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BYU football: Freshmen making key contributions for the Cougars

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After a surprising 2-1 start, BYU has gotten key contributions from all over the roster. Many of those contributions have been from freshmen, the majority of whom are Kalani Sitake recruits.

Wide Receiver

  • Gunner Romney - The crowning jewel of BYU’s 2018 recruiting class was banged up in fall camp but had two big catches in the upset win over Wisconsin. After missing the Arizona game, Romney got more playing this past game compared to the Cal game. Romney’s 4 catches are 5th on the team and his 50 receiving yards are 4th.
  • Dax Milne - A preferred walk-on in the 2018 recruiting class, Milne came to BYU after going under-the-radar in a run-heavy system at Bingham HS. Milne got a lot of snaps in the Wisconsin game and nearly got a foot inbounds for a TD catch in the back of the endzone.

Tight End

  • Dallin Holker - Another member of the 2018 recruiting class, Holker has had some key plays in his young BYU career. He had a long reception overturned versus Wisconsin, but he had a near TD versus Arizona and made some key blocks in Madison. He made this block in front of Aleva Hifo which sprung the 31-yard TD pass.

Offensive Line

BYU started THREE freshmen offensive linemen on Saturday. Bright future ahead for this group, which also includes sophomore Notre Dame transfer Tristen Hoge.

  • James Empey - The former Utah signee has been a force at the always important center position. BYU hasn’t lost a beat transitioning from four-year starter Tejan Koroma to Empey.
  • Brady Christensen - Lightly recruited out of Bountiful High School, Christensen has started all three games at left tackle. Jeff Grimes said Christensen was the highest graded lineman from the Arizona game. Christensen has been one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises on the team.
  • Keanu Saleapaga - A defensive lineman just one month ago, Saleapaga switched to the offensive side of the ball during fall camp. Saleapaga got his first career start at Wisconsin when he replaced two-year starter and former freshman all-american Thomas Shoaf at left guard. Coaches' willingness to start Saleapaga in front of a veteran like Shoaf speaks volumes to Keanu’s talent and potential.

Defensive Line

  • Devin Kaufusi - The younger brother of Corbin, Devin has played in all three of BYU’s games. A little undersized still, Devin has already shown flashes of his pass-rushing ability. Look for Devin to get in the sack column very soon.


More than just about any other position, BYU has been getting big contributions from freshmen at the cornerback spot.

  • D’Angelo Mandell - Formerly known as D’Angelo Gunter when he signed, Mandell has played in all three games and been asked to cover some of the opposing team’s top receivers.
  • Keenan Ellis - The redshirt freshman has played all three games and has come up with four tackles.
  • Isaiah Herron - The true freshman out of Las Vegas has played in all three games and got a lot of run on the outside in the Wisconsin game.
  • Malik Moore - Another true freshman that was part of the 2018 recruiting class, Moore has appeared in all three games.


  • Skyler Southam- BYU has a kicker! After missing a 52-yard field to the right earlier in the game, Southam knocked in a 45-yard field that was the deciding score in BYU’s 24-21 win over the Badgers. BYU’s kicking position looks to be in good hands (er, legs) the next four years.

Look for more freshmen to get reps in the upcoming game versus McNeese State as BYU will look to jump to a big lead in hopes of resting starters and giving younger guys game experience.