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5 Most Important BYU Football Players For 2023 Season

Besides the quarterback Kedon Slovis, who are the five most important players to BYU in 2023?

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NCAA Football: Utah Tech at Brigham Young Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, the most important player on any football field anywhere, is the quarterback. To avoid addressing the obvious, we will omit starting quarterback Kedon Slovis from this list of most important BYU Cougars. BYU’s success largely rides on the quality of quarterback play.

What about everywhere else on the field? Here are the five most important BYU football players for the success of the 2023 team. These are players that, while maybe not stars, are vitally important to how far this team goes.

Kingsley Suamataia, LT

Another semi-obvious one is the man who will protect Slovis’ blindside. Not only is Suamataia the starting left tackle, but he likely will be the highest draft pick of any BYU Cougar in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Pro Football Network ranked him the 30th prospect overall in next spring’s draft. ESPN’s Jordan Reid slated Suamataia to go 29th overall to the 49ers in the 2024 draft.

Bruce Feldman released his popular “Freaks List” for The Athletic and listed Suamataia third.

It’s not all just athletic traits and hype. He’s good at his craft, not allowing a sack last season in 361 pass plays.

Needless to say, the 6-foot-6, 324 pound tackle is one of the key pieces to the 2023 BYU Cougars. Him staying healthy is paramount.

Isaac Rex, TE

BYU has an impressive crop of wide receivers. In fact, this might be the deepest BYU has ever been at wide receiver under Kalani Sitake. The same can be said at running back. Where the true separation can happen is if Rex returns to his 2020 form. That year, he was tied with Kyle Pitts for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end, at 12.

Since then, he has battled injuries, including a significant one at the end of 2021. Hopefully, with a healthy offseason under his belt, Rex is ready to take command in the middle of the field and in the red zone once again. He could become a security blanket for Slovis on third downs and in goal-to-go situations.

The choice here is Rex over the likes of Aidan Robbins, Kody Epps, Keanu Hill, Chase Roberts, and others for a reason. If Rex dominates, along with the talent BYU has at running back and wide receiver, that gives Slovis an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. At that point, this could legitimately be one of the best offenses in the entire country.

Tyler Batty, DE

The biggest critique last season was BYU’s defense. Especially in regards to run defense and pass rush from the defensive line. Tyler Batty has been a constant presence on BYU’s defense for three full seasons now, going on four.

The problem is, his sacks total has decreased every season of his career. He opened in 2020 with 4.0 sacks. It went down to 3.5 in 2021 and just 2.0 sacks last season. Some of that is not his fault. The defensive strategies and schemes have not been tailored to Batty’s strengths of late.

That needs to change under new defensive coordinator Jay Hill. Batty needs to spearhead a pass rushing attack that must look revitalized in a critical year for the defense.

If BYU can field a competent defense, including a viable pass rush, coupled with that powerful offense, BYU will be a tough out for any Big 12 team. That pass rush should start with Batty having a career season.

Ben Bywater, LB

It’s hard to leave off the defender who has led BYU in tackles two years in row. He has 200 tackles total over the last two seasons. Add four tackles for loss, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and one sack all just last season. He has been one of the most productive linebackers in the Kalani Sitake era at BYU.

Now, he will be asked to be the leader on the field for the defense in a new era for the program. The Cougars need him to be as productive in 2023 as he was last season. The Cougars must defend the run better and that has a lot to do with linebacker play. Bywater needs to be a constant presence and bring along his fellow linebackers in the process.

Eddie Heckard, CB

Perhaps the most important transfer from this offseason, aside from Slovis, is Heckard. An FCS All-American cornerback, Heckard garnered NFL buzz before opting to follow his former head coach Jay Hill to Provo from Weber State.

Now, he is the lynchpin of the secondary. With Heckard’s presence, BYU is feeling like they can play press coverage and be more aggressive. His mere presence changes the entire mentality of this much-maligned defense.

If he plays up to his expectations, this defense will be miles better by default. BYU needs Heckard to be one of the alphas in the room, especially with the rest of the secondary taking hits with injuries.