Together again.

Chase Roberts and Devin Downing, arguably the best high school receiver tandem in Utah County history, are back on the same team and in the same offense for the first time since 2018.

“I haven’t recruited many players who have had those types of junior and senior years in high school,” said BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake. “They played at such a dominating level.”

Roberts is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore who caught 22 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns during his Cougars debut last fall. Downing is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound freshman who put on pads during spring practice for the first time in 312 years.

They have a ways to go before reuniting on the field, but if they do, history has shown that the duo can put on quite a show.

The glory years

American Fork’s Devin Downing scores a touchdown during a game against Herriman at Herriman High on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“They were exceptional. They came to work every single day,” said American Fork coach Aaron Behm. “No entitlements. No negative attitudes. They just wanted to do what’s best for the team.”

Roberts and Downing combined for 396 receptions for 6,762 yards and 78 touchdowns during their Cavemen careers. Both averaged an identical 17.1 yards per catch.

Separated by a year in age, they shared just one season together in 2018.

“It was awesome,” said Behm. “I was just showing one of our coaches some film yesterday of those two guys on the field.”

If Roberts wasn’t catching a bomb from quarterback Boone Abbott, Downing was.

“It was a real dream,” Downing said. “It was almost like we were taking turns. He’d get the ball and then I’d get the ball. It was one of the best times of my life.”

Roberts caught 97 passes for 1,771 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior year, while Downing, as a junior, added 79 receptions for 1,298 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“It was such a blast. We were hard to stop because we were both big and fast receivers on the outside,” Roberts said. “Being able to throw the ball up either way was so fun and so exciting. It was fun to learn from each other and see our different strengths.”

For the staff, calling plays was a pleasure.

“With Chase playing like he was, it benefited Devin and as Devin came on, Chase benefited because they couldn’t bracket him as much,” Behm said. “(Calling plays) is so much easier when you have guys who can go up and get the ball. Guys who can take a 5-yard hitch and go 70 yards for a touchdown. They were so athletic after they caught the ball.”

Roberts and Downing saved the best for last, even in a 34-29 loss to Lone Peak in the 2018 state championship game. The tandem combined for 24 receptions for 384 yards and three touchdowns. Roberts’ performance of 15 catches for 258 yards remains a Utah state championship game record.

The two haven’t played in a football game together since and if they are to reunite as a tag team in the Big 12, Downing has some catching up to do.

American Fork’s Chase Roberts makes a 69-yard touchdown during game against Herriman on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Playing catch-up

It has been just short of a year since Downing completed his church mission. He redshirted last season and just completed his first BYU spring camp.

“It’s taken some time to get back into it. There are some real high expectations from the coaches with going into the Big 12,” Downing said. “There is a short leash. They are expecting me to amp it up. I’m gonna work hard this summer and be ready for the fall.”

Downing followed up American Fork’s 2018 season with Roberts by flying solo his senior year in 2019. He earned 247Sports’ No. 1 ranking as the best receiver in Utah after 100 receptions for 1,755 yards and 23 touchdowns.

“Much like Chase, Devin is very ambitious. He has a great reference point of what success looks like, especially from high school,” Sitake said. “Not only is he trying to get his feet back underneath him and get in his optimal shape physically, but he’s trying to pick up the nuances of the playbook.”

Fortunately for Downing, he has a mentor.

“I love Devin and his personality and the way he plays,” Roberts said. “I’ve been trying to tell him it takes time. Coming off the mission is hard. Your body doesn’t feel like you are fully there.”

Roberts completed his mission in time for the 2021 season but redshirted after having surgery. With injuries to Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua to start 2022, he was put on the field and responded with eight receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown against No. 9 Baylor. Roberts also threw a touchdown pass to Jaren Hall in the Cougars’ double-overtime upset of the Bears.

“That first year was a building year for me. That’s what I told him. ‘Your time will come,’” Roberts said. “He’s getting opportunities and he’s making plays. I just tell him to keep going.”

Big 12-ready

Roberts, Keanu Hill and Kody Epps will lead the receivers room into the Big 12 this fall. In addition, the Cougars hope to add a couple more experienced targets from the transfer portal.

With transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis having a full spring practice under his belt, Roberts believes the passing attack will stand and deliver.

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“I don’t think there is any drop-off at receiver (compared to last year),” Roberts said. “We’ll be big and fast and with Kody, how elusive he is and how well he knows defenses, we are going to put some points on the board for sure. It will be fun.”

Downing will be watching Roberts every step of the way.

“That’s what I’m hoping, to work up to where he is. He has two years under his belt and has been able to get in the system,” said Downing, who married Alyssa Lee last Saturday. “I’m hoping I can use this season to grow and earn my way up there and play with him again.”

Football offers no guarantees, but history has shown that when Roberts and Downing are on the field together, they can put on quite a show.

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