The top 10 BYU football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. QB Taysom Hill, Sr.
Will he really be back to form, and will he really be the starter? Back for one more year after suffering yet another bad luck injury to end a season, he gets one last chance to carry the offense. The 6-2, 230-pounder is a fantastic baller who ran for 1,344 yards and ten touchdowns as a sophomore, and was on his way to another big year in 2014 before getting knocked out for the season with a left injury. All good coming into 2015, he lasted less than a game before getting hit with a foot problem.
While he’ll throw a few too many picks, that’s part of the gunslinger style he plays, doing whatever it takes to make something big happen. Known as a Texas killer, he proved to be unstoppable when he gets into a groove. Now he has to stay healthy and finally catch a positive break.
2. QB Tanner Mangum, Soph.
If he’s not the starter, he’ll be at the ready again with the passing skills to potentially be a 4,000-yard quarterback if everything breaks right. He’s not the runner Taysom Hill is, but the 6-3, 215-pounder has the size, the maturity, and the magical ability to pull rabbits out of a hat. He’ll forever be known for coming off the bench to beat Nebraska on the final Hail Mary, and he stunned Boise State late with his heroics, too.
If it’s his gig, expect 300 yards per game while keeping the mistakes to a minimum. He threw for 3,377 yards with 23 touchdowns and ten interceptions, throwing three of his picks in an early meltdown against Utah in the bowl, but he still almost pulled it out.
3. RB Jamaal Williams, Sr.
Back for what seems like his 14th year with the Cougars, the 6-2, 220-pound Williams missed a chunk of 2014 hurt, and was out all of last year due to undisclosed rules violations. A powerful workhorse when he’s in a groove, he ran for 13 touchdowns as a freshman, cranked up 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, and was solid as a junior before getting banged up. With speed to go along with his toughness, he’s able to come up with big yards with just a little room to rumble needing just 929 more yards to be BYU’s all-time leading rusher.
4. S Kai Nacua, Sr.
At 6-2 and 208 pounds, the safety turned in an excellent season as a big hitter, cranking up 66 stops after making 50 in his first two years combined. More than just a popper against the run, he became a dangerous playmaker when the ball was in the air with six picks taking two for touchdowns. He killed Boise State with three interceptions, taking one for a score, and came up with two more against Fresno State with another going for a score.
5. DT Travis Tuiloma, Sr.
The big man on the inside, he’s a 6-2, 301-pound leverage guy at tackle holding his own with 25 tackles last season with 2.5 sacks. He’s not going to get into the backfield on a regular basis, and he would’ve had a far bigger season if he didn’t miss four games. He’s the anchor on the nose – he doesn’t get moved off his base.
6. LB Fred Warner, Jr.
The team’s third-leading tackler, the 6-4, 227-pound rangy outside defender was always around the ball last season as a pass rusher, run defender, and disruptive force. He held up well with 67 stops, but he was at his best in space coming up with four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and with two sacks. Biggest of all, he was opportunistic, recovering four fumbles. Outstanding in the open field, he doesn’t miss stops.
7. OT Brad Wilcox, Sr.
The 6-7, 310-pound left tackle turned into a steady starter last season moving around where needed. Is he a better all-around blocker than Ului Lapuaho? Maybe by just a little bit, but the Oklahoma native has the maturity – starting out his career in 2012 and with a mission in the mix – he’s good in pass protection, but now he needs to be a rock.
8. LB Harvey Langi, Sr.
A tough guy in the middle, the 6-3, 249-pound Utah transfer cranked up his production with 68 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Able to play on the outside if needed, he has the range on the inside with good pass coverage skills, picking off two passes against UCLA and doing a decent job on the move. He’ll be turned loose more in the backfield.
9. OG Ului Lapuaho, Jr.
A massive blocker, he worked on the right side with 6-7, 333-pound size and the power to generate a big push, and now he’ll move from tackle to left guard next to Brad Wilcox. Just good enough in pass protection to not be a liability if he works on the left side, he’s got the feet for the right. A strong veteran who knows what he’s doing, forget about getting around him without a blast-off of a first step.
10. P Jonny Linehan, Sr.
The New Zealand native is one of the nation’s best all-around punters, blasting away for a 42.7-yard average with 20 kicks put inside the 20. The former rugby player was consistent and did his job time and again to get the team out of problems, and he was able to hang it up, too, forcing 19 fair catches.