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BYU’s returning receivers ‘licking our chops’ to show they can become go-to guys, playmakers in Cougars’ offense

Gunner Romney, Neil Pau’u and Dax Milne are eager to replace graduated seniors Aleva Hifo, Talon Shumway and Micah Simon and become reliable receivers for whichever quarterback earns the starting job

SHARE BYU’s returning receivers ‘licking our chops’ to show they can become go-to guys, playmakers in Cougars’ offense
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Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) hauls in a pass from quarterback Zach Wilson (1), not pictured, while defended by Utah Utes defensive back Jaylon Johnson (1) during the first half of an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU receivers Gunner Romney and Dax Milne have pored over the football team’s 2020 roster, read all the articles about how the Cougars will have trouble replacing three standout senior receivers from 2019, and heard all the talk about how coaches need to scour the transfer portal to fill a perceived hole in the lineup.

And they are ready to show that rumors of the position’s demise at BYU have been greatly exaggerated. Throw fellow rising junior Neil Pau’u into that mix as well; The former high school quarterback who sat out the 2019 season due to legal issues is back and ready to make up for lost time.

“We just see it as another opportunity ahead of us,” Romney said last week. “We are going to step up. We are licking our chops a little bit and ready to be the go-to guys in that position. We are really looking forward to it.”

Another receiver who saw a little bit of action last year, Keanu Hill of Bedford, Texas, is also expected to help fill the void created by the graduations of Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo and Talon Shumway but had offseason shoulder surgery and is missing spring practices. Tevita Ika, who will also count last year as a redshirt season after appearing in only three games, hopes to fill Hifo’s shoes as a shifty slot receiver.

“We are going to step up. We are licking our chops a little bit and ready to be the go-to guys in that (receiver) position. We are really looking forward to it.” — BYU receiver Gunner Romney

“We will have some younger guys who can step in and make some plays, too,” Romney said. “But me and (Milne and Pau’u) have a little bit of experience from our freshman and sophomore seasons, so I think we will be able to step up and make some plays.”

Receivers coach Fesi Sitake said he is counting on them, too. And he likes what he’s seen through the first five practices of spring camp.

“The first thing that sticks out is playmaking,” Sitake said. “I have been really happy with the experienced group — Dax, Gunner and Neil, now that he’s joined us. You can see the level of experience that those guys bring.”

BYU’s Key Returning Receivers

BYU’s Key Returning Receivers


* Gunner Romney, Jr., 6-3, 195

• Dax Milne, Jr., 6-0, 189

• Neil Pau’u, Jr., 6-4, 215

• Tevita Ika, Fr., 5-8, 186

• Keanu Hill, Fr., 6-4, 210

• Luc Andrada, Fr., 5-10, 175

• Brayden Cosper, So., 6-3, 205

• Javelle Brown, Fr., 6-1, 187

Pau’u caught a touchdown pass from Zach Wilson in the media-viewing portion of Monday’s practice, while junior walk-on Koy Harris made a couple nice catches. Harris was a staple on special teams last year, but possesses good speed and hands and could push for a spot in the receivers rotation if he continues to improve, Sitake said.

“It was always my dream to play here,” said Harris, an exercise science major from Las Vegas who plans to go to law school. “I’m just here to have fun, showcase my talents, be with friends and pull the (team) GPA up.”

There’s obviously more pressure on Romney, Milne, Pau’u and Hill, when’s he is healthy, Sitake said.

“They are making plays, they are leading, they are vocal, and they are being great examples,” Sitake said. “We need to build on that and solidify who could potentially battle for some heavy rotation time this fall. … We are really happy with the effort that’s been put forth.”

Shumway was outstanding at beating defensive backs for 50-50 balls, and Sitake said Romney, Milne and Pau’u have shined at that this spring.

“The level of focus and attention that these guys have had on 50-50 balls, which we made a huge point of emphasis this offseason, is noticeable,” Sitake said. “They have really shown that fight to go up and get the ball. Hopefully we can keep getting better at that and show that throughout the season.”

Romney said he has purposefully added weight to his frame — he’s close to 200 pounds, after ending last season around 190 — in an attempt to get stronger and get off the line of scrimmage better against press man coverage.

“I actually got a little bit faster, a little quicker, and a little more explosive,” Romney said. “I think it was a really productive offseason for me.”

Another new receiver to keep an eye on is Javelle Brown, a scout team defensive back last season who recently moved over to offense. He had 540 receiving yards his senior season at Mira Mesa High School in the San Diego area.

Coaches are also excited for the addition of highly touted high schoolers Kody Epps (Los Angeles) and Miles Davis (Las Vegas) in the summer, along with Chris Jackson, a junior college transfer (Mt. San Jacinto (California) College).

“Yeah, I am happy with the guys that are there,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I feel really good about the guys who are new to the position, the guys that are still progressing and developing. 

And there are going to be some new guys we bring in with recruiting, that we have already signed. So I feel comfortable with it.”