The wait is finally over and BYU football is back! Yeah, it’s only fall camp, but it’s something. I’ve been notably optimistic about the potential that the season could have with a senior Taysom Hill at the helm.
This doesn’t mean that all is well in Provo, there are plenty of questions that I have, and I’m sure that plenty of others have. Here are the questions I want answered by the end of camp.
1. Backup Quarterback Development
Taysom Hill is the starter but who will be the backup, and how will reps be split up? Last year, Christian Stewart notably got his fair share of reps with the first team for preparation in case Hill ever went down to injury.
Tanner Mangum will get every opportunity to get the backup spot behind Hill, and he is slated to be BYU’s next starting quarterback. What I want to see is how he is developed by the coaching staff and how much work he’ll get with the first team offense.
2. Running back Rotation
BYU is extremely thin at the running back position. In order to run the up-tempo Go Fast, Go Hard offense, you need at least two reliable running backs and having three in the rotation is much to be desired. Coming into the season, many would’ve believed that running back would be BYU’s deepest position. With Jamaal Williams redshirting and withdrawing from school that took away the primary option for carries, and BYU signee Charles West’s delayed enrollment, the position took a hit and is reeling for options.
One solution that could happen is adding incoming freshman Riley Burt into the mix. He signed with BYU in February as a both a defensive back and a running back but with the series of events his abilities will be needed for in the offensive backfield rather than the defensive backfield. Burt is a very similar prospect to Jamaal in speed, size and athleticism. He could fill the void that Jamaal has left.
3. Defensive Leadership
The team lost a lot of leadership to graduation last year: Craig Bills, Skye PoVey, and Alani Fua were all seniors who had plenty of experience. With Bronson Kaufusi and Remington Peck being seniors on the front line, their experience will be heavily counted on by the team.
As nice as it is to have that leadership, it’s not enough. BYU needs an experienced middle linebacker who is not only vocal but one who understands the defense and also conduct the front seven on what they need to do. Look for that leadership role to fall to Harvey Langi, he has a year in the system and this is a year that is crucial for his development. Another position that BYU can use leadership out of is safety, two guys who’ll be competing for the starting job and have the ability to step up will be Chris Badger and Eric Takenaka. Badger has been noted by coaches as being another coach on the field and big things are expected out of Takenaka as he comes in as a JC transfer.
4. Defensive Backs
While I expect a lot out of the safeties this year, the corner back position is a huge question mark. There is a lot of young talent at this position and the future is bright. The biggest concern is the immediate future and what they’d be able to accomplish this year. Bronco Mendenhall joined us on Media Day and said that he believes the defensive backs are the most volatile part of the defense. When asked, he said that his starting secondary would consist of Micah Hannemann, Eric Takenaka, Kai Nacua, and Jordan Preator.
Jordan had the opportunity to start last year and gained some valuable experience. There were some bright spots where it seemed like the defense was starting to click for him, but it wasn’t at a consistent level. Micah was noted as one player who was getting quickly noticed during Spring Ball. He has made a name as one of the most athletic players on the team. The question that remains is how well he’ll be able to develop in the defense and understand the defensive philosophy.
Some other players who will be in contention for the spots will be: Michael Shelton, who’s been dubbed by former BYU DB Brian Logan as little Brian, Michael Davis, who played a significant amount of time in the secondary but still has a ways to go in understanding the defense, and incoming freshman Dayan Lake who is one of the biggest signees that BYU has ever received in the secondary. With all of the young talent in the secondary, it remains to be seen who will separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
5. Offseason Progress
Frank Wintrich’s hiring was possibly the biggest story of this offseason. He has brought a new energy and philosophy to the team’s strength and conditioning program and word is, the players have bought in. In an offseason conversation, I learned that during the time that most players would go home to visit family and take some time off, the entire team had stuck around to improve and continue working.
What I want to see is who has taken the most from those workouts and improved their strength and agility. One name that Ben shared earlier this week was Algernon Brown, word is that he has improved on his speed and explosiveness which will significantly help the offensive backfield. Now it remains to be seen who else made similar strides.
These are what I think to be the most significant story lines heading into fall camp. Are there any stories that you find to be more significant? What questions do you think need to be answered?