2013 Brigham Young Cougars College Football Preview
Brigham Young Cougars
Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
2012 Record: 8-5 overall, (independent)
2012 Bowl Result: Beat San Diego St 23-6 in Poinsettia Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 8 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2014 BCS Championship Game: 550/1
Regular Season Wins: under 8 -160 / over 8 +120
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Last year, Bronco Mendenhall’s BYU Cougars won 8 games, for a somewhat successful season. Usually when you think of BYU, you think of elite offense, but last year Brigham Young rode an excellent defense to those wins. The Cougars were third in the country on defense allowing just 14 points a game. However, the offense struggled at times scoring just 28.7 points a game.
Four of BYU’s five losses were by 6 points or less and the losses were all to bowl teams except Holy War rival Utah 24-21. Only Oregon St routed the Cougars 42-24, and the Beavers were a top 15 team for most of the season. BYU had narrow losses at top 25 teams Boise St 7-6, Notre Dame 17-14, and San Jose St 20-14. Most of Brigham Young’s wins were blowouts against lesser foes, but the Cougars did beat bowl teams Utah St in Provo 6-3 and crushed Georgia Tech on the road 41-17. BYU would go on to beat former WAC/MWC rival San Diego St 23-6 in the Poinsettia Bowl. It isn’t really a stretch to say if the offense was slightly better, then BYU might have been in line for a BCS bowl bid.
Here is a look at the 2013 BYU Cougars on offense, defense, and special teams and a look at the tough schedule.
BYU’s offense started to show a spark of life late in the season under coordinator Brandon Doman, scoring at least 41 points in 3 of the last 4 games. The offense returns 8 starters and should be much improved under new coordinator Robert Anae.
Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill took over the starting job midway through the season for the ineffective Riley Nelson and James Lark. Hill would be effective in two games before a knee injury sidelined him for the season after the Utah St game. Hill was most effective with his legs. Despite playing in only 6 games he was the second leading rusher for the Cougars with 55 carries, 334 yards and 4 touchdowns. Hill completed 42 of 71 passes for 425 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Cougar coaches and fans are eager to see what a healthy Hill can do for a full season. Ammon Olsen, a former Utah player of the year in high school will likely be the back-up. Senior Jason Munns was recruited by USC, Nebraska, and Oregon, but chose BYU. He hasn’t done much in his BYU career, because he can’t stay healthy. He suffered a concussion in spring practice, but will compete with Olson for the back-up job. True freshman Billy Green could be the quarterback of the future.
Sophomore running back Jamaal Williams took over as the starter after Michael Alisa broke his arm. Williams would finish with 166 carries, 775 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 27 catches, 315 yards and a touchdown. Only 6-0 and 190 pounds, Williams is quick but isn’t durable enough to be a workhorse. Alisa also returns for his senior season after he rushed for 222 yards on 58 carries and a touchdown. He also caught 6 passes in just 5 games before the injury. Adam Hine will also get some carries but needs to stay healthy. Alisa could be used more like a fullback, along with former rugby player Paul Lasike. Iona Pritchard will play the H-Back. He will get a few carries, but will mainly be used as a blocker. The versatile A.J. Moore returns from his mission and will also get some carries and targets as a receiver.
Senior receiver Cody Hoffman would have been an NFL draft pick but came back for his last year. The potential All-American had 100 catches last year for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had 12 catches, 182 yards and 5 touchdowns in the regular season finale against New Mexico St, and also caught 3 touchdowns against Idaho. Senior Sklyer Ridley and junior Ross Apo will platoon at the other receiver. Ridley had 20 catches, 206 yards and a touchdown, while Apo had 31 catches, 311 yards, and a score. Senior J.D. Falslev returns to the slot, after making 37 grabs for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also rushing for 109 yards on 18 carries. Senior tight end Kaneakua Friel started every game last fall and had 30 catches, 308 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Junior Brett Montgomery will also see time at tight end. Sophomore Mitch Matthews and freshmen Talon Shumway and Michael Davis will also get some targets.
One of the biggest reasons the offense struggled last season was because the line failed to protect the quarterback and was inconsistent in opening up holes for the running backs. The line must improve with 4 starters back. Left tackle Ryker Matthews started all 13 games last season. Junior left guard Solomone Kafu started the last 9 games of the season and will split time at the position with Tui Crichton who is 6-3 and weighs 343 pounds. Manaaki Vaitai moves from right guard to center, but Terrance Alletto will also see time in the middle. Junior Michael Yeck starts at right tackle. The only new face on the line is freshman Kyle Johnson who will take over at right guard. A good recruiting class and several JUCO transfers add depth and talent to the unit.
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For the last 3 seasons BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall served as his own defensive coordinator. However, he promoted defensive backs coach Nick Howell to defensive coordinator in the off-season. Howell will have his work cut out for him to maintain a defense that was right up there with Alabama and Notre Dame last season. BYU gave up only two 300 yard passing games to opponents last season and allowed only 5 rushing touchdowns all season. Two of those came in garbage time of the blowout win against Weber State and 2 came at Notre Dame.
The defensive line must replace NFL draft picks Ezekial Ansah and Romney Fuga. You can’t lose that kind of talent without expecting some drop-off but the Cougars still have a lot of talent on the line. Senior Eathyn Manumaleuna moves from left end to nose tackle. He had 11 tackles, including 4 for loss, and 2 sacks before a knee injury put him on the shelf. Marques Johnson and Tuni Kanuch will also see time at nose tackle. Sophomore Bronson Kaufusi returns on the left side after making 23 tackles (5.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks) after taking over for the injured Manumaleuna. Michael Doman and former tight end Austin Holt will back up Kaufusi. Remington Peck and Logan Taele will rotate on the right side. JUCO transfer Kalolo Utu is a pass rushing specialist who will add depth to the unit.
Senior weakside linebacker Kyle Van Noy is another potential All-American who returned to Provo instead of taking millions of dollars from the NFL. Last year, Van Noy had 53 tackles, 22 for loss, 13 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles. In the bowl game against San Diego St he had 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a blocked kick, and oh yeah he scored BYU’s only two touchdowns in that game including a 17 yard pick six. Spencer Hadley starts on the strongside and had 55 tackles, including 9 for loss and 3.5 sacks. Junior Alani Fua and sophomore Jherremya Leuta-Douyere will back-up Van Noy and Hadley on the outside. Uani Unga, Tyler Beck, and Manoa Piluka will rotate at the inside linebackers.
The secondary returns 3 starters and should be a strenght of the unit. Junior cornerback Jordan Johnson made 48 tackles and broke up 15 passes. He had a 64 yard interception return in the opener against Washington St. Senior Mike Hague takes over for Preston Hadley at the other corner. He mostly played special teams last year before he was sidelined for the year with a calf injury. Senior Adam Hogan, freshman Jacob Hannemann and JUCO transfer Trenton Trammell will also see time at corner. Senior strong safety Daniel Sorenson had 68 tackles, 3 picks and 5 pass break-ups. He will be backed up by redshirt sophomore Michael Wadsworth, Junior Craig Bills returns at free safety after making 47 tackles and breaking up 5 passes. He made 10 tackles against San Jose St, and make 6 tackles and broke up two passes in the bowl game.
BYU must replace star punter Riley Stephenson who averaged 45.4 yards per punt and planted 30 kicks inside the 20. JUCO transfer Scott Arellan0 will likely replace him at the punter.
Stephenson also kicked some extra points and field goals after kicker Justin Sorenson was too inconsistent. Stephenson made 4 of 6 field goals and 16 of 19 extra points. Sorenson returns but needs to be much better. He made 6 of 12 field goals and 27 of 30 extra points. Neither Stephenson nor Sorenson made a kick over 35 yards. Part of the reason BYU lost so many close games was because of the inconsistency in the kicking game. To be fair, Sorenson battled a back injury all season and if healthy can return to the form he showed in 2011.
Falslev will again return both kicks and punts. He averaged 9.5 yards on punts and 26 on kicks.
The schedule is very tough with home games against Texas, Utah, Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Boise St, and Idaho St. The road slate is even worse, with trips to Virginia, Utah State, Houston, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Nevada.
There is a lot of talent on offense, and they have a good mix of young kids and veterans. The line must play better and the Cougars need to avoid the injury bug. But all in all, the offense should be better than last year. On defense, a slight drop-off is to be expected but this should still be a top 15 unit barring injuries. Still, with the tough schedule, 8 wins like BYU achieved last year might be a stretch, but BYU should still win 6 or 7 games and go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
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