One of those pass-catchers at BYU is z-receiver Ross Apo, who has been studying Utah State’s defensive backs in preparation for Friday’s game against the Aggies.
“If you just watch a guy and look at his feet, you can tell if he’s pretty fast or, you know, what his tendencies are,” said Apo. “But, you have to get on the field to see what their true speed is. You find out in like the first series of the game.
“For the receivers, their DBs are very aggressive and they’re fast. They’ll be a lot like Utah’s DBs. They’ll come up in our face. If they play off, they’re just going to let us get everything underneath, but they’ll be fast, athletic guys at the DB position.”
Meanwhile, Apo compared USU’s scheme to Utah’s and Boise State’s schemes.
“They have a lot of confidence in their corners and will put them out on an island with the receiver and expect them to shut them down,” said Apo. “We have some good plays for man defenses and it looks good this week.”
How much man coverage does Utah State run?
“They’ll play over 50 percent man,” Apo said.
Apo prefers that to facing a man-zone coverage.
“I like man coverage,” Apo said. “It’s pretty easy to get open when there’s one guy covering you instead of two.”
And it was against man coverage that Apo scored his first touchdown of the season. Last week against Hawaii, Taysom Hill hooked up with Apo on an inside route, and Apo virtually walked into the end zone.
“It was so wide open,” Apo said with a smile. “I mean, Paul [Lasike] could have thrown me the ball, so, I mean, it was a good play. They sent everybody and I don’t know where my guy went, but I just came underneath.”
With Hill – who may potentially be the starting quarterback this Friday – getting more and more experience and playing time, as well as practice reps, Apo feels that the receivers are developing a connection with him.
“Yeah I do, I do feel like the chemistry is building,” Apo said. “We’re starting to play a lot faster getting in there and watching film with each other and doing things that a team needs to do [for] our chemistry with each other,” Apo said. “It looked pretty good last game. Hopefully it will carry on throughout the season.
“Yeah, [Hill] has me and Cody [Hoffman] talking to him, so, you know, he knows anytime he has one-on-one he can throw it to us,” Apo said with a laugh. “He can rely on us to catch the football.”
There are two ingredients in the pass-catching recipe between receiver and quarterback. One is having a comfort and familiarity in the type of passes coming from the quarterback, which allows the receivers to adjust to the ball. The other is the unspoken communication that occurs between quarterback and receiver while the routes are being performed.
“[Against Boise State] I ran a corner route and Riley was expecting me to undercut and he threw a pick because I went over the top,” said Apo. “It’s just little things like that, knowing if you’re going to go underneath or over the top. It’s just little things like that.”
To further establish the second ingredient – the route-running chemistry – the offense has been spending a lot of extra time working to improve.
“Yeah, after practice Taysom or Riley will get the whole offense in the film room,” said Apo. “We’ll go in and watch around 45 minutes of film after practice and it helps, you know. It helps to know whether to undercut a DB or to go over the top or something like that. I think it helps, and also, Coach is making us coach up each other, so as much as we can do together within our group will help us out on the field.”
So is Apo ready to catch passes downfield, having worked on developing better chemistry? He believes so, and he also believes BYU’s offense needs to take more shots downfield.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s always a chance for him to throw it down the field,” said Apo. “It’s just whether or not he throws it or not. We’ll be running down the field. We need to take some shots.”