PROVO — Injuries provide worst component of the game of football, and for BYU, injuries started piling up significantly during Saturday’s 38-27 loss to Kansas.
How teams adequately supplement eventual injuries sustained throughout the year largely determines which teams prove most capable at the end of the season. For the Cougars, the process of having to account for significant or even minor injuries begins, at least in part, this week when taking on Cincinnati.
Bywater, who is BYU’s leading tackler through four games played, went down with injury late during Saturday’s loss to the Jayhawks with an apparent shoulder injury. While the details and severity of the injury are yet to be determined, or at least officially revealed, it certainly appears the Cougars will have to make do without the services of the 6-foot-3, 235 pound junior linebacker for the next few weeks.
Replacement options: The Cougars have rotated Bywater with fellow linebackers Max Tooley and AJ Vongphachanh consistently throughout the season thus far, operating primarily from a 4-2-5 base defensive alignment. Bywater being put on the shelf for at least a few weeks most likely simply ups the amount of reps taken by both Tooley and Vongphachanh while fitting in other backup options such as Harrison Taggart (6-1, 216 Fr.), who has received increasing playing time in recent weeks or Chaz Ah You (6-2, 220), who now has a prime opportunity to restore the great promise he showed early on in his Cougar playing career. Other options include Ammon Hannemann (6-2, 211 Jr.) and Isaiah Glasker (6-5, 225 Fr.) although both players likely won’t work as direct replacements to man Bywater’s Mack linebacker position, but would allow Vongphanchanh more reps at Bywater’s vacated spot.
Heckard was pulled during the last defensive series of the game with an apparent injury to his lower extremity. While not thought to be as severe as Bywater’s issue, injuries to the lower extremity can hamper the play of a defensive back significantly. Heckard has proved a huge addition to the Cougar defense this season and any limited availability from the 5-foot-10, 190 pound Senior could prove a tough hurdle to overcome.
Replacement options: Mory Bamba (6-3, 180 Jr.) is listed as Heckard’s primary replacement and could see increased reps, along with options such as Caleb Christensen (5-10, 187 Jr.), Evan Johnson (6-0, 175 Fr.) or Marcus McKenzie (5-11, 172 Fr.), among others.
Lapuaho sustained what looked to be an injury issue to his upper extremity in the second half versus the Jayhawks. The Utah State transfer has proved one of the more consistent performers in BYU’s struggling offensive front, which makes any potential absence or limitations compounding The Cougar’s already relevant issues in effective run-blocking and pass protection.
Replacement option: Ian Fitzgerald (6-6, 305 Sr) subbed in for Lapuaho last week and will likely do so again should Lapuaho not be healthy enough to play. Fitzgerald provides an experienced option with his experience playing for Missouri State prior to transferring to BYU.
Parker Kingston and Kody Epps
Kingston sustained what looked to be a concussion during BYU’s first offensive possession last Saturday, leaving his availability for Cincinnati in question, along with that of Kody Epps, who saw limited action for the first time this season versus Arkansas before being held out entirely the following week versus Kansas. Epps is battling lower extremity issues since midway through the fall practice session.
Replacement options: The absence of both Kingston and Epps simply shortens the receiver rotation and perhaps affords at least some reps allotted to both Talmage Gunther (5-11, 190 Jr.) and Hobbs Nyberg (5-10, 195 Jr.)