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BYU football: Glaring omissions abound on ESPN960’s soon-to-be-released top 25 Cougar player list

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PROVO — The ESPN960 staff collaborated in putting together a top 25 BYU player list that will be revealed during the Cougar Sports with Ben Criddle radio program each day leading up to the 2023 football season. The criteria wasn’t stringent and merely asked each contributor to list who they felt were the 25 best players on the Cougar football team, regardless of position, experience or past performance.

It wasn’t easy.

Considering all the variables associated with this year’s BYU football team — particularly all the new faces expected to make big contributions, it left most of us regretful in excluding more than several notable names.

So who are the notable names absent from the soon-to-be-revealed list? As mentioned, there’s more than several poised to make our list look rather silly as the season unfolds, and let’s get to it.

Incoming freshmen

We’re not opposed to incoming freshmen. In fact, we’re usually intrigued by the new faces joining the program in any given years — particularly yours truly, who spent many years covering recruiting for BYU dating clear back to 2003.

But it appears all whom contributed left out the likes of top 4-star prospects like Jackson Bowers (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) or even top 3-stars such as running back LJ Martin (6-1, 207), edge Siale Esera (6-3, 250) or receiver Josiah Phillips (6-4, 190), among others. We’ll be certain to monitor each new face as practices proceed, noting any and all mobility in our observations and interviews with coaches.


An even bigger opportunity to make our esteemed contributors made to look silly resides with the potential of several notable transfers raring to undertake their first practice session at BYU this fall. It’s very likely the a midseason review of our preseason top 25 list will make the omissions of the following transfers quite glaring.

David Latu (6-4, 300 DL): Latu comes to BYU via Snow College and is probably the transfer best poised to make a strong impact, considering his credentials and the position he plays. Defensive tackle is largely a plug-and-play position, relative to other position groups, which makes Latu’s potential for immediate and big contributions intriguing to say the least.

He’s also very, very good, and has received a lot of just praise back when he signed with the Cougars through his preseason workout sessions. Yes, the omission of Latu could certainly prove our most embarrassing by season’s end.

Keelan Marion (6-0, 200 WR): Don’t blame me for this one. He made my top 25 list.

Marion is a transfer from UConn who led the Huskies in receiving in 2021 with 28 catches for 474 yards and five touchdowns. The Atlanta native missed most of the 2022 season due to injury before entering the transfer portal following spring practices.

Marion has caught the eye of both Ben Criddle and Brian Logan — both of whom speak with a lot of authority when evaluating receiver talent given their athletic backgrounds. Don’t be surprised when Marion becomes a big part of the receiving rotation while making our omission of his name from our top 25 list quite silly upon midseason review.

Darius Lassiter (6-3, 200 WR): Lassiter is a transfer from Eastern Michigan where he proved very productive, hauling in 40 passes a year ago for 471 yards and four touchdowns. Lassiter presents a big, physical presence that is well-schooled in receiving nuances necessary to provide immediate contribution for the Cougars this season.

Deion Smith (6-0, 190 RB): Smith was a relatively unexpected transfer from Colorado, who was the Buffaloes leading rusher from a season ago totaling 393 yards and two touchdowns on 83 carries.

Smith’s omission may be primarily due to the glut of talent existing in BYU’s running back ranks which makes it tough to assign specific contributions to this year’s team. What Smith does possess is a lot of experience and a speed element that could certainly separate himself during the fall practice session and into the 2023 BYU football season.

Considering all the above factors makes it seem a little nuts to leave him off a top 25 list, but it is what it is.

Kamden Garrett (5-11, 175 CB): Yes, we collectively left this Weber State transfer with three years of playing experience off our top 25 list, and we don’t feel good about it, at all.

Not only does Garrett possess the necessary qualities to see immediate and significant contribution, but it’s sort of expected of him, given the relative lack of depth at the cornerback position. Oh, and he’s very familiar with first-year BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill’s defensive system which certainly gives him a leg-up in competing for a starting spot this fall. Yes, Garrett could very well prove the single biggest omission from our preseason list.

Simi Moala (6-7, 307 OL): Moala has been out of football for a while now, but certainly has the athletic credentials to make an immediate contribution while proving top 25-worthy. Moala started 14 games for Utah as a redshirt freshman back in 2019 with scant playing experience since due to injury and family issues.

But he’s back and poised to make a potential strong contribution to this year’s BYU football team after transferring from Jackson State. Offensive line isn’t a plug-and-play position, though, making Moala’s contribution all the more difficult regardless of his superior athletic credentials.

Returning players

Here’s where it gets really dicey, as strong arguments could be made up and down BYU’s existing roster of returning talent to be included within any top 25 list.

Glaring omissions include but aren’t limited to players such as Miles Davis (6-2, 210 RB), who is coming off a strong spring practice performance on top of showing flashes of brilliance playing last season, along with Talan Alfrey (6-3, 205 safety) who could very well wind up starting this season.

And that’s not it.

Other omissions very well may include Jon Nelson (6-4, 275 DL), who has proven productive along BYU’s front and Brayden Keim (6-8, 310 OL) who stood out during spring practices amongst several others.



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