The secondary is not only supposed to be the strength of the Cougar defense this year, but the best group in the backfield in a very long time! The only problem with that is that if teams can run the ball, the secondary is neutralized. As goes the front 7 so goes to defense. The front three do not worry me at all. Vic So’Oto, Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna. Eathyn was the best nose tackle I ever played behind and now he has been moved out to DE to add a big punishing body on the outside of the DL to occupy more blockers. Romney Fuga in the middle is a great fit and if Vic So’Oto can stay healthy, he will be one heck of a menace on opposing QBs. The depth at DLine is found in Matt
Putnam, Travis Tuiloma and Jordan Richardson, all very capable of spelling the starters throughout the game.
The biggest question mark is who plays linebacker alongside Jordan Pendleton. The guy is a freak, but the other three spots will be filled with somewhat un-proven players. BYU needs to solidify the middle 4 before September 4th, but I would expect there to be about 6 players all getting a lot of time this season.
Overall Grade: C+ until the LBs show they can stop the run
Enough has been said about the QB battle and quite frankly its reached Brett Favre status in my mind, meaning, who cares anymore? I'll just wait until game week and see who is getting reps with the ones, just like I waited for Pre-Season Viking games to start to see Brett. The fans what Heaps, but I don't think you can discount what Nelson brings to the table in terms of an option threat. So for this year I would reference Florida Gators, Leak/Tebow.
The offensive line is huge as always and very talented. As individuals they have a lot of experience. I have played against everyone of these guys in practice and they are mean suckers. I would expect a slight improvement from last seasons line.
The backfield will be by committee until a clear dominating force reveals itself. I personally hope to see a lot of Bryan Kariya running (see OU '09) and DiLuigi catching passes out of the backfield or on screens. Joshua Quezada makes a great 2nd runner to carry about 35% of the run load. One guy who is getting no love is Zed Mendenhall. This guy reminds me of one Joe Semanoff. Who? precisely. Joe was a great workhorse in the backfield that nobody knew about. Very physical lead blocker and trustworthy. Zed is the same kind of guy and could take on the Manase Tonga role. He won't be Manase yet, but he is a capable replacement.
The passing game is going to be in full force for the cougars with what I would imagine are a lot of 4 and 5 WR sets. The Cougars boast a lot of experience, talent and depth at wideout and the TE, although big and athletic (I think only 1 is listed under 6-4) are all freshmen save for a JC transfer. All the freshmen were highly touted coming out of high school and are expected to produce, but they will need some games to get their feet wet.
Answer? Welcome back the Nate Meikle position, or if you are from New England, the Wes Welker slot! This is a great weapon that the Cougars have not used the past 3 years because of having 2 all conference caliber TEs. I would hope to see McKay Jacobson or Spencer Hafoka get put into this slot position, maybe even DiLuigi at times to add a shifty quick threat in the passing game.
Overall Grade: B+ We need a clear starting QB not two headed monsters
Payne and Sorensen are back for the Cougars so the "kicking" part of the kicking game will remain the same which is slightly above average. As for the rest of the special teams play? Coach Mendenhall will have these units whipped into shape, especially the kickoff team, as that is the job he took over this year.
Overall Grade: B+ I still hold my breath on field goals
BYU will be test right of the gate. The games that worry me right now are Washington, Florida State and Nevada. Air Force is tough but the BYU defense has owned the academy by simplifying the scheme. AFA's only chance is to pull a Tulsa '07 and use every trick in the book, because the base package won't work.
For the second part of the season BYU has to focus hard on Utah and TCU. What could potentially be the last Holy War in a while will be primed and ready to blow especially if both teams come in with good records and high rankings. As for the TCU game, it's time for BYU to get some respect back from what is supposed to be a national title contender this year.
Sleeper game? SDSU. Every year they put more talent into the NFL than BYU, but they have consistently lacked discipline and effort. Those are the foundational pillars of Rocky Long and as he enters his 2nd season as the DC in San Diego I would expect there to be a lot more ferociousness to their defense. Not to mention what Brady Hoke is demanding of the offense. BYU can't treat them like the SDSU of the past 4 years.
Overall: A- (10-3)