When and if sixth-year BYU pass-catcher Keanu Hill makes it back home to Texas this summer for a couple of weeks, he will enjoy his father Lloyd’s superb home-cooked meals with absolutely no regrets.

BYU boasts an outstanding group of receivers, and more depth is on the way

“I can’t wait,” Hill said last Saturday as the Cougars wrapped up 2024 spring practices.

That hasn’t always been the case.

As Hill has played for the Cougars the past five injury-plagued seasons, the 6-foot-4 receiver has continually had to watch his weight, having arrived in Provo tipping the scales at around 215 pounds.

So when offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and other coaches approached him shortly after BYU’s season ended last November about making the move to tight end, telling him he wouldn’t have to battle the bulge as much as in the past, he quickly warmed up to the idea as fast as he’s warmed up to former Texas Tech star Lloyd Hill’s cooking.

“Like a lot of people, I like to eat,” said the likable guy teammates call “Kebo” a few days after spring camp began in early March.

After 15 spring practices, Hill reported that he weighs 235 pounds, which is just a couple pounds shy of where he wants to be when the season begins Aug. 31 against Southern Illinois in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

How is the transition working out?

Superbly, the super senior who head coach Kalani Sitake says “marches to his own beat,” told the Deseret News.

“I feel like it is going really well for me. With (new tight ends coach) Kevin Gilbride in there, and Al (Pupunu) in there, they are just helping me out with the little things,” Hill said. “It hasn’t been too bad. Just the running plays were kinda hard for me at the beginning. But I just feel like now that I have a feel of how it is going to be and what they want me to do, it is going really well. I feel comfortable.”

Of course, weight wasn’t the only reason Hill was asked to make the move. He was a solid contributor as a receiver, catching 73 passes for 1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns in 45 games after redshirting his first season in Provo, which was 2019. In 2022, his sophomore season, he was second on the team in receiving yards (572) and caught 36 passes for seven touchdowns.

But he battled more injuries last season, and his productivity dropped. He appeared in only eight games, catching 12 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown.

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“As soon as the season was over, (moving to TE) was kind of a thought I had,” Hill said. “And just talking to my parents about it, and all that (they agreed). Then just talking with coach (Roderick), and all the things he could do with me at that position, all the things I can be, like a good blocker, and I can run routes and stuff, it was kinda what got me into it.”

Asked if he can be better utilized at tight end than receiver, Hill nodded affirmatively.

“Yessir, yessir,” he said.

Roderick was asked when camp concluded if the “experiment” has worked.

“Absolutely. He is a tight end. He is doing a really good job. It has been great because he doesn’t have to battle his weight to stay light enough to play receiver. He (can be) 240, 245, easy,” Roderick said. “He is a mismatch as a route runner at tight end, and he’s a good blocker.”

Hill was easily the best blocking receiver the Cougars had last year, picking up where the great Puka Nacua left off in 2022. It’s just that Hill wasn’t on the field enough, for a variety of reasons.

Receivers coach Fesi Sitake said the decision to give up one of his top returning receivers to Gilbride’s room “was a collaborative deal.”

“In exit interviews, I was kinda like, ‘Hey, if you want to play receiver, and you are locked in and there are no ifs, ands or buts, I don’t know (that) we can get aligned in what those goals are. But if you want to be here at BYU, tight end might be the best move for you,’” Fesi Sitake said. “It was something we involved him and his family with, everyone got on the same page and he was great with it. He is all-in and the guy has looked phenomenal.”

Gilbride, who replaced eight-year tight ends coach Steve Clark in January, said the first thing Hill had to be taught was how to get in a three-point stance for times when he will be required to be a blocking tight end.

“He picked up on it very quickly,” Gilbride said.

“Pops was concerned for a little bit, but then he said it would be a great switch. He said, ‘I think you should go for it.’”

—  Keanu Hill on his dad's reaction to the move to tight end

Hill told BYUtv in February that when he learned coaches were serious about him making the move, he called his “pops,” former Chicago Bears receiver Lloyd Hill, and his uncle, former Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns star Roy Williams, to get their input.

“Pops was concerned for a little bit, but then he said it would be a great switch,” Keanu Hill said. “He said, ‘I think you should go for it.’”

Keanu Hill said blocking defensive ends and defensive tackles has been the most difficult part of the switch.

“I feel like if I get with the O line and just stay in the weight room, it will be way better for me as soon as fall comes,” he said.

Having added 10-15 pounds the past few months, Hill said the additional baggage hasn’t slowed him down.

“I feel like I am a little bit faster,” he said. “I am not going to lie to you.”

Obviously, Hill wants to play in the NFL, like his father and uncle. When he goes back to Texas, he gets tutored by former BYU receiver Margin Hooks, among others. Playing tight end is a step toward getting to the league, he believes.

“Because if you watch the NFL, I feel like a lot of tight ends are used more as receivers than blockers. But at the same time they still know how to block,” he said. “… I really compare myself to Evan Engram, Kyle Pitts, those type of guys that can be flexed out and go against DBs. I feel like it will be a better path for me in the future.”

BYU wide receiver Keanu Hill is tackled by Kansas safety O.J. Burroughs (5) during a game, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Lawrence, Kan. | Charlie Riedel, Associated Press