PROVO — While BYU wide receiver Jordan Leslie participated in his first two fall camp practices as a Cougar this past weekend, he didn’t look, or play, like your average newcomer.
That’s because the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior from Houston is a proven playmaker. Before transferring to BYU, in his three seasons at UTEP, from 2011-2013, Leslie caught 125 passes for 2,105 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He’s already become one of quarterback Taysom Hill’s favorite targets.
“I would say someone that came in and competed really hard was Jordan Leslie, a guy that didn’t know the offense, didn’t know the up-tempo stuff,” Hill said, “and the way that he was able to play, he’s playing several different positions right now, too. You factor all that in, I was really impressed.”
The way Leslie — who is prepping for his one-and-done career in Provo because he has just one year of eligibility remaining — is playing, it appears he’ll make an immediate impact on the Cougar offense, which lost its all-time leading receiver, Cody Hoffman.
“The biggest thing is, he’ll be able to come in and help us right away,” Hill said of Leslie. “He doesn’t need to get acclimated to what it’s like to play on the road or to play Division I football. He knows what it’s like, and he showcased that. He made a lot of plays.”
Another factor easing Leslie’s transition to BYU is the fact he’s playing once again for the man who coached him at UTEP for two years — second-year Cougar receivers coach Guy Holliday.
“You cannot replace experience,” Holliday said. “Not only that, having played under me and understanding me, there’s a trust level between us that’s solid. He’s had Division I experience. Let’s be honest, not everyone in junior college is a Division I football player. That’s just the reality of it. The tempo and the pace and all those things. It’s like taking a rookie in the NFL and comparing him to a five-year vet. The athleticism is key, obviously, but the experience, you can’t replace it.”
Through BYU’s first two practices Friday and Saturday — the Cougars take the field again on Monday — Leslie has consistently made big catches.
Toward the end of Saturday’s session, for example, Hill completed back-to-back passes of 25 and 30 yards to Leslie, with the latter resulting in a touchdown.
“Jordan Leslie stood out,” Hill said of Leslie’s performance over the weekend. “He took some reps with the (starters) and he didn’t miss a beat.”
Both Leslie and Stanford transfer Keanu Nelson are taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows athletes that have earned a bachelor’s degree to transfer to another school, enroll in a graduate program, and become eligible immediately to play their final season.
How do their Cougar teammates look at this situation?
“Some guys worried about players coming in for just one year,” said wide receiver Mitch Mathews. “Are they going to be selfish and not play for the team? But I’ve seen Jordan Leslie come in and be more part of this team more than I’ve ever expected any guy coming in for one year to do. He’s representing BYU on and off the field. I appreciate that. I want these guys to represent the receivers whether they’re here for six months or four years.”
BYU’s policy prohibits first-year players, like Leslie, from talking to the media until after the first game of the season.
For now, Leslie’s play is speaking for itself.