Forty receivers from Football Bowl Subdivision colleges had at least 1,000 yards for the 2011 season.
Brigham Young junior wide receiver and Del Norte High School graduate Cody Hoffman goes up to catch a pass against Utah State on September 30, 2011.
BYU wide receiver and Del Norte High graduate Cody Hoffman was not one of those receivers. Hoffman racked up 943 yards on his 61 receptions (with 10 touchdowns), putting him 50th in the FBS.
His goal, he told the Triplicate on Friday, is to hit the 1,000-yard mark this season.
“(I’ve been working on) just more route-running, creating separation between me and the defender,” Hoffman said. “Being able to come out of my breaks quicker, knowing when to use my hands and feet. Being able to read defenses better.”
Hoffman, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior, spent his summer working out in Provo, Utah, interning at a mortgage broker’s office in the Provo area and preparing for BYU’s 2012 season.
After upending their standing in college football over the previous offseason — becoming independent of conference affiliation and signing a television contract with ESPN — the Cougars enjoyed a successful 2011 season. BYU went 10-3 overall and defeated Tulsa in the Cotton Bowl on December 30, its ninth win in its final 10 games.
The Cougars’ 2012 schedule figures to be difficult, featuring road trips to Utah, Boise State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.
“I honestly like being independent better,” Hoffman said. “We’re able to go to a lot cooler places. We would never be able to go to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech if we were in a conference.
“It’s definitely a tough schedule. It doesn’t make it any easier that all the harder games are on the road.”
BYU opens its season at home Thursday night against Washington State of the Pac-12 Conference in an ESPN-televised matchup. The Washington State Cougars — yes, a pair of Cougars will occupy LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday night — finished just 4-8 overall in 2011 and fired head coach Paul Wulff.
In his place, Washington State hired former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, who has brought attention to the struggling Cougars. Known as a spread offense guru, Leach guided Texas Tech to 10 bowl games in 10 years and coached a passing offense that led the nation in passing yards six times. (Leach is a 1983 graduate of BYU, adding further intrigue to Thursday’s contest.)
“They’re going to be a good program, especially with Mike Leach running the offense,” said Hoffman, BYU’s leading receiver as a sophomore in 2011. “They return their whole secondary on defense; it’s going to make things tough.”
But the BYU Cougars can counter with what Hoffman called “the deepest (group of wide receivers) since I’ve been here,” including juniors Marcus Matthews and J.D. Falslev, sophomore Ross Apo and a pair of returning missionaries, Mitch Matthews and Brett Thompson.
Senior quarterback Riley Nelson is the unchallenged starter for BYU after spending parts of 2011 embroiled in competition with Jake Heaps. (Heaps transferred to Kansas after the season.)
“It’s really good for the team just being able to build chemistry with one quarterback,” Hoffman said. “It’s nice to have that luxury, just having one. Lot more productive off-season.
“(Riley) has become much more of a leader. He’s just worked real hard in the weight room, and (with receivers) running routes he’s been real precise.”
At the beginning of fall camp in August, Hoffman was suspended for four practices for what Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall deemed a “violation of team rules.” Hoffman told the Triplicate it was a “team disciplinary” action but didn’t specify the transgression.
Beyond that, it’s good to be Cody Hoffman these days.
There he is, on the Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list, the prestigious postseason honor given to the best wide receiver in the country. There he is, NFL draft-eligible and courting attention with every acrobatic catch or long touchdown. (Hoffman told the Triplicate that he would not think about the NFL until after the 2012 season.)
There he is, on page C1 of the Salt Lake Tribune, squeezing a football between his hands and staring at the camera with an expression that could cut glass, hailed as a “hometown hero” to Crescent City.
No doubt about it: A lot of people across the nation will be interested in how Cody Hoffman does in 2012.