Fall Practice Preview: Receivers

The departure of both Dennis Pitta and Andrew George leaves a lot to be replaced at the inside receiving positions, but there's a lot of returning talent and experience on the outside. Add to that returning experience some intriguing newcomers, and one has one of the more exciting position groups heading into fall practices.

When Robert Anae arrived from Texas Tech to install a spread offense, tight ends - let alone double-tight formations like those used quite frequently over the past two or three seasons - weren't a big part of what he perhaps had in mind. Anae has molded his offense to fit the existing personnel strengths on offense, which has always included tight ends as being some of the most talented playmakers on offense.

This year there is a lot of up-and-coming talent at tight end, but none of the players have a lick of game experience, which could call for some pretty hefty structural changes with how Anae aligns his receivers. Regardless of what changes will take place at the inside receiving spots, they'll have to field two prime outside threats, and there will be some good competition at outside receiver during the fall.

Outside Stalwarts

The group of returning stalwarts at the outside position will be headed by O'Neill Chambers (6-2, 210 Jr.). Chambers started last season and saw some good production, but will look to expand his role this fall while playing the XR position.

He'll be joined by such players as Luke Ashworth (6-2, 196 Sr.) and Spencer Hafoka (6-0, 196 Jr.). Both players have proven to be effective performers, with Ashworth playing key roles in each of his prior three seasons. This year, they'll both be vying for starting and even starring roles within the Cougar offense at what looks to be the ZR position primarily.

Where's Jacobson

McKay Jacobson (5-11, 192 Jr.) is probably the first player one thinks about when Cougar wide receivers are mentioned, and he very well should be. In each of his two seasons as a player, he's played a very key role from one of the two outside receiving position.

With the dearth of experience at tight end, however, it appears as if Anae will scrap his primary two-tight formations in favor of reinstalling the HR position, which was a fixture in the offense during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Jacobson appears to be tailor-made to be the primary option at HR, although he certainly could still see time on the outside, as his ability to stretch the field will perhaps be better utilized there.

Jacobson spent most of the spring playing at the HR position and it will certainly be worth noting where he's playing in the fall. How he'll be used probably won't be cleared up until the first few games of the season, but regardless, he looks to be the focal point of the Cougar passing tree come fall.

New Talent

This reporter is as anxious as anyone to see Ross Apo (6-4, 190 Fr.) get a full practice session in considering what talents he has coming out of the Texas prep ranks. He has a lot of hype to live up to, but should he live up to it, he'll go a long way in helping to keep Jacobson inside at the HR spot, which will benefit the offense tremendously.

BYU needs a deep threat on the outside to open things up underneath for Anae's offense to operate most effectively. Apo looks every bit of the type of deep threat they need to operate at the XR or ZR positions, so we'll be watching him carefully every day of fall practice to see what type of contributions he'll be making.

Jordan Smith (6-4, 200 Fr.) will be competing for the first time since his mission service following a very promising freshman year in which he showed an ability during practices to play a key role at wideout. Other potential contributors include players such as Rhen Brown (5-10, 180 Jr.) and Cody Hoffman (6-4, 200 Fr.). Hoffman has shown a wealth of talent and promise since last season, and we'll see what type of contributions he can make during fall camp.

Inside Options

Along with Jacobson, players such as Matt Marshall (5-10, 171 Jr.), J.D. Falslev (5-9, 170 Fr.) and perhaps some others look to compete at inside receiver. Regardless of who exactly will be manning the spot, fans can expect the HR position to be used frequently.

Overall, it looks as if it will be a return to 2006 for the Cougar offense as it goes with more one-back formations and utilizes an HR slot receiver to go along with an expected four-man rotation on the outside.

Sorting out the Tight Ends

Zero would be the amount of collective game experience the tight ends have entering fall camp, but that certainly isn't to suggest that there isn't promising talent at the position.

Spring practice saw Mike Muehlmann (6-5, 245 Fr.) and Devin Mahina (6-6, 225 Fr.) rise as the primary options at tight end. Muehlmann is the savvy veteran of the group, with one fall camp and two spring camps behind him. Meanwhile, Mahina showed a lot of ability and future promise after having returned from his mission this past winter.

Richard Wilson (6-2, 238 Fr.) was hampered with injuries throughout spring and will be looking to reassert himself this fall along with Marcus Mathews (6-4, 210 Fr.), who showed very well at tight end after being switched over from wide receiver. Junior college transfer Jordan Lower (6-5, 240 Jr.) also showed some ability, but could be switched to defensive end.

Austin Holt (6-5, 235 Fr.) is back from his mission after being widely hyped as a recruit out of high school. The bad news for Holt is that he'll be only one month removed from his mission when fall practices begin, but the good news is that there are no established starters at tight end. That makes the starting spot wide open for his taking as a true freshman.

The competition at tight end should be fierce considering the amount of players at the spot, which could call for at least some position changes after the August practice session. Due to the lack of experience overall, coaches will most likely opt for single-tight formations throughout the 2010 season.

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