On one hand, they are your brothers, guys you love and respect.
On the other hand, their success will keep you off the field on game day.
Teammates … and competitors.
The players in the BYU wide receivers room are all over the map: Veterans and newcomers, tall and short, speed guys and possession receivers. Fall camp provides everyone with an equal chance to prove worthy of the trust of the quarterbacks and the coaches.
“We have a lot of new personalities,” junior Kurt Henderson said. “We’re all about just trying to be able to mesh together, everybody respecting each other, and trying to make plays.”
None of the returning wide receivers are named Cody Hoffman, BYU’s all-time leading receiver. But players such as Mitch Mathews, Ross Apo and Henderson appear ready for their opportunity to take the spotlight.
There are walk-ons who have fought their way up from the scout team – Jake Ziolkowski, Colby Pearson and Mitchell Juergens among them – who won’t back down from a challenge.
There’s a group of flashy newcomers – Devon Blackmon, Jordan Leslie, Keanu Nelson, Trey Dye, Nick Kurtz – who have been given the same opportunity to step into a key role.
“A lot of people think the players who are most athletic will play the most, but it’s the guys who know the plays,” Mathews said.
Still, there’s only one football on game day, and a finite number of opportunities to make plays.
That said, Mathews and the other veterans don’t hesitate to help Dye, a true freshman, learn where to line up. They will patiently answer every question from Leslie, a newcomer with a lot of Division I experience.
“Myself, Ross and Kurt, who have been in the receivers room the longest, we’ve established that culture where everybody can be good friends,” Mathews said. “The new guys come in, you might think they would be selfish because they’re here for just one year, but luckily, we got guys that aren’t. All the new guys have different talents and we’re going to play to them.”
Mathews said he’s “100 percent confident” in every receiver because each player has strengths to make them valuable. He pointed out that Ziolkowski is probably the best blocker. Leslie is a playmaker and scores touchdowns. Henderson knows the offense like the back of his hand. Blackmon has speed to burn.
“Everyone has a niche,” Mathews said. “And I have confidence in the coaches because they know that and they know our strengths.”
The receivers are a confident bunch. Henderson, who’s caught just six passes for 103 yards in his career, believes in his ability to get open.
“I feel you give me anywhere from the line of scrimmage to 20 yards down the field, I feel very comfortable I can make a guy turn his hips and I can come back to the ball,” Henderson said. “Also I can be a vertical. I can use my speed or use my playmaking ability. Whether it’s on possessions, third down conversions or a deep threat, I hope to just get into the mix any way I can or making big blocks downfield.”
BYU has a volume offense, so there are going to be opportunities for wide receivers to make plays. While there may not be a Hoffman-type player for opponents to worry about, seems like Taysom Hill will have plenty of options when he drops back to pass, from the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Dye to the 6-6, 215-pound Mathews.
Hey, that’s what fall camp is all about: Proving you can pay the price and that the coaches can depend on you.
“As a receiver you want the ball in your hands,” Henderson said. “At the same time, if we’re handing off, you need to be making blocks downfield. But you want the ball to come to you to make a big play.”