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Mondays With Mitch: Who Is BYU’s Top Wide Receiver?

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15) celebrates after running back Matt Hadley (2) ran for a touchdown, putting the Cougars up 20-0 over the Utah Utes during the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

 Note: Mondays With Mitch is a weekly column where KSLsports.com BYU Insider Mitch Harper gives a deep-dive look into BYU sports by answering your questions with stats, opinion, and insight.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Another Monday is here and that means one more day closer to the start of the 2019 BYU football season and a new installment of Mondays With Mitch.

This summer has flown by. I’m not a huge fan of summer, to be honest.  I like July 4th, an occasional barbeque here and there, but the heat is draining.

I’m not the biggest fan of summer but I am a fan of Swig’s Endless Summer drink.  Ironic, right?

My summer body never came through this year and I didn’t get to participate in “Hot Boy Summer” but that’s okay because once summer is over it means football season.

Only 10 days away!

10 Days ‘Til Kickoff: 5 in the secondary?

In 10 days, BYU is going to kick off against the rival Utah Utes to open up the 2019 season.  What areas still need to be addressed by BYU before the opener?

The middle linebacker spot is a position that needs to be figured out as soon as possible.

Junior outside linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi said on Cougar Sports Saturday over the weekend that he wasn’t concerned with no one emerging yet in the middle of his linebacking unit.  Kaufusi then went on to say he believes the MLB position will end up being a strength of the defense.

The middle linebacker position is considered the quarterback of the defense, so it would be ideal for BYU if it does end up being a strength.

Associate head assistant and linebackers coach Ed Lamb said all four players Kavika Fonua, Keenan Pili, Payton Wilgar, and Jackson Kaufusi, are still on equal footing for that vacant spot.

With no one emerging, it feels as though the middle linebacker spot could end up being a weakness rather than a strength.  What could be ways for BYU to overcome that weakness?

What about the secondary?  With the prolific passing attacks in college football that consistently emerge every year, more defenses are moving to a scheme that boasts five players in the secondary.

Does BYU have the personnel to run such a scheme?

The secondary currently features seniors Dayan Ghanwoloku at starting cornerback and former Utah transfer Austin Lee at free safety.  Both are locks to be starters.  Then BYU could turn to guys like D’Angelo Mandell, Isaiah Herron, or junior college transfer Dimitri Gallow at cornerback with Malik Moore and Sawyer Powell as the top candidates at strong safety.

It’s an outside the box line of thinking, but it might be one that the Cougars should consider heading into their opener 10 days from now.

Mailbag – Who’s the top wide receiver?

Kyle Olsen writes via e-mail: Do you think that Aleva Hifo has taken the spot as BYU’s top receiver? I ask because I’ve heard more big plans from him and I believe he was the only receiver held out of the scrimmage. 

Follow up question, if Hifo has become the top receiver is that a good or bad thing for BYU?

BYU’s top receiver debate is interesting to me.  I’ve wavered back and forth on whether or not it’s important BYU has a clear-cut number one wide receiver.  I don’t think it’s necessary, but it would sure be nice for the Cougars if they did have one emerge.

To answer your question Kyle, I wouldn’t say Hifo is the top guy at the moment.  The top receiver right now coming out of fall camp (assuming we’re not including tight ends) is senior Talon Shumway.

Quarterback Zach Wilson said in an interview on Cougar Tracks that Shumway was the “reliable” guy and one of his top targets.  Hifo is someone that was used in a lot of different ways last year in Grimes’ offense. But from what we saw last year when Wilson took over as QB, Shumway was one of the more targeted receivers in the Cougar offense.

In regards to your follow up question, no it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Hifo or anyone for that matter emerged as the top receiver.  BYU has a bunch of guys right now that have shown flashes of brilliance, but they need to take that next step forward in their careers.

Jeff Grimes has been very complimentary of these wide receivers all off-season saying they were the most improved group in spring practices and that to continue to evolve in fall camp.

Stat of the Week: 257

Last season, former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill played in 257 snaps for the New Orleans Saints in 2018.  The breakdown of those snaps.

75 – Kick Returner

55 – Quarterback

55 – Wide Receiver

55 – Tight End

11 – Running Back

6 – Special Teams & Blocked Punt

Coming off yesterday’s come-from-behind victory in week two of the preseason, Taysom Hill is making a case to be Drew Brees’ primary backup quarterback in New Orleans.

BYU fans should honestly be rooting for Hill’s snaps in 2019 to go down from the 257 he played in a season ago because that means he’s the valuable number two quarterback behind Brees.

Video of the Week

Every Monday here on Monday’s With Mitch, I’ll spotlight a video that caught my eye.  This week’s video features an NCAA Football 14 simulation of the BYU-Utah game in 10 days.  Let’s just say, Cougar fans would be jumping for joy if this simulation actually played out in real life.

BYU defeated Utah 31-20 in this video game simulation.  I’d be very surprised if the Cougars put up 31 points against the Utes on August 29th, but it might be necessary if BYU wants to end the eight-game losing streak to the rival Utes.

Also, EA Sports, let’s find a way to get NCAA Football back on these next-gen video game consoles (Xbox One & PlayStation 4) please?

Feel free to send me questions or comments to my Twitter, @Mitch_Harper or shoot me an e-mail: mharper@ksl.com.  I’ll get to as many questions/comments as I can each and every Monday here on the Mondays With Mitch column.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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