A lot of hype has been surrounding this years group of BYU wide receivers. After year one of the go fast, go hard offense, it was apparent BYU needed more depth and athleticism among their pass catchers. The BYU coaching staff went hard on the recruiting trail, and the result is possibly one of the deepest and most athletic group of receivers in BYU history. The results are strikingly similar to another recruiting class 10 years ago, where BYU boasted some of its best and most athletic receivers in school history.
Rewind 10 years ago. BYU was coming off two consecutive losing seasons, and Gary Crowton was on the hotseat. The Cougars were particularly inept in the passing game, where their leading receiver, Toby Christensen, only had 547 receiving yards during the 2003 season. Seeing the lack of talent at wide receiver, combined with the pressure to win immediately, Crowton decided to swing for the fences and try to land some elite wide receiver talent. What that coaching staff landed was unprecedented in BYU history. Crowton and his staff proved you could land Non-LDS minorities skill players to play in Provo.
BYU mined the junior college ranks and landed JC 1st team All-American Todd Watkins. At 6-3, 185 pounds with 4.29/40 speed, Watkins had the size, speed and game-breaking receiver athleticism rarely – if ever – seen before at BYU. Watkins had a monster year and showcased his game-changing speed on a regular basis. One particular game that instantly comes to mind is when BYU traveled to the blue turf in Boise to take on Boise State. The Cougars ended up losing by one-point in heartbreaking fashion, but the Cougar passing attack was back.
Watkins was consistently on the receiving end of multiple downfield bombs from John Beck, blowing past the Bronco secondary time and time again to finish with over 200 receiving yards. Following that performance in Boise, Watkins was dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the top deep-threat in all of College Football. Watkins finished the 2004 season with over 1,000 receiving yards and an outstanding 20 yards per catch, good for eighth in the country.
Another JC transfer was Michael Morris, who came from Mississippi and was later switched to defensive back. Morris came in with expectations but an ACL injury on day one of fall camp in 2004 during skeleton drills set him so far back that he could never get up to speed at the D-1 level. Other JC transfers from that ’04 class included Joe Griffin, who was a teammate of Watkins at Grossmont college, and Riley Weber.
Griffin redshirted one year and then left the program when Bronco Mendenhall took over as head coach in 2005. Weber’s claim to fame was as the teams holder on kicks.
The true freshmen from that group should sound more familiar. Austin Collie came in and contributed right away as a true freshman. Collie was considered one of the best LDS wide receiver Prospects in nearly a decade. Collie was named Northern California MVP for any position by the Sacramento Bee; impressive considering all the talent prevalent in California. Collie led BYU with 53 catches and eight touchdowns. Was second on the team with 771 receiving yards behind only Watkins.
Other freshmen that came along were Antwaun “Showtime” Harris and Michael Reed. Harris played one season at BYU and appeared to having a promise career in Provo -when he wasn’t fumbling the ball-, but when Mendenhall took over Harris decided to transfer from the program. Went to Oklahoma State originally after BYU but couldn’t qualify, then ended up at Oregon where Crowton was the offensive coordinator.
Michael Reed was the Texas 5A receiver of the year by the Dallas Morning News, when he posted a ridiculous 16 touchdowns his senior year. Reed stayed at BYU for five seasons and had a solid career.
The parallels are hard to ignore from this years group of wide receivers and that 2004 crop. Both have highly touted transfers, big time athletes, and many non-LDS minorities. Just as Gary Crowton realized in 2004 that the wide receiver position needed a serious athleticism upgrade, Bronco Mendenhall and his staff came to the same realization coming into this season. And while it still remains to be seen what type of impact this years group will have, the potential is there for this years group to make the type of impact rarely seen from a BYU receiving corp.