With BYU’s spring practice in the books, here’s what we know and what we learned about the Cougars as the offseason continues.
BYU approached spring camp as an opportunity to pick up where it left off last season. In 2016, Kalani Sitake’s first year at the helm of his alma mater, the Cougars won eight of their final nine games. And their four losses were by only eight points combined.
1. Tanner Mangum Leads Offense, But Who’ll Support Him?
Taysom Hill has finally exhausted his eligibility, leaving Tanner Mangum at the controls of the offense. While the junior is up for the challenge, his supporting cast at the skill positions is an unanswered question.
BYU is moving forward without all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams, and for the first time in more than half a century no Cougar receiver in 2016 posted a 100-yard game. In other words, proven gamebreakers will come at a premium this fall in Provo. Former Washington State transfer Squally Canada has the edge in experience at running back. Jonah Trinnaman is the veteran of the receivers, but is he a true No. 1? Mangum might want to employ his tight ends, namely freshman Matt Bushman. The 6-5, 220-pound Bushman was a spring star, showing a knack for exploiting the seams on deep balls.
2. O-Line a Team Strength
The Cougars face concerns on offense. However, the blocking unit in front of Mangum doesn’t figure to be one of them this fall.
Led by star C Tejan Koroma, BYU will be big, physical and assertive at the point of attack in 2017. The guards are set with seniors Tuni Kanuch and Keyan Norman, while Freshman All-American Thomas Shoaf has moved to left tackle and added muscle to a lean 6-5 frame. Meanwhile, Kieffer Longson is one of four redshirt freshmen who made a move during the spring. Longson has positioned himself to capture the opening at right tackle that was vacated when Shoaf switched sides of the ball.
3. D-Line a Team Worry Exiting Spring
BYU lost its two best linemen, Sae Tautu and Logan Taele, to graduation. Oh, and a move from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 will put further pressure on the D-line’s depth this season.
Sitake and the defensive staff are putting out APBs for defensive linemen who can generate a consistent push and harass opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. The Cougar linebackers are among the best units in the country, but turning them loose too often could add extra pressure on the pass defense. Trajan Pili, who had 2.5 sacks as a freshman, will provide a situational jolt of speed, and converted LB Rhett Sandlin flashed spring signs of being ready to contribute as a three-down end.