New BYU quarterback Gerry Bohanon has played in 31 college football games at Baylor and South Florida. The graduate transfer has been a part of six teams already, four with the Bears and two with the Bulls.

The well-traveled signal-caller knows a talented receiver when he sees one. So when Bohanon says this group of BYU receivers will collectively be the best he’s been around, people should probably take notice.

“I am so excited about those guys, and what they can do,” Bohanon said last Saturday as 2024 spring football practices concluded in Provo. “The talent we have at receiver and tight end is phenomenal. It’s as good of a group as I’ve played with.”

If guys can stay healthy, and the ever-lurking lure of the transfer portal doesn’t emerge, receiver will easily be the deepest position on the team, along with safety, when the Cougars embark on their second season in the Big 12 this fall.

Receivers coach and passing game coordinator Fesi Sitake so far has been able to retain all his top pass-catchers from 2023 with the exception of tight end Isaac Rex, who graduated and declared for the NFL draft, and walk-on Dom Henry, who committed on Jan. 5 to FAU after having shined in spring camp last year but not recording any statistics last season.

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“In terms of depth, I feel it is the best I have ever had,” Sitake told the Deseret News last week. “There are always a couple of receivers here and there that (might have been better). But in terms of quality of depth and how many guys I can roll through, especially as you factor in the incoming freshmen we are about to get, it is as deep as ever.”

Returned missionary Dominique McKenzie participated in spring camp, while Cody Hagen returns from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later this spring. McKenzie, brother of standout special teamer Marcus McKenzie, can play receiver and corner and will be one of the fastest players on the team. Hagen was a four-star prospect out of Draper’s Corner Canyon High who picked BYU over offers from Utah, Stanford, Michigan, Oregon and USC.

Tei Nacua, a three-star recruit out of Timpview and the brother of Los Angeles Rams rookie sensation Puka Nacua, will join the program this summer. Another three-star receiver from the class of 2024, American Fork’s Jett Nelson, will serve a church mission before enrolling.

“Adding those guys to the six guys who are already experienced, there is a lot of depth there,” Sitake said. “It is early. We will see how those guys flourish, and how they grow in this offense. But I am excited for the group.”

Leading the group of returning receivers is Chase Roberts, the American Fork product who caught 42 passes for 573 yards and five touchdowns last season. Darius Lassiter, Kody Epps, Keelan Marion and Parker Kingston are also back; all four had at least 20 catches last year and at least 200 receiving yards.

The other top receiver from 2023, Keanu Hill, has been moved to tight end for his final season of eligibility to accommodate his bigger, heavier frame and take advantage of his blocking ability.

Redshirt freshman JoJo Phillips caught just one pass last year, but it went for a 5-yard touchdown against Iowa State. Returned missionary Devin Downing, a member of the scout team last year, made some great catches in spring camp, along with walk-on Weston Covey, a Lone Peak High graduate.

“I think it is going to be a solid group. All those (returning) guys had their moments last year. … And there were some ups and downs,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “I think this year you are going to see the experience (show) after taking some lumps last year. I expect that to pay off this year for those guys. I have a lot of faith in that group.”

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Like Sitake, Roderick also pointed to the receivers who will come aboard this summer and add depth to the receivers room. He said the Cougars aren’t looking for receiving help from the portal, like they were last year when they added Lassiter and Marion after spring camp; if the offense adds players, it will be at offensive line and, if a “game-changer” is available, at running back.

“Yeah, there are some good players who will be joining us this summer,” Roderick said. “You never really know who is going to emerge, but there are definitely some guys that will be joining us that have the ability to help us in the fall if they can get caught up with the knowledge of the offense.”

Neither Sitake nor Roderick believe that they will lose any of their top receivers after post-spring interviews are conducted in the next few weeks, but they aren’t taking anything for granted. Sitake said they are actively recruiting their own roster, as they do every year.

“In this day and age you kinda do have to work to retain all of them. It is so liquid, man, this transfer portal thing is crazy,” Sitake said. “Even if I don’t get word that someone is looking to transfer, you know it is a real thing. It is just part of the culture now. Guys are evaluating: Am I happy here? Is the grass greener? That is a process any legitimate player is going to go through every year.

“So our most important recruiting job has been our own guys now,” he continued. “In exit interviews (we talk about) what they needed to improve on … and just kinda getting a feel if any of them are looking to leave.

“No doubt, we have to fight to retain these guys every year.”

“I am so excited about those guys, and what they can do. The talent we have at receiver and tight end is phenomenal. It’s as good of a group as I’ve played with.”

—  BYU quarterback Gerry Bohanon

Most observers believed Lassiter would be back in 2024, but that wasn’t made official until Feb. 19 when the NCAA granted an eligibility waiver to the Eastern Michigan transfer. Lassiter made 29 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns in 2023 for the Cougars.

Sitake said Lassiter had an outstanding spring camp.

“He has had arguably the best spring ball, of the guys in the room,” Sitake said. “You see him around here with the knee brace. It is just precautionary. He is fully healthy. He is ready to roll. He has made some great catches. He is playing super physical. I think if he stays healthy and stays on the right track, he will be making a lot more plays than we saw from him last year.”

Sitake said Phillips, the three-star recruit from California who was part of the class of 2023, also showed out in spring camp and will play a bigger role in 2024.

“He has put on the right type of mass, which has allowed him to be even faster. He’s such a fluid route runner, and he’s gotten faster and stronger. He plays with strength,” Sitake said of Phillips. “You think about guys like Puka (Nacua). No one could hold him. He was such a strong route runner. JoJo has gotten elements of that. He’s gotten stronger. He used to not have that.

“And then the other thing is he’s settling in with the playbook. He’s playing with a lot more confidence. He knows what to do. He knows all the little nuances of the position and the playbook. And he obviously has a lot of room to grow, but I think what you are seeing is a foreshadowing of what he can do in this offense. He can make big plays.”

BYU receiver Chase Roberts runs during game against Sam Houston at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News