With guys like Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney no longer with the BYU football program, the Cougars were in need of adding wide receivers through the NCAA transfer portal to build depth at the position.
The need to get more depth — and experienced pass catchers — just became more heightened, though, as 247 Sports and The Athletic reported Sunday that Kody Epps, one of the team’s breakout players last season, has entered the transfer portal.
The opportunity for players to enter the spring transfer portal window, which opened April 15, closes Sunday. While players had until Sunday to enter the portal, programs can add players as transfers from the portal at any time.
Epps played in eight games as a third-year freshman last season, starting four before a shoulder injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.
He had 39 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns prior to the injury and was one of the team’s top playmakers.
If Epps ultimately leaves BYU, that leaves BYU with just two of its top five wide receivers from last year: Keanu Hill and Chase Roberts. The Cougars also return tight end Isaac Rex.
It’s not unheard of for players who have entered the portal to return to the school that were previously at.
It happened earlier this week for another BYU program, when star women’s basketball player Lauren Gustin announced she would return to BYU after briefly entering the portal and exploring her options.
The 5-foot-11, 187-pound Epps came to BYU as a highly regarded three-star wide receiver prospect out of California. At national powerhouse Mater Dei High, he played with Bryce Young, the Alabama quarterback who went No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers in the 2023 NFL draft last Thursday.
Epps played in six games in 2020, recording five receptions for 47 yards, and did not lose a year of eligibility thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted that season. He then used a medical redshirt year in 2021.
With BYU dealing with a variety of injuries at receiver early in the 2022 season, Epps quickly became a go-to wide receiver for the Cougars.
He caught touchdowns passes in five straight games at one point and had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games against Notre Dame and Arkansas just before being lost for the season.
Epps was expected to be one of the Cougars’ top playmakers, likely even their top wide receiver, this season as BYU enters the Big 12 Conference.
Like Epps, Hill and Roberts have experience the Cougars were expected to lean on this season, with the amount of departures at wide receiver from last year’s team.
Nacua, BYU’s leading receiver last year despite a litany of injuries, is headed to the NFL — he was a fifth-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday — and Romney also left to pursue pro opportunities.
Another veteran receiver, Brayden Cosper — who had 30 receptions for 363 yards and a touchdown — also stepped away from the program following a career beset by injuries.
Hill is the only returning returner to play in all 13 games last season, when he caught 36 passes for 572 yards and seven touchdowns. Roberts played in 11 games and had 22 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns.
Rex had 22 receptions for 320 yards and six touchdowns in the 2022 season and announced in December that he is returning for his senior season to help BYU as its transition to being a Power Five conference member.
BYU has receivers like redshirt freshman Dom Henry and return specialist Hobbs Nyberg who could work their way into the rotation this year, but were expected to hit the portal hard to try and find some capable, experienced wide receivers to add for quarterback Kedon Slovis, the Pittsburgh transfer quarterback who is replacing Jaren Hall.
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick told the Deseret News in February that the Cougars have searched the portal to add pass catchers for months, but thus far haven’t had success.
“If things pan out the way I expect, we will get another receiver, maybe two, and another (offensive) lineman,” Roderick told Jay Drew. “If it is not two receivers, it will be next best player we can find out there that can help our team.”