The first team I’m previewing is the BYU Cougars. I’m going to preface by saying I’m having a blast writing this article because of some of the names on this squad. But the more I researched the team itself, the more I’m intrigued and excited to watch this team play.
My sense of interest comes from their schedule. After beginning the season against an FCS school this Saturday, they’ll face LSU, Utah and Wisconsin, in that order. Their tilt against LSU is at a neutral (but basically road) site in Houston, while they will host Utah and Wisconsin in front of the Cougar faithful. They also mix in Boise State and a trip to Mississippi State later in the year. This makes things interesting for a 9-win team last year whose schedule looked good on paper but really only had an elite matchup against West Virginia.
Tanner Mangum (pictured) leads the Cougar attack under center, and that already provides a sense of relief. Though he didn’t get action last year until an injury to fifth-year senior Taysom Hill. He did play in 2015, however, and he turned some heads. That year, he threw for nearly 3,400 yards and 23 touchdowns against 10 picks. While only playing in 5 games last year, he raised his completion percentage from 59.9 to 66.7.
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer also has a deep group of running backs to mix into his attack this year, with Squally Canada and Ula Tolutau leading the bunch (I told you the names were going to be fun). Canada boasts the most in-game experience, though he only totaled 329 yards last year while working behind Jamaal Williams. In terms of wideouts, senior Jonah Tinnaman (pictured) headlines the group of otherwise young receivers, but even he only had 28 catches a year ago.
If there’s one thing this offense can definitively hang their hat on, it’s their offensive line, that starts three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. Due to lack of experience, BYU poses a lot of questions on this side of the ball.
Defensively, the unit has a lot of talented upperclassmen. In particular, I’m looking at their linebackers, led by Fred Warner, Butch Pau’u and Francis Bernard. Corbin Kaufusi (below) and Sione Takitaki will be attacking off the edges, with Meti Taliauli and Kesni Tausinga on the interior line. The secondary will have seniors Micah Hannemann and Matt Hadley providing support over the top to a young group of talented cornerbacks.
This was their X-factor last year. When BYU lost, their defense didn’t show up, giving up over 440 yards of offense. When their defense played to their potential, they won 9 times, while holding teams to 330 total yards of offense. With such a tough early stretch of games, they will need to show up quickly and keep the offense in games.
I actually really like what I see out of this roster. I’d like to see Mangum retain his completion percentage from his limited action last year and really step up as a leader for an offense that needs direction. I like them to improve slightly, despite their inexperience, and go 10-2, with losses coming against Wisconsin and Boise State. Kalani Sitake obviously showed his prowess as a coach last year, and the team got better as the season went on. I expect them to continue their momentum from the end of last season.
Cover Photo via Bleacher Report
Article Photos via Vanquish the Foe
GIF via Vanquish the Foe