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‘Everything is clicking’: BYU’s trio of outstanding junior receivers a big reason for Zach Wilson’s success

Juniors Gunner Romney, Neil Pau’u and Dax Milne have played so well that the Cougars’ other talented pass-catchers haven’t been needed as much as coaches would like

BYU wide receiver Dax Milne (5) runs up field after catching a pass against UTSA, Oct. 10, 2020, in Provo, Utah.
AP

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has deservedly received a lot of attention this fall for his outstanding start to the 2020 season. Several national media outlets are planning big pieces on the junior from Draper’s Corner Canyon High, evidenced by their participation in BYU’s press briefings this week.

Somewhat lost in Wilson’s eye-popping success — he leads the country with an 81.2 completion percentage and his 208.6 passing efficiency rating is third best — has been the stellar play of his three primary receivers who are also all juniors: Gunner Romney, Dax Milne and Neil Pau’u.

Romney and Milne are having the breakout seasons predicted for them last summer and Pau’u has picked up where he left off in 2018 after sitting out the entire 2019 season. Wilson’s lofty completion percentage, nearly 20 points higher than his 2019 rate, can be partially attributed to very few dropped passes through four games.

白小姐一肖一码准选一码These guys are catching everything, it seems.

白小姐一肖一码准选一码“A huge credit goes to our receiving corps being ready this year,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “We lost three seniors last year (Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo and Talon Shumway) and they were able to pick up and roll with it, and that is because guys like Gunner and Dax with their work ethic have been unbelievable.”

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) pulls in an end zone pass ahead of UTSA Roadrunners safety Antonio Parks (4), putting the Cougars up 7-3 after the PAT during the game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.
BYU wide receiver Neil Pau’u pulls in an end zone pass ahead of UTSA Roadrunners safety Antonio Parks (4) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

A few of the best receivers in the country will be on the field Friday (7:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at Houston’s TDECU Stadium when the red Cougars (1-0) play host to the No. 13/14 blue Cougars (4-0) on ESPN. Houston’s Marquez “Speedy” Stevenson caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in UH’s 49-31 win over Tulane last Thursday.

Stevenson is a likely NFL draft pick in 2021; Romney, Milne and Pau’u are putting themselves in position to be considered in 2022, trying to become the first BYU receiver drafted since Austin Collie in 2009.

“Everything is clicking right now,” said Romney. “Our offense is super-experienced, so most of the guys that are playing have a couple of years under their belt. … The play-calling has been really good and everybody has sort of stepped up and is filling their role really well on the offense. Our quarterbacks are getting the ball where it needs to be and our receivers are making plays. Everything is coming together really well right now.”

白小姐一肖一码准选一码Milne, a walk-on from Bingham High who has since earned a scholarship, said talk last winter that the three juniors would not be able to fill the shoes of the three departed seniors “fueled us over the offseason” and forced them to put in extra work, even when that was made difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was huge motivation for us to be the best we could be and make sure we were ready to go as soon as the season started,” he said.

Milne leads the team in catches, 24 for 366 yards, and is tied for 21st nationally in receptions per game, 6.0.

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) pulls in a pass under pressure from UTSA Roadrunners cornerback Tariq Woolen (20) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.
BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney pulls in a pass under pressure from UTSA Roadrunners cornerback Tariq Woolen (20) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Romney leads BYU in receiving yards, 453, which is No. 4 in the country. His 113.3 yards per game is No. 10 in the country and his 22.65 yards per catch is No. 11.

Pau’u has made 14 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown, a highlight-reel catch in the back of the end zone in BYU’s 27-20 win over UTSA last Saturday.

“I am just super proud of all three,” said receivers coach Fesi Sitake. “We stay grounded, we stay humble, and we keep working. We keep our head down and work and we know if we do that everything else will take care of itself.”

白小姐一肖一码准选一码As for Romney’s rise as a playmaker, Fesi Sitake said coaches have anticipated that since they recruited him out of Chandler, Arizona.

“The thing about Gunner and his situation right now is nothing has changed in his approach to the game,” Fesi Sitake said. “He’s the same guy. He’s worked his butt off in the weight room. He always gets in extra work with the quarterbacks in the offseason. He always puts time into the film and the meeting room. So none of that has changed.”

白小姐一肖一码准选一码Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said on his “Coordinators’ Corner” show Monday that Milne’s improvement has also been substantial.

“I am really pleased with the season he is having, in particular the last couple of weeks. I challenged him, and Fesi has challenged him, to become a more complete player, a guy who can do everything in the game, including blocking,” Grimes said. “For a guy that is not the biggest guy, he has really taken that challenge. In the last two weeks he blocked harder than he ever has. How he has played without the ball in his hands has said a lot about him the last couple of weeks.”

白小姐一肖一码准选一码Fesi Sitake said this is the deepest stable of receivers he has had in his time at BYU and said backups such as Brayden Cosper, Kody Epps, Keanu Hill and Chris Jackson are ready to contribute when they get the chance.

白小姐一肖一码准选一码Jackson, a junior college transfer, made a catch in the Navy game but has been sidelined by minor injuries. He should be back soon.

Hill “had a couple of hiccups in fall camp and a couple of dingers that kept him out,” Fesi Sitake said, “but he looks great right now and can contribute at any time.”

白小姐一肖一码准选一码Epps “is working his way through some injuries” and continues to work hard to make an impact as a highly regarded recruit out of California.

“We are seeing less rotation at receiver because Gunner, Neil and Dax are getting the bulk of the reps and performing well,” Fesi Sitake said. “As long as they stay consistent, I foresee it staying that way.”