Managing a backup quarterback
Starting with the most storied position at BYU - quarterback - there are reports that Taysom Hill won’t be redshirting this season despite there being a more experienced player in senior James Lark waiting in the wings. One has to speculate about how much Hill will be involved with the offense this season. Gutsy, gritty and tough starting quarterback Riley Nelson has dealt with injuries the past two seasons. It will be interesting to see how the offensive coaches prepare Hill this season when it comes to splitting reps with Lark. It will also be interesting to see how the coaches handle Lark, who needs as many reps as a backup quarterback can get given his low amount of reps during past practices and Nelson’s injury history.
The starting five offensive linemen
As already discussed in a recent article, a number of linemen sat out spring camp due to injuries. In will be interesting to watch those lower on the depth chart compete against the projected starting five: left tackle Ryker Mathews, left guard Famika Anae, center Houston Reynolds, right guard Braden Hansen and right tackle Braden Brown. Wildcard players include Brock Stringham, Solomone Kafu and Manaaki Vaitai. The one key point of interest will be Anae, who quickly jumped up onto the o-line scene.
Sorting out the backfield
With the departure of Joshua “Juice” Quezada, finding quality and experienced depth in the backfield to complement junior Michael Alisa is important. Could Adam Hine, a redshirt freshman who hasn’t played competitive football since his senior year of high school in 2008, be the answer? Although Hine’s debut has been highly anticipated, and he has a lot of exceptional talent that he’s been dusting off since he returned from his mission, it’s hard to determine if he would be able to have the same impact and contribute is a similar manner as Alisa did last year.
How the coaches manage reps with Alisa while developing a backup - senior David Foote received quality reps last year in mop-up duty - will be something to keep an eye on. Also, it will be worth noting how the coaches involve a now-healthy Iona Pritchard in the backfield.
Tight end tandem
Having tight end tandems on the field has been a staple in the BYU offense for many years. Marcus Mathews was the primary tight end target of Nelson last season while playing the flex tight end position. Kaneakua Friel received valuable playing time primarily at the attached tight end position, so he’ll be in the mix as well. Having had a year to shake off the missionary rust from his legs, the Hawaiian tight end will look to broaden his role as a pass-catcher downfield this year after primarily being a blocker attached to line last year.
Like Friel, Mathews’ tight end skill sets will be widened in order to be a more versatile player within this year’s offense. After suffering injuries last year, Austin Holt, Devin Mahina and Richard Wilson will all be participating in fall camp this year and all three will bring their highly touted talents to the field of play. With the infusion of those three, and a more experienced Friel back in the fold, the key will now be to find that tight end tandem, as well as finding enough passes to go around.
Who's the fourth receiver?
With Ross Apo, Cody Hoffman and J.D. Falslev all returning as starters, a point of interest will be who steps in and takes the fourth receiver spot in the rotation or when a tight end is not in play. During spring camp Terenn Houk played the x-receiver spot in the two-deep. He could be a viable candidate, as well as Brett Thompson, who performed very well in spring camp after returning home from a mission. There is also 6-foot-6-inch Mitch Mathews, who was looking very good early on in spring camp prior to suffering a pulled groin. Once he gets up to speed within the offense, Cougar fans are going to love what he brings to the field.
In Coach Doman’s second year as offensive coordinator, the Cougar offense is beginning to take shape in his image. Coach Doman knows exactly what he wants to do and is now putting tweaks in place - there’s more to the team having slimmer, fitter linemen up front - in order to implement his system. The Cougars had success last year running a version of a fast-paced offense at times.
This year there will be a greater emphasis on running the offense with a quick tempo. Cougar fans shouldn’t expect the fast tempo to be the primary characteristic of the offense, but rather a facet within it. Coach Doman wants his charges to have the ability to turn it on or off at will. The question is how consistently will the offense be able to turn the tempo up or slow it down when the call comes in.
Free safety at all cost
Kat safety should be all but locked down by returning starter Daniel Sorensen. The question is will junior college transfer Joe Sampson step in and take the free safety position and make it his own his senior year? That will most likely be the case given the fact he played safety in college, along with corner back, in a 3-4 system. Mike Hague more than likely will man the free safety spot in the nickel package, with Sampson moving over as the extra defensive back. The one to watch will be return missionary Craig Bills, the nation’s 15th ranked safety prospect out of high school. Bill has reportedly gained a lot of muscle mass over the summer and mirrors Sorensen in physical appearance.
No man's an island
Corby Eason is gone and now it's time for sophomore cornerback Jordan Johnson to step up and prove he’s ready to cover the field. When it comes to playing cornerback, mental disposition is an attribute not often spoken of in terms of importance. How well he can successfully compete, while being able to forget and move on when beat, will be key. He’s already proven to be one of the best athletes in the secondary, so he’s got that part working well for him.
Between the uprights
Golden-legged Justin Sorensen missed all of spring camp due to an issue with his back. Sorensen set a school record by going 48-for-48 on PAT attempts last season, and also handled kick-off duties. Will he be fully recovered from his injury, and how much of his game will have been affected by the layoff?
Outside linebacker intrigue
Does 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound freak of nature Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah play on the defensive line this year, or is he put back out at the outside linebacker position on the weak side?
Field side linebacker is another position that needs to be solidified. Will Spencer Hadley be able to lock that position down, or will Alani Fua step up and take the spot? If Ansah is moved over to Will linebacker, could Van Noy move over to field side based on down and distance?
These are just a few key points of interest as fall camp is about to begin. If there are any other points of interest, please let us know what they are and we’ll do our best to cover those as well. Let fall camp begin!