Take him away from the football field, put on his thick-rimmed black glasses and Kody Epps could pass for a mild-mannered tax accountant. Sort of harmless.
But place him in shoulder pads and a helmet, put him in as a slot receiver in a BYU formation with QB Jaren Hall, and Epps becomes something else. Something that maybe deserves a cape and mask.
Just a freshman, Epps has become one of BYU’s most consistent weapons. He’s got hands like sponges. His cookie-cutter routes easily create space. His concentration is amazing. His ability to gain yards after the catch is impressive. He’s got acceleration ability and good enough speed to break the big play.
But before he ever gets on the field, he’s one of those guys who takes his football seriously in the film room. He studies defenses like other students might hit a chemistry chart. He plugs in his brain and gives it a workout.
As it stands right now, Epps leads BYU in receiving with 25 catches and receiving touchdowns with five. On the season he has 298 yards and is averaging 12 yards per catch. Last Saturday in Allegiant Stadium he had an impressive four catches for 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Dylan Collie, former Hawaii and BYU receiver who comes from a family of both pro and college receivers, including father Scott Collie at BYU in the days of Jim McMahon, knows receiver skills. His brother Austin, a former NFL receiver, is considered one of the most productive consistent pass catchers in BYU history.
Says Dylan Collie: “I don’t think it’s a surprise to a lot of people that have followed his career. You have a guy who put up astronomical numbers against the toughest competition in high school and has simply been preparing for the moment his number was called.
“His number has been called and he’s delivered. I think you will start to see him become an even more critical piece to the offense. This is ultimately going to help open up the outside receivers and enable the playbook to really open up. This is just the beginning for Kody Epps.”
BYU assistant coach Ed Lamb, speaking on BYUtv’s “Coordinator’s Corner,” explained that Fesi Sitake saw some specific skill sets in Epps when recruiting him.
“He’s what I call a balanced player,” said Lamb. “We haven’t talked about this as a staff, maybe (receivers coach ) Fesi Sitake would disagree with me, but Fesi was a player for me at Southern Utah and always played the game with tremendous balance so his catch radius was big.
“He was never wrong-footed, he was never off. And makes the quarterback look so accurate. I see a lot of that in Kody. I think that Fesi saw Kody has that potential when recruiting him as a high school player, maybe before other guys on our staff. I like that he would be such a main player. I credit Fesi and Aaron Roderick for developing Kody into a great player.”
Against Notre Dame, Epps caught a 55-yard touchdown pass, half of it yards after the catch. It was a game in which BYU only completed nine passes on 17 attempts, and only the third time since 2000 that BYU has attempted 17 or fewer passes in a game.
This week’s focus for the Cougars is to work on their season-long struggle to start faster on offense and get off the field on defense. Arkansas comes to town and the SEC foe presents a unique challenge with BYU’s run defense.
“Every player on the team and every coach earned that loss,” said Lamb of the setback with Notre Dame. The coach said every aspect of BYU’s team, all three phases, have an invested part in getting a faster start and getting the defense in position to get off the field.
Meanwhile, Epps remains a growing cog in BYU’s offensive plans. While the Cougars’ other freshman, Chase Roberts, is rehabbing a nagging injury, those two rookies have made their mark on the program fast.
According to veteran BYU statistical guru Ralph Sokolowsky, this is the first time in BYU football history two freshmen have had 100-yard receiving games. Roberts had eight catches for 122 yards and a TD against Baylor and Epps got his 100 versus Notre Dame on those four catches.
Don’t sleep on this kid if you are a defender.
He can be scary.