BYU Cougars Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the BYU season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
BYU Cougars Preview 2022
They’re not there quite yet.
It’s going to be easy to write this season off as the warm-up before finally joining a Power Five conference – going to the Big 12 next season – but there’s way too much talent, way too much experience, and way too many big opportunities for this year to be anything less than special.
The Cougars were a thrilling loss to Coastal Carolina away from going unbeaten in 2020, and last year they won the “Pac-12 Championship” with victories over Utah, Arizona State, Utah, Washington State, and USC in a fun ten-win campaign.
Now it’s time for the program to prove it can take things up a few notches.
Yeah, all those wins over Pac-12 teams were great, and rolling to a 66-49 victory over Virginia was fun, and taking down Mountain West champ Utah State was terrific …
So how does that team lose a bowl game to a good-but-not-killer UAB?
There were a slew of injuries that didn’t help in the midseason losses to Boise State and Baylor, but this time around there’s more depth, more options, and more talent to make a huge splash before the big move.
There isn’t a conference championship to play for, and there isn’t a date against Utah to use as a chest-thumping moment, but the team and schedule are strong enough to push for a New Year’s Six bowl.
21 wins over the last two seasons was a whole lot of fun.
Now it’s time for BYU to expect more.
BYU Cougars Preview 2022: Offense
The offense wasn’t always explosive, but it was efficient. It wasn’t always consistent, but it was great at moving the chains and keeping the big mistakes to a minimum. It wasn’t always clutch, but it finished the year 17th in the nation overall and 29th in scoring.
And now it’s loaded.
The offensive line might be among the program’s best ever if the tackles play up to the hype. The combination of tackle Blake Freeland and guard Blake Barrington on the left side should be dominant – BYU was among the best teams in the nation in pass protection. The best of the bunch though might be Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia – he’s a future NFL starter who’ll work at right tackle for now.
The strong front five doesn’t have Tyler Allgeier to block for anymore, but the running game will be more than fine. Cal transfer Christopher Brooks will be an instant fit, and 215-pound veteran Lopina Katoa can add some work. Also able to add to the running game …
QB Jaren Hall is on the verge of being special. He’s not Zach Wilson, but he’s improving as a passer – throwing for 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns with five picks – and he’s great on the move. Now he has to stay healthy with backup Baylor Romney leaving football to start his real job career.
Gunner Romney, though, is back along with Puka Nacua to form a deadly 1-2 punch. Those two combined for close to 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns, and they’re not alone. It’s a deep corps, and tight ends Isaac Rex and Dallin Holker can catch.
The offense will be great, and now …
BYU Cougars Preview 2022: Defense
The defense has to be better. It has the talent, and it has the experience, but the D that allowed 388 yards and 25 points per game needs to generate more of a pass rush and has to be far tougher against the run.
There weren’t too many issues overall. Virginia and Baylor were the only two teams to hit the 500-yard mark, and Baylor beat the Cavaliers. There weren’t too many problems with everyone else, but …
Again, the defense needs to be better, and it will be. It starts with getting healthy parts back to what should be a loaded linebacking corps. Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili return after getting hurt – they should combine for well over 100 tackles.
Combine them with 2021’s leading tackler Ben Bywater and with second-leading tackler Max Tooley playing a hybrid role, and look out.
Now the pass rush has to be there. The Cougars only generated 20 sacks and 64 tackles for loss, and just three players registered more than 1.5 sacks – Tyler Batty is back after leading the way with only 3.5 sacks. However, there’s size, depth, and there should be a solid rotation for the 4-2-5 alignment.
The secondary did a good job despite the lack of a pass rush. The corner tandem of Kaleb Hayes and D’Angelo Mandell is experienced and outstanding, and the safeties are diverse and versatile. There are a whole lot of ways to play around with the deep lineup.