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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #30 BYU

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 15, 2014

#30 BYU Cougars

 

2013 Recap:

BYU went 8-5 but they had a new system to get accustomed to and we saw the Cougars become one of the most improved teams in the nation. The Bowl game loss to Washington was the only one over 7 points so they were in virtually every game last season.

 

Coaching:

In nine years Bronco Mendenhall has become one of the steadiest coaches at the Division I level. The job done by Mendenhall has been even more impressive when you realize BYU has been moving around conferences and they haven't had the stability many of the big name programs have enjoyed.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

When you look back through the annals of history you can see that BYU has produced some very good quarterbacks but none of them have had the skill set that junior Taysom Hill possesses. Hill is a junior and he is as deadly, if not deadlier, with his feet as he is throwing the ball, where he is like an accomplished pocket passer. Hill has suffered some injuries in the past, as he is slight of frame, but his big rushing days make him a nightmare to try and prepare for.

Hill has a host of new targets this year, so his running along with that of uber-talented junior Jamaal Williams, should be just as effective as last season when BYU finished 9th in the country in total rushing. Williams has over 1,200 yards on the ground but it is his work as a wide receiver that makes him one of the biggest threats in the country lining up at the position. Williams is much better catching the football than his 18 receptions from 2013 would indicate.

Best Draft Prospect: Jamaal Williams RB 5th Round 2016.

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Cody Hoffman is gone and even though he wasn't a big time pro prospect, he was the leading receiver in BYU history and his presence on the football field will be greatly missed. Mitch Matthews is the top returning receiver with just 23 catches so there will need to be an overhaul catching the football. Mitch Matthews looks like a fringe prospect right now and someone who could develop into a draft prospect but it isn't a sure bet. Ross Apo may not be a traditional starter for BYU but he is moved all over the field and his versatility goes a long way. BYU has adopted a more up-tempo offense and the spread formation running the football is key so the wide receivers need to block and get off blocks quickly as timing is very important. I expect a number of Cougars to catch the football but BYU needs to avoid the injury bug that bit them a season ago at receiver and along the offensive line.

Best Draft Prospect: Mitch Matthews UFA WR 2016.

 

 

Offensive Line:

For BYU it is all about finding chemistry as the program has at least 12 linemen who have started or have vast game experience heading into the season. Injury forced a lot of players into action who weren't quite ready for the workload they received. It seemed bad then but now it's a blessing as nearly every key lineman for this team is battle tested. The lineman are a little on the smaller side for a traditional BYU squad but they do return three starters. Solomonme Kafu has the best pro prospects at this time although nobody on the team stands out or is garnering big time attention. Freshman guard Tuni Kanuch is back with the team after redshirting medically last season and he will play a key role along the line at right guard, a place that has been a source of problems for BYU in the past. This is a mediocre line that appears paper thin and could implode should injuries befall BYU.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

BYU is another team that traditionally runs a 3-4 but don't let that fool you. The Cougars give many looks, and players at linebacker like Alan Fua and Brandon Kaufusi will see time at defensive end when the team shifts to a 4-3 front. BYU is hard to define as having a set front for this reason. Remington Peck is the top returning player up front since Kaufusi will play at linebacker for the most part this season, a change from his spot in 2013. BYU had a “bend-but-don't break” mentality as the team was 22nd in scoring defense but gave up larger chunks of yards before buckling down in the red zone where they were noticeably stingier.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Linebackers:

I mentioned above that Kaufusi will be primarily used at linebacker as he looks to improve upon his 37 tackle season, 7 of which came for a loss. With the loss of future NFL stud Kyle Van Noy, Kaufusi will be the player asked to step in and fill the leadership void for not only for the linebackers but the defense as a whole. Expect to see Kaufusi making many of the defensive calls and adjustments for the Cougars on the field. Alani Fua is also back in the mix. With him playing the strong side, BYU has nice size at the linebackers spots where they possess linebackers that are fluid in coverage and will shut down opposing backs and tight ends coming out of the backfield. Sau Tautu is a player that could be a star in the waiting and the coaching staff has raved about how he has looked during spring drills.

Best Draft Prospect: Brandon Kaufusi DE/LB 6th Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

Three of the four players in the secondary are returning starters although the unit underachieved a little last season when expectations were a little high going into the campaign. Craig Bills looks to be the player most pro ready. He will not wow you as a ballhawk or a true run stuffer, but he is a nice mix who takes great angles in the open field and is terrific in support. Robertson Daniel is a senior at cornerback and he showed flashes of brilliance last year. The ceiling on Daniel is higher than any player in the secondary but he has a gambling mentality which led to him grabbing some pine a season ago. Daniel could be the first player taken out of the secondary in the upcoming draft with more consistency and if he picks his spots better.

Best Draft Prospect: Craig Bills S 7th Round 2015.

 

Special Teams:

The kicker spot as well as punt and kickoff returner is up for grabs as nobody has stepped up and grabbed those spots for the upcoming season. Scott Arellano is back for his senior season at punter as he was a pleasant surprise. The strength of the special teams may be the coverage units, where BYU has been improving steadily over the last few years and they were one of the better units overall in the country a season ago.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Burbrink WR 7th Round 2016.

 

Schedule:

BYU has been getting more big names teams to agree to face their independent team and the schedule this season is favorable but not too easy. There are some important road games with Texas in September and Boise State at the end of October. Tougher games against Utah State, Virginia, Houston and Nevada all take place in the confines of Provo where the home field advantage is evident.

 

Draft Outlook:

BYU doesn't have that blue chip NFL recruit like we have seen the last two years with Kyle Van Noy and Ziggy Ansah but there is still plenty of talent available. Jamaal Williams may surprise a host of people but he should be returning at running back and we won't see him until 2016 when, along with linebacker Brandon Kaufusi, BYU will have some very nice prospects for the next level.

 

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