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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #30

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 17, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#30 BYU Cougars

 

2012 Recap:

BYU had a mediocre season at 8-5 but they won four of their last five and walked away with a 23-6 victory in the Poinsettia Bowl. On offense there were injury issues, some shuffling of lineups, and overall inconsistencies, but the defense was about as solid as could be. BYU was third in the nation in total defense and there were stretches where they looked dominant against the run and pass.

Coaching:

It’s hard to believe Bronco Mendenhall has been at BYU for eight years. For the most part they have been successful. BYU is still looking for a true breakout season and this season will garner a lot of attention. There are only four starters coming back to their stellar defensive unit but many of the players stepping in have real game experience while a few stars from last year are holdovers.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

The quarterback position was anything but settled in 2012 as injuries played a major role in the revolving door at starter. Taysom Hill was being groomed as the starter and had taken over a few games into the season when he was lost due to injury during the 6th game against Utah State. Jamas Lark and Riley Nelson started 9 and 2 games respectively but both were lost due to graduation. Hill is back and healthy meaning there is no controversy heading into 2013. Hill is a capable runner who gained 336 yards in limited duty a season ago, and he could be someone capable of 1,000 yards on the ground if he stays healthy for the entire campaign. While the injury bug was not good for Hill it was for the running back position last year.

Freshman Jamaal Williams got pressed into duty due to injury and responded with 775 yards and 13 touchdowns. The part about Williams that excites Mendenhall and his staff most is his receiving abilities as he caught 37 passes out of the backfield and averaged over 11.0 YPC while doing so, which are very impressive numbers. Another solid year as a dual threat will land Williams on many draft radars for 2016, but the jury is still out on him as a whole.

Best Draft Prospect: Jamaal Williams RB 7th Round 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

With Hill coming back from injury, having some familiar targets would make him feel more at ease and that is what he has in Cody Hoffman. Hoffman was one of the most productive receivers in the country last season with 100 catches to go along with 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hoffman’s stats are even more impressive when you factor in that he had more catches than the next three receivers combined on the team and saw a ton of double teams. Hill has to love is his tall 6’4” frame and considerable vertical leap, making him a nice red zone target. BYU has no other big receiving threats, but as they have shown in years past, they have targets that are capable and they get you in numbers. BYU excels at creating mismatches and will line their players up all over the field in a myriad of formations. JD Falslev will star at receiver and serve as the kickoff and punt return man. Falslev will line up in the backfield often and had 18 carries a season ago to go along with being second on the team in receptions despite only starting two games. Falslev is their all-purpose player who again exemplifies lining up virtually anywhere on the football field, the philosophy BYU is known for.

BYU always seems to have tight ends that excel at the next level (See this year's Super Bowl winning Dennis Pitta), and they have a pair of terrific players in Brett Thompson and Kaneakua Friel. BYU should line up with both tight ends on the field for more than half of the plays this season.

Best Draft Prospect: Cody Hoffman WR 3rd Round 2014.

 

Offensive Line:

BYU doesn’t have the number of blue chip recruits or big time returning starters they normally enjoy but this team always finds a way to get it done up front and win at the point of attack. From a draft perspective, Ryker Matthews was forced into action due to injury like many of his offensive colleagues and responded admirably. Matthews is now on the radar for 2016 and he will see his draft status climb with another solid year and one where he knows he is the starter from the get go. Solomone Kafu returns as the starter and left guard beside Matthews as we should see BYU running to the left more than any other direction this season. The center and right side of the line are all led by underclassmen with center Terrence Alletto looking like the best current prospect. BYU has four players on the depth chart coming over from the junior college ranks, so BYU doesn't really know what they have at this moment. Depth may be an issue and this seems to be the one area on the football field where BYU needs to avoid injuries if they want to be on the national scene and relevant in 2013.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryker Matthews OT 7th Round 2016.

 

Defense

Defensive Line

BYU is another team that employs a basic 3-4 formation for about 80 percent of their plays. Injury played a huge part on defense last year after nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna was lost for the season due to injury. What it did though was lead to an increased role for Ziggy Ansah and the rest is history. Ansah moved between end and linebacker as a result of the injury and his sheer ability and untapped potential, along with a devastating Senior Bowl performance, allowed him to be the 5th overall selection in 2012 for the Detroit Lions. Manumaleuna is back and the 290-pounder with an explosive first step is a player who may not rocket up the draft boards as fast as Ansah, but he should be climbing.  Manumaleuna projects as a tackle/hybrid end at the next level who sees occasional plays at linebacker for BYU because he is so versatile. BYU will need Manumaleuna to play a huge role on defense because his linemattes are largely untested, with Bronson Kaufusi and Remington Peck filling the starting roles.

Best Draft Prospect: Eathyn Manumaleuna 4th/5th Round DE/DT 2014.

                       

Linebackers:

Ziggy Ansah was one of the darlings of the 2012 draft but he was hardly the most productive linebacker for the Cougars in 2012. That distinction went to Kyle Van Noy and it wasn’t by a slim margin. Yes, Ansah had 9 more total tackles than Van Noy, but Van Noy registered 13 sacks to only 4.5 for Ansah and 22 tackles for loss to 13 for Ansah. I currently have Van Noy being selected in the first round of the Draft and he should go anywhere in the 15-30 range or in the middle to late stages of the first round. Spencer Hadley is the only other linebacker that is a returning starter so there is some turnover at the position. BYU should continue to get consistent pressure on the quarterback as most of the other linebackers have experience and are versatile. They are also surprisingly nimble in coverage as they are successful without constant blitz packages. The key to the defense was getting pressure at the right time and that is what allowed BYU to have opponents convert only 26.5% of their 3rd downs, a statistic that led the FBS.

Best Draft Prospect: Kyle Van Noy 1st Round 2014.

 

Secondary:

The secondary at BYU is one of the most underrated in the country, especially at the safety position. Why the starting safeties at BYU do not get the national recognition they deserve is very puzzling to me. Daniel Sorenson doesn’t even seem to be on the radar for most draftniks and when I watch him on film I see a poor man’s Eric Weddle. Sorenson led the team with 3 interceptions, had 2 forced fumbles and fumble recoveries and is a sure tackler. Fellow starter Craig Bills came on strong to close the season and seems to get more recognition than Sorenson due to his aggressive nature. This duo is hands down the most underrated pair of starting safeties in the nation and I have them both listed as 4th round prospects for 2014 and 2015 respectively. In the 2015 class you also have cornerback Jordan Johnson and with 15 passes defensed he showed a season ago he is a ballhawk who has impeccable timing. BYU’s defensive prowess was not solely based on their ability to reach the quarterback last season, as you can see the secondary played a bigger role than many are willing to give them credit for.

Best Draft Prospect: Daniel Sorenson S 4th Round 2014, Craig Bills S 4th Round 2015.

 

Special Teams:

I talked about JD Falslev handling the kickoff and punt return duties and while he isn’t the kind of guy who is a threat to take the rock to the house on every play he chooses his running lanes well and will not take negative yardage, he is a north and south return man. The kicking and punting game are major question marks and areas where BYU struggled a season ago. BYU figures to be in some close ball games this year and special teams could cost them a potential win or two if they do not address these areas of concern.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

Schedule:

BYU is still in it’s infancy as an independent but they are using the status to their advantage and have a tough schedule. With home games against Boise State (they lost 7-6 to Boise State last year after a missed 2-point conversion) and Texas, and road tests against Wisconsin and Notre Dame, BYU has a tough schedule and they will be in the national spotlight.

Draft Outlook:

Kyle Van Noy has BYU on the map for 2013 but I still feel the overshadowed play of safeties Daniel Sorenson and Craig Bills will no longer be overlooked with the national powers BYU has on it’s schedule.

 

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