The H receiver, or slot receiver, was a fan favorite when former Cougar Nate Meikle manned the position and stirred a lot of excitement. J.D. Falslev, Matt Marshall and Stephen Covey were being worked out at slot receiver over the course of last season, but never got to contribute during games. There is a chance, however, that the slot position will be utilized this upcoming season.
“You know, I think a lot of things will probably change from now to fall ball,” said Falslev. “Right now, we’re still up in the air, but right now we have a few guys working the position and seeing who can compete there.”
Some of the same players that played at the slot last year are once again in the mix, as well as some players that have traditionally played elsewhere.
“Right now we’ve got McKay Jacobson, Matt Marshall and others trying out at the H receiver position, and there have been some changes in the position a little bit,” said Falslev. “Hopefully when fall comes around we’ll have a shot at it. As far as the outside receivers go, everything is still the same.”
Though he has played outside receiver at BYU, Jacobson played slot receiver at Southlake Carroll High School. It was there that he was an all-state first-team 5-A receiver with 99 receptions for 1,631 yards as a senior. Jacobson’s skill set and physical qualities seem like a natural fit for the slot.
“I think having the H position a part of the offense would be really good,” Falslev said. “I think having a receiver like McKay, who is one of the best receivers I’ve ever played with, being in that position [is great]. He’s just so quick and fast that he could really create a lot of problems for linebackers or safeties.”
“I have received some reps at the H position and it’s going good,” Jacobson said. “We’re trying different things and seeing what options we have.”
Junior receiver Stephen Covey hasn’t had much work this spring camp due to a nagging back injury. However, junior receiver Matt Marshall is once again playing the slot position, and is the one most familiar with it. His experience and shifty 5-foot-10-inch frame have made covering the slot difficult for a new group of linebackers and safeties receiving reps this spring.
“Matt Marshall and I are a lot alike,” said Falslev. “He likes to get in there and have a lot of fun, but he also likes to get in there and frustrate the defense and make people mad by saying, ‘Hey, I’m here to play too.’ Matt and I are also very similar in how we play the position or how we approach the position. We just try and frustrate the other guys and let them know there are other receivers they have to cover.”
As Falslev mentioned, there are other developments within the position that are both intriguing as well as exciting. Junior running back J.J. Di Luigi was primarily used as a ball-catching back in the offense last year. He caught 22 passes for 270 yards and scored four touchdowns through the air. He also averaged 12.3 yards per catch and had a career-high 94 receiving yards against Wyoming.
“He just loves playing the position and loves to compete,” said Falslev. “He’s a lot like us in that he’s quick and shifty and can catch the ball. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s used to running against bigger defensive lineman, so he’s not afraid to stick his nose in there and go catch a ball in traffic or downfield.”
“They’re trying to see if there is somebody who can fill in that slot receiver spot,” Di Luigi said. “It’s working out so far and it’s coming along really well. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team out, whether it’s in the backfield or in the slot. I’m happy to do it.”
While still receiving reps at running back, Di Luigi has had some success early in spring at the slot position. He’s caught passes in traffic and is having a good time learning a new part of the Cougar offense.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a new challenge for me,” Di Luigi said. “It’s not the same ole thing that I’m used to. I already have the running back spot down really well and know how I fit in within the offense, so now I’m learning a different part of the offense and I think it’s a position that I can do good at.”
There are already quite a few experienced running backs in the offense, and freshman running back Joshua Quezada is showing very well early in spring camp, so trying out Di Luigi at the H receiver position makes sense
“It’s something that brings a new twist to the offense,” said Falslev. “J.J. is quick and has really good feet and can run the ball, so moving him out to the slot and giving that look will make defenses have to prepare in different ways.”
“You know, there are different things we can do and different looks we can give with different players,” Di Luigi said. “It just gives us more ways of creating mismatches while putting the best players on the field at the same time. I think when we start putting running backs out there it just adds a different dimension. Teams won’t know if we are running option routes, arrows [flat routes] or corners. I feel like defenses will have a harder time covering the position because there will be more options and more confusion on what we might be doing. It’s looking really good so far.”
To better learn the position, Di Luigi is putting in double duty by attending two position group meetings.
“At the beginning of the meetings I go with Coach Anae to the inside receiver room to learn what we need to do for the day,” said Di Luigi. “After that I go back to my normal position room for meetings with the running backs. It’s a lot of work but I like it because it’s a new challenge for me, and it’s also a way for me to be more a part of the offense and help the team any way I can.”