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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #33 BYU Cougars

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 13, 2016

#33 BYU Cougars

2015 Recap:
BYU ended the season with a loss to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl but they still clawed their way to a 9-4 record. After getting drilled by Michigan 31-0 BYU was 2-2 before reeling off five straight victories to salvage the season.


Coaching:
Bronco Mendenhall headed east for Virginia after the season so Kalani Sitake takes over the BYU program. Sitake was a player at BYU so he is excited to take over his Alma Mater. Sitake spent the last few seasons in the Pac-12 coaching defenses at Oregon State and Utah. Sitake is also the first head coach of Tongan decent at the FBS level. Ilaisa Tuiaki is the defensive coordinator while 1990 Heisman Trophy winner for BYU, Ty Detmer, leads the offense.


Offense

Tanner Mangum was indoctrinated quickly into the BYU offense as the freshman was pressed into action in the season opener as incumbant starter Taysom Hill suffered another major injury. Mangum responded with 3,377 yards and 23 passing touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. The question now becomes will Mangum hold onto his job or will Hill, who has been granted an extra year of eligibility, wrestle his old job back. We expect to see a two-quarterback system early on as BYU makes up its mind for a long term solution. Hill is a bigger threat with his legs but with major injury after major injury, one has to wonder if he will start getting gun shy running in the open field. When it comes to running the football we have another player coming back from injury in Jamaal Williams. Williams will try to jump start a team that finished 111th in rushing at the FBS level a season ago. The running game may be leaned on a little more as both starting receivers from a season ago have moved on. The offensive line is a mystery right now. BYU has depth but we could see multiple starting offensive line combinations to open the year.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Algernon Brown RB/FB UFA 2017.

                                       Jamaal Williams RB UFA 2017.


Defense

BYU will employ the 4-3 scheme more than the traditional 3-4 or even a five defensive back set. The big name here could be JUCO transfer Handsome Tanielu who will be a penetrating defensive tackle. Tomasi Laulile is the top returning sack artist along the line with 3.0 while linebacker and converted running back Harvey Langi is the top sack artist returning for the team with 4.5. We will see more of the linebackers penetrate for BYU to help get to the quarterback especially in the middle of the line. Fred Warner was second on this team last season with 11.5 stops for loss yet Langi seems to be the more intriguing pro prospect as he is still raw and learning the position. Both linebackers excel in play anticipation and Langi and his play recognition skills are excellent for a player who has just converted to the position. Micah Hannemann leads the secondary and seems to be the best prospect on the defensive side of the football for the Cougars. Michael Davis and Kai Nacua are back meaning BYU  brings 3/4 of it's secondary back to a unit that ranked a very respectable 34th in PPG allowed at 22.8.

Best Draft Prospects: Harvey Langi LB UFA 2017.

                                      Micah Hannemann S 6th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

The kicker position remains unsettled at this point although newcomer James Baird seems to have the inside track to be the starter. Jonny Linehan moved from the rugby field to the football field and the transition went well a season ago. BYU will need to improve the return game although kick coverage was pretty solid overall for the Cougars.


Schedule:

This is a tough schedule as BYU once again has numerous tough tests early in the campaign. Being an independant has been a positive when ity comes to scheuling top tier talent for BYU. BYU will face Pac-12 opponents in the first three games of the year with Arizona, Utah and UCLA on the docket. The first three games in October read Michigan State, Mississippi State and Boise State. The schedule gets easier down the stretch but it will be interesting to see how the new coaching staff performs with such a tough front half of the schedule.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

This team could take on the personality of new coach Sitake as the defense seems to be ahead of the offense from a draft prospect standpoint. We feel there is enough talent on defense to make this team dangerous even with one of the toughest first half schedules in the nation.

DJ Boyer