Preview 2017: BYU Cougars
Previewing and looking ahead at the BYU Cougars season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The BYU Offense
The Cougar attack was balanced, but it didn’t do quite enough through the air – at least efficiently. That should change early on with Tanner Mangum taking over at quarterback with Taysom Hill finally done – it only seems like Hill was there long enough to be Steve Young’s backup.
However, the Cougars have to find a decent No. 1 back to take over for Jamaal Williams, and a few good wideouts have to rise up from the pack. The tight ends, though, should be terrific, and Mangum is good enough to make the air show go no matter what.
The key is the offensive line, which has the upside and experience to be one of the best the program has had in a long, long time. Even though the running backs might not be great, they’ll look fine behind this fantastic front five.
Biggest Key To The BYU Offense
The passing game has to be more efficient. That should come with Mangum under center instead of Hill, but a few decent wide receivers have to emerge. Considering the running backs haven’t been anything special this offseason – more on that in a moment – the passing game will rely on the fantastic tight ends, Mangum making everyone better, and hoping for a few new targets to rise up after losing the top three wideouts from last year.
What You Need To Know About The BYU Defense
The pass defense was lit up like a Christmas tree, and there were a few rough moments, but the run D was outstanding, coming up with takeaways wasn’t a problem, and the pass rush was good enough. On the year, the Cougars allowed more than 21 points just three times, finishing 14th in the nation in scoring defense.
This year, everything works around a loaded linebacking corps that should be among the most productive in the country. But even so, the Cougars are moving to a 4-3 scheme that’ll put more of the pressure on the line. That could be a problem.
The linebackers will clean up most of the messes, but the line should be just okay early on after losing three good starters. The front four won’t be a disaster, but it won’t be dominant. On the plus side, the rocky secondary should be stronger than it’s been in past seasons.
Biggest Key To The BYU Defense
The passing defense needs to be consistently better. There’s hope that this might be the deepest and most talented group of corners BYU has had in a while, and the pass rush should be fine to help the cause. Now the secondary has to come up with more stops.
The defense intercepted 21 passes and allowed just 17 touchdown passes, but the good quarterbacks early in the schedule went off. Everyone hit 60% of their passes or more in each of the fist six games, and it didn’t get much better – Toledo went for 505 yards and Boise State cranked up 442.
BYU Will Be Far Better If …
It learns how to win all of the tight games. The Cougars managed to beat Arizona by two and survived the 55-53 firefight with Toledo, and they closed out the season with a. 24-21 bowl win over Wyoming. However, a good season could’ve been special with just a few more key breaks, losing to Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Boise State by a grand total of eight points.
Granted, it doesn’t work like this, and no one gets the same breaks or is in the same position two seasons in a row, but if the Cougars had won those four games – each loss was by three points or fewer – they’re 12-0 and off to the College Football Playoff.
Best BYU Offensive Player
C Tejean Koroma, Sr. – It might not be all that sexy when the best offensive player is on the line, and while Tanner Mangum should shine under center, that center might be the team’s top player.
The 6-0, 290-pound Koroma isn’t all that big, and he’s not going to do anything at the next level thanks to that lack of bulk, but he’s a flawless technician who’ll be on the short list for the Rimington Award. Ultra-reliable, he has yet to miss a game going into his fourth year.
2. QB Tanner Mangum, Jr.
3. OT Thomas Shoaf, Soph.
4. TE Morni Laulu-Pututau, Jr.
5. TE Matt Bushman, Fr.
Best BYU Defensive Player
LB Fred Warner, Sr. – Take your pick of BYU linebackers, and you might just have the best defensive player. Francis Bernard came up with 79 tackles with two sacks and three picks, and Butch Pau’u is a big-time playmaker in the middle, making 83 stops with seven tackles for loss.
But it’s Warner who’s the main man of the bunch, with rangy 6-4, 230-pound size, playmaking ability behind the line with 23 career tackles for loss, good skills when the ball is in the air with six career picks and six broken up passes last season with 86 tackles.
2. LB Butch Pau’u, Jr.
3. LB Francis Bernard, Jr.
4. SS Micah Hannemann, Sr.
5. DE Corbin Kaufusi, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Squally Canada, Jr. – Running back isn’t exactly an Achilles’ heel gown into the season, with no one stepping up and rocking this spring. Canada is the leading returning rusher – taking off for 315 yards and two scores last season – but there isn’t another Jamaal Williams ready to rise up and rock. If it’s not Canada, then it’ll be a rotation until the coaching staff finds the right guy.
The BYU Season Will Be A Success If …
The Cougars win ten games. They haven’t done it since 2011, and there’s enough turnover in key spots to forget about something amazing like a 12-1 run, but to win ten games against a schedule with LSU, Utah, Wisconsin, Boise State and Mississippi State would be terrific.
Key Game To The BYU Season
Sept. 9 vs. Utah – With no conference championship to play for, and with no realistic shot at the College Football Playoff – at least without a lot of magic – this is as big a game as it gets. It’s the rivalry game that comes early on, and it’s the ultimate sandwich moment between LSU and Wisconsin. For a lot of Cougar fans, beating Utah will be all that truly matters.
2016 BYU Fun Stats
– BYU 1st Quarter Scoring: 65 – BYU 4th Quarter Scoring: 126
– Time of Possession: BYU 32:40 – Opponents 27:20
– Punt Return Average: BYU 8.5 yards – Opponents 2.5 yards