I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on BYU, to be honest I’m not sure there is an expert on them this year with a few unknowns, but it’s time to find out what we’re up against on Saturday. I’ll go position by position, this should become a regular appearance on the blog. Lots of posting going on today and tomorrow so make sure you scroll down! Here we go:
While finishing 11-2 the last 3 years, the Cougars figure to take a little bit of a step back this year. They have quite a few new starters and will be breaking in new players on Saturday.
Quarterback: As you’ve probably heard by now, BYU will be playing two quarterbacks on Saturday. One is a more mobile quarterback, Riley Nelson. The other is true freshman, Jake Heaps. Heaps has excellent passing skills but doesn’t have the athletic ability that Nelson has. I wouldn’t say this will be a position of weakness at BYU, both guys are very talented, but it’s certainly an unknown. It’s hard to know what a quarterback will be like in their first game. These guys are definitely a drop off from the graduated Max Hall though (at least in this point in time). I’ve never thought that playing two quarterbacks is the best way, but it can work if it’s used correctly.
Running Back: Harvey Unga was kicked off the team this off-season and that’s great news for the Huskies. Unga was a running back in the mold of Toby Gerhart, who ran all over the Huskies in 2008. This year, BYU will be a running back by committee team. The two guys who figure to the get the most carries are J.J. DiLuigi (cool name) and Bryan Kariya. DiLuigi is more of a big play back and will get the start. So, that’s two skill positions that will use more than one guy at the position. That’s the good news. Both of these guys did put up respectable numbers as back-ups last year though.
Wide Receivers and Tight End: BYU graduated their leading receiver last year but returns a pretty steady group. McKay Jacobson figures to be the leading receiver after having 23 receptions for 556 yards last year while battling injuries. O’Neil Chambers also was solid last year (32 receptions for over 300 yards). Other guys that figure in are Luke Ashworth, Spencer Hafoka, and a few really tall, freshmen receivers.
The tight end spot is a complete unknown. There are 5 freshman battling for the starting job and Mendenhall hasn’t said who will start.
Offensive Line: This is the strength of the Cougars offense. Led by All-American left tackle, Matt Reynolds, this is the biggest mismatch BYU has on UW. These guys are big (average of 306 lbs.) and have quite a bit of experience. Nick Alletto was at the other tackle position last year but is now moved to right guard. Both of those guys are 330 lbs. Braden Hansen and Terance Brown started every game at the guard positions last year. Brown has now been moved to center. Braden will take his spot at right tackle and may rotate with Walter Kahaialii. If BYU wins this game, I think it will be because of this line.
To the defense after the jump! Defensive Line: BYU runs a 3-4 defense and they have to replace all 3 defensive lineman. This is where the Huskies need to take advantage. The Cougars do have some experience on the line, most notably Romney Fuga, but this has to be a place that has their fans concerned.
Linebackers: Only 1 of the 4 linebackers return for the Cougars. In other words, their front seven is a complete unknown. Again, this is where the Huskies have to take advantage. The returning starter is Jordan Pendleton, who had a very solid year last year but not at the same level of a certain Mason Foster. These linebackers are supposed to be athletic but haven’t proven it yet. There is a little bit of experience here and there, and they look a little more solid than the defensive line just from a glance, but this isn’t a strength for BYU yet.
Secondary: The secondary only loses one player to graduation, free safety Scott Johnson. With that being said, the secondary wasn’t exactly good last year. They are sure to take a step forward this year with more experience but they aren’t an extremely scary unit. They have to prove themselves. Strong safety, Andrew Rich, is a very strong player and their leader in the secondary. He is an all-MWC preseason conference pick.
Special Teams: Mitch Payne was their place kicker last year and was 10-14, with a career long of 49. He seems pretty okay. Riley Stephenson is their punter, he averaged about 41 yards a punt last year. Not too bad. Their returners seem decent and had one return for a touchdown last year. They don’t seem to be anything to scary though.
So, now you know a little more. I’m sure my bias came through a little bit here but after reading up on BYU, I’m just not too impressed with them on paper. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they have a great coach and will be ready to play. Predictions will come tomorrow! Happy first day of football to all of you!