A quick glance at the BYU football stats after the first three games of the 2019 season and it would be easy to dismiss the Cougar receiving corps as nothing special.
After all, 11 different players have caught passes and only one — senior Micah Simon — has more than 200 yards receiving.
The BYU wide receivers, however, don’t mind not having a single standout.
“It’s awesome just knowing that we have so many different weapons,” BYU sophomore wide receiver Gunner Romney said during Monday’s press conference. “We can score and we can make plays from tons of different places. It’s nice to know as a receiver that you can go out and make a play whenever your number is called. It’s not just one guy that you’re going to all the time, so you can step up when your opportunity comes and you can get the opportunity to make a big play.”
Cougar wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake said it’s satisfying to see that many players involved in the pass game because he sees it as a sign of their trust in the offensive scheme.
“We’ve said that there might be games where we have a ton of rushing yards and not many passing yards or vice versa,” Sitake said after practice on Wednesday. “The same goes for individual statistics. There might be a game like what Micah did at Tennessee where he had seven catches for 127 yards. He happened to be in the right spot a number of times. This past game was one of those where guys might have had few catches but the explosive plays were there. They were huge catches in critical moments, a lot of which were contested.”
One of the prettiest of those big plays came midway through the second quarter when Cougar sophomore wide receiver Dax Milne got a step on his defender and hauled in a 30-yard touchdown from quarterback Zach Wilson with a hand in his face.
He said Wednesday that he has seen the replay and the photos from the play and realized it was a lot closer than he thought it was in life action.
“In the moment, I remember seeing his hand go up at the last second and almost hit the ball,” Milne said. “Looking at the photos, it looked a lot closer. I’m just grateful it came through and I was able to catch it.”
Sitake said when the play was called, he thought Milne would be in good position.
“It was fun to see that play from the beginning,” Sitake said. “Everyone was lined up. Dax was pressed up but his strength is quickness. I knew he was going to shake the guy at the line. Once he broke free, we all had a great feeling. Before the ball was even thrown, we were saying ‘touchdown! touchdown!’ and it happened.”
Milne had so much adrenaline after getting that touchdown that he got up and flexed while yelling, another moment that was captured in photos.
“My friends were saying, ‘did you really have to flex on them?’ and ‘what were you screaming?’” Milne said with a grin. “I just was in the moment.”
While the big catches like the TD grabs by Milne and Talon Shumway and the deep ball catches by Micah Simon are certainly the spotlight plays, Sitake hopes people realize that BYU’s wide receivers this year are doing an excellent job doing the hard work as well.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the statistics,” Sitake said. “It can be hard to see the consistency these guys are showing in knowing their assignments and running the exact depths of their routes. People often just see the play being made but there are other factors that make that play go. These guys just get it.”
Sitake knows that better than anyone since it is his job to grade them out to help them improve.
“They grade out high every single week,” Sitake said. “I grade really hard but I haven’t had one guy grade below an 85% this season. That’s a credit to their work, their buy-in and how well they know and understand this offense. I’ve been really pleased with their overall effort and consistency.”
Those are elements that Cougar offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes has noticed from the wide receiver unit as well.
“They are being coached really well,” Grimes said. “Fesi is doing a great job coaching those guys. He’s able to put them in a variety of positions so we can best accomplish what we want to with using each guy’s skill set. They also have a great work ethic. They show up every day and work incredibly hard. We’ve got a lot of older guys with experience and it is showing up.”