As I write this installment of Countdown to Kickoff, I’m enjoying the MLB All-Star festivities, which include the home run derby. It’s an impressive show of talent from some of the young players in the game, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr of the Blue Jays and Pete Alonso of the New York Mets. Their pure talent to demolish the baseball is awe-inspiring.
Naturally, the home run derby turned my thoughts to BYU Football, having me ask the question “who are the home run hitters on BYU’s roster?”
A home run play in football doesn’t really have a specific definition but it’s usually classified as an offensive play that goes a long distance. A lot of media types like to use 25+ yard plays as “explosive plays” but since we’re 50 days from kickoff, we’ll go big and say that runs or pass plays of 50 yards or more qualify as home runs. If you’re looking for a player reference, Todd Watkins was the ultimate home run hitter, as it seemed like the guy was as threat to score a touchdown on every play. If you look at last year, there was somewhat of a power outage as the Cougars only had three plays that qualified as home runs.
Matt Hadley’s 59-yard reception vs Boise State
Lopini Katoa’s 50-yard run vs New Mexico State
Aleva Hifo’s 70-yard reception vs Central Michigan
It took the Cougars NINE games to connect on a long ball and only two more came after the fact. It’s no secret that BYU’s offense hasn’t been explosive the last two seasons and that number further confirms it. Kalani Sitake and Jeff Grimes have both discussed how they are working to get BYU’s offense to be more explosive. Who are the players that can help deliver these “home run” plays for BYU this season? Let’s take a look.
- Aleva Hifo - Aleva had BYU’s longest play from scrimmage last year and he produced many other explosive plays for the Cougars. His ability to run and catch the ball will give him plenty of opportunities to swing for the fences.
- Gunner Romney - With a name like Gunner you have to be ready to make big plays. He suffered a setback with a hamstring injury early last year that impacted his entire season. He has the ability to make big plays and hopefully a clean bill of health will lead to them.
- Matt Bushman - There were plenty of big plays that came by way of Matt Bushman last season but none that reached the 50+ mark. Matt will be BYU’s go to receiver in the short to intermediate routes but I can see him breaking off so big plays when he gets lined up as a wide out.
- Luc Andrada and Jackson McChesney - I’m grouping these guys together because they’re both players that possess blazing speed but haven’t played a single down of football at the D1 level. If they can adapt to the college game quickly then I can see some long balls in their collective future.
- Zach Wilson - Since most big plays come through the air, a lot of the home run balls will start with Zach Wilson. He definitely has the arm to make these plays and Wilson showed last year that he can make big plays with his legs as well.
- Lopini Katoa - The running game for BYU has been the opposite of explosive the last two seasons but having a healthy stable of running backs should help. Of all the running backs on the roster Lopini has the speed to break off a long run and hopefully he’ll get plenty of chances to do so.