It a matter of hours, BYU receiver Kody Epps went from all-in to all-out, leaving his coaches and teammates dumbfounded.
The potential star quietly entered the transfer portal Sunday, just days after working out with a handful of his teammates in San Clemente, California, and one week before he was to travel to Europe with the BYU Business School.
Strange? You bet. Surprised? In the day and age of NIL, maybe no one should be surprised, but to say anyone saw it coming would be an understatement. In fact, Epps’ recent posts on Twitter celebrated Kedon Slovis being named BYU’s starting quarterback on April 19; Caleb Etienne’s transfer from Oklahoma State on April 17; and how much fun he had attending general conference with his teammates on April 1.
There is no sign of unhappiness or discontent.
In March, Epps appeared on the “Laced Up” podcast and said, “I think that being here allows me to be a bridge for people to see the greatness of the church and the greatness that is going on in Utah and for Utah to be able to see where I come from and that there is good people around everywhere that may not be in the bubble of Provo.”
The engaging discourse from a football player of another faith seemed to cement his love for the area and his new surroundings — hardly the diatribe of a player looking to get out of town.
A foot injury kept Epps on the sideline for the 2021 season and a shoulder injury forced him to miss the final five games of 2022 and all of spring drills. However, he was never hard to find near the practice field. Wherever there was laughter, Epps was usually in the middle of it.
With his wide smile and infectious positive attitude, Epps spoke freely with the media on his recovery and how eager he was to join fellow receivers Keanu Hill and Chase Roberts in the receiver rotation for BYU’s debut in the Big 12.
His biggest fan was his quarterback. Epps played a key roll in recruiting Slovis to BYU from the transfer portal. The former Pittsburgh and USC signal caller was planning on using Epps and his 5-foot-11, 187-pound frame to move the ball down the field as his slot receiver.
Even with the injury, Slovis had seen enough of Epps from last season to know the kind of weapon he was inheriting. Epps appeared in eight games. He caught 39 passes for 459 yards and six touchdowns. His finest hour came against Notre Dame in Las Vegas.
With Jaren Hall (shoulder), Puka Nakua (hamstring), Gunner Romney (kidney), Chase Roberts (undisclosed injury) and Isaac Rex (foot) either out, playing hurt or coming off an injury at less than 100%, Epps stepped up to make four receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
His hot streak continued the following week against Arkansas, where he led the Cougars with nine receptions and finished with 125 yards and a touchdown.
Life was good and he was flying high, until a shoulder injury at Liberty knocked him off the field for the rest of the season — and for good at BYU.
Epps is the second high-profile BYU athlete to enter the transfer portal in the last week. Women’s basketball star Lauren Gustin, the nation’s No. 1 rebounder, explored her options before she decided to return to BYU to play her final year as a grad student. The process did allow her to bolster her NIL deal with the Royal Blue Collective.
The Epps case is mysteriously different. Not only did he enter the portal in the final hours before it closed, but since then he has gone off the grid. BYU hasn’t heard from him, which could mean he already knows where he is going and is not interested in sweetening an already sizable NIL deal to stay.
This doesn’t pass the smell test considering NCAA rules prohibit a school from promising big money to an athlete before they enter the portal. It would be naïve to think the business major jumped at the last minute with no idea where he would land, but that is just speculation.
What is known is the move left the Cougars stunned and no one was more surprised than Slovis, Roberts and Rex when Epps called them Sunday afternoon to deliver the news.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.