PROVO — According to both BYU coaches and Aleva Hifo himself, the senior wideout has stepped up his effort and focus during the offseason with the goal to finish out with his best season to date in hopes of boosting the Cougars' downhill production.
Making all that alleged focus relevant on the field of play will be a big factor in BYU's overall team success.
It's no secret the Cougars' production from the wideout position has been lacking in recent years, with Hifo leading the team with just 28 receptions a season ago. When considering what's on tap initially, with games against traditionally stalwart defensive units like Utah and Washington, greater production should prove pivotal.
The good news is all involved strongly believe greater production is in store.
"They're ready to go and they're playing at a new level of confidence," said BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake. "They're all stronger, bigger and faster ... They know the playbook so much better now. So there's this extra swag and confidence they're playing with."
Indeed, experience and knowledge of the system helps with confidence, not just for the receivers themselves, but the coaching staff. Last year saw the first-year Cougar offensive coaching staff take some time to formulate an offense that best suited their personnel, according to Sitake — a hurdle that's largely been cleared leading up to the 2019 season.
"We're much more on track. We know what we are and we know what we need to do," Sitake said. "So everything has been more efficient because we know what we are now and we don't have to focus all these different ideas that we had to last year as a new staff."
As for Hifo, he confirms his coach's optimism while hoping to improve on his overall production from a year ago while maintaining a new level of consistency.
"Last year it was all about consistency for me and not dropping passes, which I was able to do, but I'm not satisfied," Hifo said. "I can still prove more consistent in my overall effort on every down and becoming a more dependable threat downfield."
Sitake has met with Hifo several times during the offseason to encourage more dedication and perhaps a more serious approach.
"He's done well in becoming more of a vocal leader, which isn't a natural thing for him, and he's just matured," Sitake said. "I think you're going to see good strides made by him and from others in our group."
Perhaps the most notable name alongside Hifo at wide receiver is Gunner Romney, who returns as a sophomore after struggling through injury throughout his first season in Provo. The result was a 13-catch effort, which he's been working to improve on.
"What I love about Gunners is his dedication, and he's shown that from Day 1," Sitake said. "He's a guy who eats and breathes football. Focus and dedication won't be a problem for him. Getting hurt his first week of practices last year really set him back, but he's coming off a big spring and we expect big things from him."
Other experienced wideouts returning include Talon Shumway, Dax Milne and Micah Simon, with Neil Pau'u's status very much uncertain due to legal issues incurred during the offseason.
"I like our group and feel we're going to continue to make good strides," Hifo said. "I love our quarterbacks, we have a great offensive line. We really feel like things are coming together to make a lot of improvements."