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Can inexperienced BYU receivers become 'household names' this fall?

PROVO — To casual BYU fans, and maybe even to Cougar opponents, nothing significant stands out about this season’s crop of wide receivers on the roster.

At least not yet.

Combined, they haven’t done much at the collegiate level. The leading returning pass-catcher is senior Jonah Trinnaman, who had 28 receptions for 321 yards and one touchdown last season.

Gone are the top three receivers in 2016 — Nick Kurtz, Colby Pearson and Mitch Juergens. And the Cougars’ fifth-leading returning receiver, Moroni Laulu-Pututau, has been moved to tight end.

But despite the dearth of experience, BYU coaches don’t seem concerned — even with pass-happy quarterback Tanner Mangum taking snaps.

“These aren’t household names yet. But they will be,” said offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. “We’re excited about the athleticism they bring to the table. We’re young and a little bit inexperienced so it’s a matter of them being comfortable enough to let their talent play.”

“I know they are talented. Nobody really knows anything about them yet,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “I promise you that they’ve got a lot of talent. People will know who they are. We’ll look back in a year from now and say they’re an experienced bunch.”

Receivers coach Ben Cahoon, a former Cougar receiver himself, understands what it means to play this position at BYU. Will household names emerge from this group?

“No question about it, for better or for worse, they will be known,” Cahoon said, smiling. “They’re going to be out there and the receiver position is one where you’re isolated when the ball comes your way. People will know their names and I believe these guys will step up and surprise some people.”

The speedy Trinnaman is a deep threat who caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Taysom Hill last season. That was the longest pass play of the year for BYU. After that, the Cougars had two 39-yard completions, with one of them coming in the Poinsettia Bowl victory over Wyoming when Mangum connected with Kurtz.

Cahoon is counting on Trinnaman to be a leader and a play-maker for the offense and to stretch the field.

“He’s a senior and he needs to step up and be more confident in stepping into his role as The Man,” Cahoon said. “That’s what I challenged him to do. I’ve seen great strides in him. He’s having a good camp. I’m really happy with Jonah. He’s got big-play ability. He’s learning that to be great you’ve got to put the work in and pay the price. It’s kind of a grind and it’s a lot of reps.”

Aside from Trinnaman, BYU has a cadre of inexperienced receivers, including sophomore Micah Simon, sophomore Talon Shumway, sophomore Akile Davis, sophomore Aleva Hifo, senior Grant Jones, sophomore Inoke Lotulelei, junior Beau Tanner, junior Rickey Shumway, junior Taggart Krueger, and freshmen Neil Pau’u, Tariq Buchanan and Chayce Bolli.

Both Simon and Davis redshirted last season and are eager to contribute. Simon “knows the offense really well and can play any receiver position,” Cahoon said. “He runs good routes and has good hands.”

Cahoon has been pleased by what he’s seen from the receivers with just a few weeks remaining before the season opener.

“The young guys have had a great camp. They’ve learned the offense quickly and they’re making big plays,” Cahoon said. “Top to bottom, we’ve got a good group. We’re still trying to figure out where everybody’s playing. But we’ve got some speed and we’ve got some precise route-runners. It’s a good mix.”

The receivers are looking to make names for themselves by making plays.

“There’s a ton to prove. That’s where we can leave it. None of us has shown much,” said Talon Shumway. “Jonah has. But we all have something to prove. It’s an advantage. I hope that if we do have success, which we plan to do, we keep that attitude of always trying to prove something. … We all want success. That’s a dream everybody has, for people to know who you are. I’m sure the guys that have success will handle that well. We want to stay humble and improve a lot and work hard. It would be nice to get to that point.”

Cahoon smiled broadly when asked about the impressive touchdown pass Talon Shumway caught from Mangum during Monday’s team period.

“I’m always happy when that happens,” Cahoon said. “They’re all working hard, they’re competing and I love the effort they’re giving. They’re making plays at a very high level but there’s room for improvement. We’re looking for more.”

Can this group of unheralded receivers become household names by the end of the season?

“I hope so,” Trinnaman said. “With the schedule we play big games on ESPN all over the country, as people watch and as we make plays, people will remember us and see us as big-time receivers.”