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BYU football 2016 spring game preview: New faces lead to big questions

BYU takes the field for the first time in 2016 this Saturday, bringing optimism but also anxiety for what is to come.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue and White Spring Game kicks off for the BYU Cougars this Saturday at 2pm and with it brings an incredible level of excitement, but also significant uncertainty.

Not since 2005 has there been more unknown within the football program. The Cougars capped off a disappointing 5-6 season with then coach Gary Crowton by getting ran off the field against then #5 in the nation, Utah. What ensued in the off-season however, was nothing short of disastrous that ultimately led to the firing of Crowton and hiring of then defensive coordinator, Bronco Mendenhall.

Bronco was able to help the program rise from the ashes and left behind over a decade worth of consistency and winning. Every year BYU fans knew what they were going to get on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

But this year is different, Coach Mendenhall has moved on, along with almost the entire coaching staff. Kalani Sitake is left with the same task that every new coach has: elevate the program.

From now until game one, the main topic of conversation will be how BYU plans to deal with two elite quarterbacks in Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum. Taysom is still rehabbing his foot and is expected to play some Saturday, but we will learn nothing about the QB situation this weekend because he is not healthy enough to scrimmage (though he will play in some 7-on-7).

Here are 5 questions that should be on your mind heading into Saturday's scrimmage:

1) What will BYU’s style be?

2016 brings a rookie head coach in Sitake, a rookie defensive coordinator in Tuiaki and a rookie college offensive coordinator in Detmer. Given the levels of experience, we have little to go off of in being able to predict the style of play, but let’s focus on what we do know.

Phot Credit: George Frey/Getty Images

Kalani is known as guy who plays in your face, hard nosed defense. His mentality is simple, "we are going to line up, and we are going to beat you." He expects his defense to win battles, period. Bronco’s approach was more about managing gaps and a lot of moving around to confuse the QB or other offensive players. Kalani lines up in the traditional 4-3 (4 d-lineman, 3 linebackers) and he is coming at you. Expect to see a lot of press coverage on the outside and a forceful pass rush off the edges.

Ty Detmer has never coached at the collegiate level before, which brings about even more uncertainty than the defense. What he did at the high school level is not a good indicator for college because the type of game is so different. What we can go off of though, is what he has been saying this off season about his offense.

Ty has repeatedly said that he plans to run a pro-style, west coast offense. Consider the 2000’s USC Trojans or Urban Meyer teams as a comparison. BYU will sometimes still spread it out, with often four or even five WR and will go from the shotgun.

One misconception about the west coast offense is that there are not many running plays. We can expect a lot of inside out and misdirection running plays. The main element the west coast offense brings is described in one word: options.

Another thing Coach Detmer has mentioned is that the team will huddle. This seems like such an antiquated approach in 2016, but he feels that is it best for his squad. Ty is known among legendary quarterbacks in the NFL as one who was a master of the game, and always prepared. Look for Detmer to instill this same level of control and responsibility in his quarterbacks by allowing them to lead huddles and audible at the line of scrimmage. This approach is enticing, given the maturity and football IQ of both quarterbacks.

2) Will the tight end be resurrected?

There are multiple articles on this and it has quickly become a topic of excitement to fans. Former offensive coordinator Robert Anae functionally did away with the tight end at BYU, but Ed Lamb recently said the team is holding auditions for the positions this spring. In short, it sounds like it this for real.

Keep your eyes locked in on who is playing the position and what kind of routes they are running. Josh Weeks and Bryan Sampson appear to be the front-runners on the depth chart at this time (though Weeks' standing may now be in jeopardy).

3) How will they use star recruit, Troy Warner?

Troy is a unique talent and several coaches have alluded to him potentially playing both sides of the ball this year. This is common in high school, but is definitely rare in any level beyond that. And that is why Troy is someone you should keep your eye on come Saturday. He is expected to be a starter at corner, but also play some wide receiver.

Also, Akile Davis is potentially going to play both ways as well, starting at receiver but getting snaps at corner.

4) What will the pass rush look like?


Sione Takitaki - Photo Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

As pointed out earlier, Sitake and Tuiaki both, love to get pressure on the quarterback and win battles at the line of scrimmage. Combine that with the change to the 4-3 and the end result is an intense pass rush. Which players are involved in the scheme is something to look for during the scrimmage. There are a whole slew of athletes that have been speculated to do so.

Sione Takitaki, Moses Kaumatule, Tomasi Laulile and Sae Tautu all have one thing in common: speed. Tautu is a must watch because he is moving positions from linebacker to defensive end similar to Bronson Kaufusi last year. Speaking of position changes, that brings us to our final question that we hope to get answered from the scrimmage.

5) Who and where will position changes take place?

It seems that coaches are united in the philosophy of getting the best players to the positions on the field that give them the best chance to win games. This is something Kyle Whittingham sticks to, even in the midst of criticism, and Sitake likely picked it up from him.

There is much speculation about who is going where, but one player that all fans should pay attention to is Trey Dye. Trey is incredibly athletic and is particularly quick with a high football IQ. He played receiver last year but running back looks to be his home right now. Jamaal Williams will undoubtedly be the feature back, but it never hurts to have too much depth, and adding another pass catching back is exciting. Harvey Langi is another name who may be getting some action at running back.

Honorable mentions:

Does Jamaal Williams look comfortable after missing a year?

How much bigger and stronger does Mangum look after a full off season of workouts?

What is the body language of the players like? Huge culture change from Bronco to Sitake, what does that mean for attitude and unity?

Support the Cougars

2016 is an election year, and there are many people who will vote for the first time ever. Likewise, there are many people interested in the spring scrimmage for the first time ever given everything that has taken place in the past few months. Come out and support the Cougars, gates open at 1 p.m.