Traditionally, BYU has been able to count on one position group consistently: quarterback. Conversely, defensive backs have been a group BYU struggles with. An exciting aspect of the 2017 season is that the defensive backs will likely be one of the best position groups on the team.
The corners are as deep as ever and bave the athleticism to compete week to week. Cornerbacks Coach Jernaro Gilford spoke on this at media day.
Troy Warner (So.)
Troy enters his second year in BYU blue after flipping his commitment from Oregon late in the process prior to last season. The 4-star prospect struggled to stay on the field because of injuries last year but lived up to the hype when he was able to play.
Even as a freshman, Warner looked calm and poised throughout the year. Perhaps having his older brother Fred alongside gave him confidence. Or, perhaps Troy is just that good.
Remember, Troy had offers from everyone coming out of college. USC, Notre Dame and Stanford all offered him before he committed to Oregon. Recently, Troy told the Deseret News that "there is no ceiling for us (secondary)" Hopefully, there is not a ceiling for him either.
Isaiah Armstrong (Jr.)
Isaiah played one year at a junior college for Riverside City in 2015 before joining BYU last season. As a senior in high school, he had an astounding 13 interceptions. Upon his transfer, I wrote the following after watching his high school film:
After one season, it is hard to gauge if my analysis is correct, but he did record an interception last year in limited playing time. Isaiah has good size for a corner at 6'3" 195 lbs and is a great athlete. Even though he is not a starter, he is expected to see a lot of action this year.
Chris Wilcox (So.)
The one word that sums up Chris Wilcox is speed. In high school, Chris was a track star competing in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. As a freshman, Chris started in two games last year finishing with 9 tackles. He may see time at Nickel this season.
Like Isaiah Armstrong, saw limited action last year but is expected to see real playing time this year. Coach Sitake told 1280theZone in a recent interview that "(Wilcox) is going to be a big time player for us and will be a mainstay in our defense."
Dayan Ghanwoloku (RS So.)
Have no fear, you do know who this is. Dayan Lake changed his name in the offseason to honor his uncle, who recently passed away. Jeff Call of the Deseret News wrote a great piece on the fascinating story earlier this year.
Dayan was an impact player last year, to say the least. He will start opposite Troy Warner this year, which means the two young sophomores need to build on last years success. One way to do that is to get faster, and that is exactly what Ghanwoloku has done during the offseason by dropping from 205 to 190.
In eight starts, Dayan had 48 tackles and three interceptions with one being a pick six. The numbers show that he is great at staying on his assignment and making a play on the ball. These are also the two things Ghanwoloku told BYU Sports Nation he wants to improve upon.
Michael Shelton (Jr.)
Hampered by an injury in 2016, Michael only saw time towards the end of the year. His famous play came against Utah State where he ran back a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown.
Shelton has a small frame at 5'8" but makes up for it in speed and athleticism. Michael runs a 4.4 40 and won a gold medal in the 800m in the Junior Olympics in high school. Auburn offered him a scholarship coming out of high school.
Shelton will look to best his freshman year where he played in 12 games and recorded 25 total tackles.
Austin McChesney (So.)
As a freshmen, Austin played in nine games before a season-ending knee injury. McChesney played wide receiver in high school and has great hands to go along with his high football IQ.
Hopefully, McChesney can come back stronger from his injury and improve upon his promising freshman year.
Jenaro Gilford summed up this cornerback group perfectly in one word: fun. There has even been rumblings of a “Looney Toons” nickname from the players. The group is young but most have experience at the d-1 level.
The main question that needs to be answered is, “who is the lockdown guy(s)?” Who will be the guy that steps up week in and week out to take out the #1 receiver on the other team? It’s difficult to say at this point and hopefully there is an answer quickly as the early schedule is daunting.
On the bright side, the 2017 cornerbacks is a legit 3-deep on both sides. The position has been a huge focus since Kalani took over and it looks like it is starting to pay off. Speed and athleticism are two things that BYU has rarely seen at cornerback over the course of its history. Get ready for a season where the Cougars have both.