Fall Practice Preview: Receivers

Like most positions on offense, the Cougars return a lot of experience and talent at both wide receiver and at tight end. Along with that experience comes a lot of young talent that will be trying to make their marks during the fall practice session in hopes of contributing this coming season.

Top Three

The leaders at both wide receiver and at tight end are all back for 2008 after a very productive collective output a season ago. Austin Collie, Michael Reed and Dennis Pitta will all obviously lead Hall's passing tree on just about every passing play, and will likely only improve on their numbers put up a year ago.

Fans haven't seen Austin Collie at his best. While Collie came off his mission to put forth great production, he was still shaking off some rust and battling through a high ankle sprain. As Collie moves farther away from his mission with a fully recovered ankle, his play has gotten noticeably better, as shown by his very impressive spring practice session.

Collie will in no doubt only look to improve on that spring practice session this fall. Collie has regained his true freshman form, which could lead to some breakout numbers this coming season.

Not to be outdone, Michael Reed looked much more lively and quick this past spring after shedding 10 pounds off of his frame following the end of the 2007 season. Reed has been a solid contributor in each of his past two years and can readily be counted on to catch at least 40 balls this coming year.

Dennis Pitta meanwhile led the team in receptions last year and demanded double teams from defenses down the stretch. Having a tight end who not only needs to be accounted for on every down, but who also demands double teams from opposing defenses, should open things up outside considerably.

Indeed, Pitta is a proven weapon that, after his stint at BYU is over, should be being mentioned with the tight end greats such as Gordon Hudson, Chad Lewis and Chris Smith, among others. Pitta looks to be as good as any of them as he preps for his junior year.

Already Set

While there is much to be worked out in regards to who rises to become Collie and Reed's primary backups, Pitta's backup is already set.

Andrew George showed very well in spring and will be Pitta's first option off the bench. In addition, George will join with Pitta in two-tight end sets. George showed increased burst and consistent play this spring, which should lead from some good production.

Behind George is exciting prospect Kaneakua Friel, who did well as he received most of his reps with the second-team offense in the spring as well as some good time with the first-team unit. Friel is still a little raw, but it will be interesting to note his progress throughout fall camp and the 2008 season.

A lot of Options

The options to join the regular wide receiver rotation are vast entering fall camp, leading to the most interesting byline of all. The battle to determine who backs up Collie and Reed will be a competitive and intriguing one, and we'll be watching closely with every day of August practices.

Back and Rearing to Go

Most of that intrigue surrounds the prospects of both Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka. Both returned from their missions to put forth very promising spring practices.

Ashworth was mentioned by Coach Mendenhall to be the returned missionary who came back in the best shape of anyone he's seen since Fui Vakapuna. Ashworth is an athlete who toyed with switching over to the defense this offseason, but again will make his mark at wide receiver.

Hafoka meanwhile showed to be someone who runs very smooth and efficient routes with more-than-adequate speed down the field of play. Both players look to be the best candidates to break the wide receiver rotation entering fall practices.

We're Still Here

There is another trio of established practice players who will be working to stave off Ashworth and Hafoka and become the main options behind Collie and Reed. These players are Reed White, Tyler Kozlowski and Landon Jaussi.

White and Kozlowski are similar in that they're both a bit undersized, but are solid and sure options for Hall during passing plays. Both players always practice well, but wouldn't be necessarily defined as "game breakers."

Jaussi meanwhile could very well prove to be a game-breaker with his impressive combination of size and speed. He is a bit of a wildcard who could rise to become a top option to rotate in at wide receiver this coming season.

Bryce Mahuika will be rejoining the team as well after sitting out all of spring. He is obviously very experienced and could become the top rotating option at wide receiver.

Equal to the Hype?

O'Neill Chambers will be undergoing his first practice session as a college athlete and is someone readily recognized as a candidate who could play right away as a true freshman. Chambers brings unique athleticism and size to the wide receiver position, which could work to earn him immediate playing time as a first-year player.

All Eyes On

Initially I'll be very anxious to see Chambers perform during practices. While it will obviously take some time for him to learn the position and how to operate within BYU's system, I'll be curious to note how he looks athletically compared to the rest of the receivers during the first week of practices.

We'll have our eyes squarely on all the other numerous options at wide receiver. There is a lot to be sorted out, not only in regards to who breaks the receiver rotation, but also with how wide receiver coach Pat Higgins runs those rotations.

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