meanwhile presents very good size and strength for an outside receiver. Last year in practices he did very well in becoming one of the top scout team receivers. His size and his consistency in catching the football make Jaussi a prime option to break into the regular WR rotation.

A couple of other players that took their turns impressing during practices last year are Tyler Kozlowski and Reed White. Both players had their moments during most scrimmages and both will be working very hard to earn their spots on the two-deep roster.

Off their Missions

A couple of other intriguing prospects on the outside include Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka. Both players were highly recruited out of high school, and now that they're both back from missions, they're raring to show their worth this spring.

Fans caught a glance of Ashworth's abilities when he was a true freshman. Ashworth earned himself a spot in the rotation during the 2005 season and performed well. He is a very strong player who has proven to be very coachable.

Hafoka meanwhile is very much an unknown commodity. No one has seen him practice for quite some time, which leads to a lot of anticipation this spring about his prospects.

Help on the Inside

Those working to back up Pitta and George on the inside include players such as Kaneakua Friel and Matt Shirley. Both players showed well last season during practices.

Friel came in about as raw as any true freshman in trying to learn to play the YR position at BYU. He did very well in learning the position and should make some great strides this spring. Friel is a phenomenal athlete whose upside is tremendous.

Shirley meanwhile showed to be quietly productive throughout practice sessions. He catches the ball well and will be very valuable in adding depth to the position this spring.

Overall the receiving positions at both the outside XR and ZR positions and the inside YR position are in very good shape entering spring practices. Most years coaches like a good mix of returning experience coupled with enough up-and-coming players to stake good security in the future. Coaches have that at all receiver positions this spring.

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