Now a sophomore, Matt Allen has raised the eyebrows of BYU offensive coaches with his fall camp performance. Allen told Total Blue Sports the secrets for his fall camp pass catching successes.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Allen said. “We’re working on becoming masters of our positions. We’re doing this by perfecting what we do by running routes and getting off jams. If we can make the DB work more than he has to, we’re in a good spot.”
Not only have the coaches taken notice of Allen’s performance, but so has BYU’s starting quarterback John Beck.
“When he has the chance to get that ball, he’s setting himself up by running a good route, getting a good break, having good timing and he just does a good job of getting himself open,” Beck said. “I’ve seen him make a ton of catches like he did during his red shirt year. He made some amazing catches during practice this year like the one he made during the San Diego State game. He’s just one of those guys that makes plays.
“I think he started the team off two days in a row making touchdowns in the blue zone. He definitely fights for that ball when he wants it. I can trust him because I know if he’s not going to get the ball then the other guys not going to get it either.”
For Beck, Allen’s success is no surprise. He remembers seeing Allen’s acrobatic catches flashing across his television screen during weekend highlights on local Arizona television.
“The thing Matt’s really improved on is he’s running really good routes,” Beck said. “I knew Matt in high school. His high school was one of the dominant high schools in Arizona for the 4-A level. I was in the 5-A division and he was in the 4-A division, but he was always on the weekend highlights of the games. He’d always catch the ball and make something happen. That’s the thing about Matt is he just has a knack for just making the play.”
One reason for Allen’s improvement during early fall camp came from what he learned from BYU’s newest coach, Coach Higgins, during spring practice.
“They’re doing a good job of coaching us,” Allen said. “If you do what they tell you to do you’re going to get open. That’s how I’ve been able to get open. It’s easy to make plays when you’ve got five yards of separation from guys.
“I love Coach Higgins. He’s a great guy and he’s really positive with us. It’s not night and day from Coach Bradford, he had his positive moments too. But Coach Higgins has been a receiver’s coach and an offensive coordinator for ten to twelve years, and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Higgins is not the only one who has helped Allen’s game improve noticeably. His knowledge of how to become a better wide receiver has come from the most unlikely of places. This year, BYU coaches have implemented a new coaching philosophy that Allen feels has helped him to better understand how to beat defenders on the field.
“For the first ten minutes of position meetings, we swap,” Allen said. “Coach Higgins will go over with the DB’s, and Coach Mitchell will come over with us and we’ll just run through film. Coach Mitchell will critique us and say, ‘Here’s what you’ve got to do in this situation, because the DB’s playing inside like this, you’ve got to stand him inside like this first and get leverage on him,’ and other stuff like that. So we started bringing in Coach Mitchell just too kind of help us out. He tells us here’s what the DB’s are doing when you’re doing this, so why don’t you do this type of thing.”
Not to be left out of the coaching action, BYU’s offensive coordinator Robert Anae has also done his part. He is trying to ensure that his wide receiver group fully understands what is expected of them within BYU’s new, but old, offense.
“They’ve done a marvelous job with the depth that we have,” Allen said. “We’re getting coached up really well between them all and even with coach Anae. We know what we need to know.”
Last Monday, BYU fans were treated to an exciting offensive display when BYU’s offense scored four touchdowns out of six attempts from the blue zone. One facet that has allowed for greater communication between wide receiver and quarterback comes from the more simplistic nature of the new offense. Something that had been somewhat lacking in previous years.
“Read and react was a good way of putting it,” Allen said. “We had quite a few routes where the wide receivers were making reads along with the quarterbacks. It seemed like there was a lot of guessing going on.”
This year things are a bit different. The receivers, according to Allen, are more on the same page. This common understanding allows for more individual creativity within the bounds of a specific route.
“It’s a lot simpler of an offense in terms of being on the same page as the quarterback,” he said. “He knows where you’re going to be at a particular instance. We also have a lot of freedom out there on the edge as wide receivers. We can mix up our routes and change up our angle of take-off quite a bit, as long as we still end up in the right spot when we’re supposed to be there. That’s how this offense is. It’s a lot of timing and then we’ll hit you deep.”
All of this help from the coaches really seems to be paying off. Allen has improved his skills greatly. Now BYU fans will just have to wait and see if these new skills are translated past camp and into the fall season.