Zach Wilson isn’t coming through that door in Provo this season. Neither is a host of other standouts such as Brady Christensen, Khyiris Tonga, Dax Milne, Chris Wilcox or Matt Bushman, among others.
2021 marks a new chapter in the Kalani Sitake era and the first year post-Zach Wilson, after he finished eighth in Heisman voting in 2020 on his way to the No. 2 overall pick, the highest selection in school history.
During BYU’s Media Day on Thursday, the team released their first depth chart of the 2021 season, now just 79 days from kickoff in Las Vegas against Arizona.
Fans’ eyes will certainly go right to the quarterback position. If you are looking for any breaking news regarding the position battle between Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover, you won’t find it. The official listing says Hall -OR- Romney -OR- Conover. This means there will be an intense battle when BYU starts fall camp on August 5th.
Between the three of them, Baylor Romney has the most experience. The redshirt sophomore has appeared in nine games and led BYU to three wins in 2019 against Boise State, Utah State, and Liberty.
There is more clarity at running back, where Tyler Allgeier, fresh off of a 1,130-yard campaign, and Lopini Katoa spearhead a two-pronged running attack.
Masen Wake was listed as a fullback last season. There is no fullback slot listed this year and Wake finds himself as the No. 2 tight end behind 2020 breakout sensation Isaac Rex. He scored three touchdowns from scrimmage last season.
In regards to new starters stepping in for NFL draft picks, Blake Freeland takes the reins at left tackle following Brady Christensen’s departure to the Carolina Panthers. He played in 11 games last season at right tackle including eight starts. Now he swings over to the left side.
Clark Barrington, James Empey, Connor Pay, and Harris LaChance round out the offensive line starters.
Atunaisa Mahe has big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively, at nose guard. The 6-foot-4, 321-pound Tonga was selected in the seventh round by the Bears. Mahe holds his own with size, at 6-foot-1, 302 pounds. He did not play last season but made 22 tackles in 2019.
Chris Wilcox left a hole at cornerback that, for now, is filled by redshirt junior D’Angelo Mandell. He has appeared in 20 games over three seasons, with 36 tackles and one pass defended.
At receiver, the assumed No. 1 target will be Gunner Romney. Neil Pau’u is slated as the second starter, following a 600-yard campaign in 2020. Dax Milne was selected by the Washington Football Team in the seventh round and Chris Jackson steps into a starting role. He appeared in seven games last season and accumulated 65 yards from scrimmage.
Defensively, there are 18 different defensive positions listed. Obviously, you can only have 11 on the field at a time. BYU’s defense will be young but based on the massive list of positions, they are looking to be versatile. The Cougars’ second-leading tackler, Keenan Pili, reprises his role at the MIKE linebacker position.
On special teams, there are no surprises as Jake Oldroyd continues his kicking duties. He has racked up 197 points in his career already.
A lot can change between now and kickoff on September 4 in Las Vegas. All eyes are on the quarterback battle, which will surely rage on throughout fall camp leading up to their game against Arizona.
Below is the full depth chart, courtesy of Jay Drew. Note that newcomers such as the Nacua brothers are not listed since it only contains players that were on the team for Spring Ball.