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Provo • Midway through his senior season at BYU, receiver Devon Blackmon is slowly finding himself on the football field, and off it. Now if the personable pass-catcher from Fontana, Calif., could just get that elusive first touchdown catch.
"I want it bad," Blackmon said Tuesday, a few days after he had nine catches for 142 yards against East Carolina, both career highs. "I mean, it will come. The things you want the most don't ever come, right? I feel like if I keep pressing for it, when I get it, it won't be as special. So if I just go out there and play, when I do get it, it will be special."
Blackmon now has more receiving yards than any BYU receiver, 342, but nary a TD. Third-leading receiver Mitch Mathews has 339 yards and a team-leading six TDs. Mitchell Juergens has 341 yards in catches, and two TDs.
"Devon had the hot hand that game, but we still had other guys involved," said BYU receivers coach Guy Holliday. "I think that if you are going to be really good, you have to be multi-dimensional."
Blackmon attributed his breakout game to being focused in the "four walk-throughs" that day, and also to being able to use his quickness and agility in space. Many of those 142 yards came after the catch.
"That was real fun. That's where my talent is, being in space," he said. "I am not a natural receiver, and I will be the first to admit that. But when I get the ball in my hands, I can take it the distance. I am very confident in that."
Blackmon was suspended the first game of his BYU career in 2014 for wearing earrings in the football facilities on campus, which is against team rules. He spoke in August of his difficulties as a non-LDS African-American adjusting to BYU without his good friend Jamaal Williams, who withdrew from school earlier that month.
In a light-hearted group interview on Tuesday, when asked why he seems so upbeat now as opposed to a few months ago, Blackmon said he is "always upbeat," but acknowledged teammates such as Kurt Henderson and Mathews have helped him assimilate better.
"The times that I had that were trials, they weren't really trials like crucifixion, like Jesus' trials or something like that, or Tupac [Shakur, a deceased rapper and actor who was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996]. … Not those type of trials, you know what I mean?," Blackmon said. "It was just trials of getting adjusted to the new culture, being a guy in Provo, getting used to the honor code, trials like that."
While acknowledging that he needs to be more careful with what he says on social media websites, Blackmon said he's going to make his last season in Provo a memorable one for the right reasons his play on the field.
"This is my senior year," he said. "There is no reason for me to have an attitude, no reason for me to be down. Each day, I got to be positive. Each day, I got to work on something. I can't afford a day off. So, it is just a mindset. You choose to be happy, choose to be positive. And I will choose to be upbeat every day. When I am sad, you will know. When something bothers me, you will know. And I will not hold my tongue."
Except on social media.
Quarterback Tanner Mangum practiced on Tuesday, then met with the media and said he is recovering well from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss four series against ECU.
"It is doing well, getting a lot better compared to Saturday," Mangum said. "The training staff is working hard with me and working hard to get it ready to go for Friday [when BYU faces Cincinnati at LaVell Edwards Stadium]."
Mangum declined to "put a number on it" when asked how healthy he is, but said he was "a little bit limited" in practice and wasn't asked to scramble out of the pocket or do much running.
Quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said Mangum and backup Beau Hoge split the reps almost evenly as the Cougars practiced outdoors Tuesday morning.
Cincinnati at BYU
P Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • ESPN