BYU Preparing to Unleash Its Twin Towers
Opposing defensive secondaries may find themselves with an unenviable task this fall when they face the BYU offense.
With the ongoing emergence of wide receiver Nick Kurtz (6-6, 205 Jr.), the JUCO transfer has found himself playing opposite veteran Mitch Mathews (6-6, 215 Jr.) with a great deal of regularity over the first few practices of fall camp.
During Wednesday’s 11-on-11 portion of practice, BYU’s twin towers both ran with the first team offense, split out on opposite sides of the field, with UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie (6-3, 210 Sr.) often playing in the slot.
The combination of Mathews and Kurtz on the field at the same time could translate into a nightmare scenario for defenses this season. Both players possess outstanding speed, especially for guys standing 6-foot-6, and both have caught virtually everything thrown their way thus far in camp.
Mitch is noticeably bigger this year after putting on 10 pounds of muscle, despite having to rehab from shoulder surgery during the winter and spring. He went down in BYU’s ninth game at Wisconsin and missed the end of the season.
He finished 2013 with 397 yards on 23 receptions and scored four touchdowns. His best game came at Utah State when he led the team with 123 yards and three scores. On special teams he blocked a field goal attempt against Houston in a one-point BYU win.
With the graduation of Cody Hoffman, Mathews now becomes the leader of the Cougar receiving corps. It’s hoped that the extra weight he’s put on will help him stay healthy this year. In addition to his injury last season, he broke his collarbone and dealt with a groin injury as a freshmen.
Kurtz, Mathews running mate, is smooth, fast, can go up high to get the ball and has fly paper for hands. His movement on the field appears so fluid and effortless that it belies just how fast he is actually moving.
Before coming to Provo he was timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and was considered the No. 4 JUCO wide receiver prospect in the country. Though not LDS, he was impressed with the unique environment BYU had to offer and selected the Cougars over a number of other high-profile suitors.
He came into the program with high expectations, but struggled with his conditioning in Provo’s high altitude during spring camp. The torrid pace of BYU’s practices combined with the lack of conditioning took its toll on his overall performance. However, an extra few months of adjustment to the altitude and the BYU offense appears to have have helped him tremendously.
“He’s stepped up in a lot of ways,” Mathews says of Kurtz. “His conditioning is unbelievable and of course the athleticism was always there.”
Mitch has had the opportunity of taking Nick under his wing since the former Grossmont College star arrived on campus and the two have become fast friends. “We’re roommates and we are good buddies,” says Mathews. “I was his host on his recruiting trip. We’ve quickly become best friends.”
They’re also quickly becoming a dynamic one-two receiving punch that could cause opposing defenses real headaches. Few, if any, teams in the country will be able to line up two wide receivers with the kind of length and athleticism that the two roommates bring to the table.
In recent years, BYU opponents have often put their biggest and most physical defensive back on Cody Hoffman in an effort to limit the Cougar passing game, sometimes even reverting to using safeties to try to match up with the 6-foot-4 Hoffman. With Mathews and Kurtz on the field at the same time, teams will have a much more difficult time trying to matching up.
Few cornerbacks in the country are big enough to effectively check either of BYU’s twin towers, while a team’s most physical safety may not have the speed to hang with them. Opponents will find it difficult, if not impossible, two play help defense when both are on the field. If teams have to commit their safeties to help out in coverage on BYU’s wideouts, the whole field opens up.
“The DBs have to play a little bit further back on you, which opens up the underneath stuff,” says Mathews.
It also helps to loosen things up in the running game. If safeties are forced to help out on BYU’s big, speedy wideouts, they won’t have the luxury of helping to defend against Taysom Hill and BYU’s stable of running backs on the ground.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae has repeated multiple times this offseason that the Cougars plan to stretch defenses vertically this year and Mathews and Kurtz are no doubt a big part of that plan. If successful, there’s no telling what heights the BYU offense could rise to in 2014.