10 Questions To Be Answered During BYU Football Spring Practice
PROVO, Utah – With all the excitement surrounding the Cougar hoops program, BYU football has taken a bit of a backseat in recent days. But BYU football spring practice begins this Monday.
Coaches concluded the first install meetings of spring practice on Tuesday as they trickled back into Provo after a rare stretch of time to get away from the game and take much-needed vacations. Head coach Kalani Sitake and his wife Timberly took a trip to Belize during that stretch.
But now it’s time to get back to work with BYU football spring practice. The 2020 season for BYU looks to be a year that has some question marks, but as usual, some intriguing untapped potential. Last year was another mediocre 7-6 campaign and this time BYU isn’t riding high into spring practice off a bowl victory like a season ago.
Let’s take a look at 10 questions heading into BYU football spring practice that will likely be answered over the course of the 15 spring practices.
What assignment changes are expected in BYU Football spring practice?
BYU currently has one opening on its coaching staff at running back, but head coach Kalani Sitake has hinted at assignment changes in the past. What will those changes consist of? Sitake said on Cougar Sports Saturday (KSL NewsRadio, Saturday 12-3 pm) during Signing Day that those changes would be “announced soon.”
The most important assignment is the person tasked to handle the offense. In the final seven games of the 2019 season, the narrative was “collaborative effort” handled the offense. That has to be cleared up as BYU looks to become an offense that builds off the impressive passing yards into a group that is putting up more points in 2020.
How open is the competition at quarterback?
BYU’s coaching staff has put it out there heading into spring practices that competition will take place everywhere on the roster, including quarterback. Is that coach speak, or will there be a full-fledged competition at the most visible position between Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall, and Baylor Romney?
Wilson’s numbers dipped a season ago but at no point last year was 100 percent as he recovered from an off-season shoulder injury and an in-season injury to his thumb that opened the door for Hall and Romney to show off their abilities.
With a clean bill of health this off-season, all eyes will be on Wilson who’s in the pole position to make it clear that he will be BYU’s QB1 this fall.
What is Chaz Ah You’s status?
Ah You, a talented junior linebacker, was arrested for suspicion of DUI earlier this month in Eagle Mountain. With all the charges being allegations at this time as the legal process plays itself out, Ah You’s status with the program will be important to have cleared up.
A former four-star recruit, Ah You is one of the top returning linebackers from a group that was one of the biggest surprises a season ago.
With DHC not enrolling until summer, who will be the top guys at running back?
University of Utah transfer Devonta’e Henry-Cole won’t be part of BYU’s running back room this spring as he continues to wrap up his degree at the rival up north. With no DHC in the mix, it opens the door for BYU’s returning backs to make it clear that DHC won’t be a Day 1 starter the day he steps on campus.
Junior Lopini Katoa will have the inside track on being the top guy in spring. Katoa has rushed for 781 yards in his first two seasons and is a Matt Bellini-type out of the backfield with his ability to catch the football.
Other options include Tyler Allgeier who is expected to remain at running back after switching from linebacker towards the tail end of the season last fall. Allgeier is on track to receive a scholarship for his improved play and work in the classroom.
Then there is redshirt freshman Jackson McChesney who had one of the best single-game performances in the history of the BYU football program, yet didn’t have a carry again in the final two games of the year.
Sione Finau will continue to be sidelined as he is working through recovery from ACL surgery he had completed in January.
Who steps up at wide receiver?
The wide receiver room will be one of the more intriguing spots to watch throughout spring ball. BYU’s top three receivers in Micah Simon, Talon Shumway, and Aleva Hifo have all moved on and need to be replaced. Who fills those shoes?
All signs point to Gunner Romney being the best player to emerge as a No. 1 receiver for BYU. Other receivers include Neil Pau’u who Passing Game Coordinator Aaron Roderick said on Signing Day is one of the best athletes on the offense. Pau’u returns after a year-long suspension for a DUI.
Junior Dax Milne has been one of the more reliable targets in the offense and redshirt freshman Keanu Hill might be the most intriguing with his combination of size and upside.
What will the BYU defense do to create more havoc?
The 17 sacks BYU had in 2019 was in the bottom third of college football. With Khyiris Tonga returning for his senior season and Lorenzo Fauatea who had flashes of dominance last year, what is going to change for BYU’s defense to create more havoc?
Kalani Sitake defenses have always been known to create pressure and play an aggressive brand of football. Dropping back eight is anything but aggressive.
There are more upperclassmen in the front seven than there has been since Sitake’s first year in 2016, it seems like the perfect time to make a big leap forward with getting to the quarterback. But schemes and decisions have to change, we should get an early glance of those changes in the spring.
Who will replace Dayan Ghanwoloku at cornerback?
Whenever BYU needed a big play on defense, more times than not, Dayan Ghanwoloku always came through for the Cougars. Now Ghanwoloku is gone as he tries to pursue an NFL career and he leaves big shoes to fill in the cornerback room.
Redshirt senior Chris Wilcox will be one of the starters at corner and he will be brought along slowly as he had an injury one week after making his lone appearance a season ago, but the other spot is up for grabs.
The early favorites are D’Angelo Mandell, Isaiah Herron, and Shamon Willis who saw a lot of playing time last season. A new face that gets added to the mix is Caleb Christensen who enrolled this past January after grey shirting last season.
What should we expect from seniors Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson at safety?
Sometimes injuries can be a blessing as it might keep a talented player around a year longer than expected. That’s the case with both Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson. The talented duo will be the leaders at safety and step in for Austin Lee who was one of the top players in college football a season ago according to Pro Football Focus.
Anderson moves back to safety after playing at outside linebacker the past two seasons. Shoulder injuries have plagued Anderson the last two years and because of those physical setbacks, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.
Warner has dealt with foot injuries off and on the past handful of years, but he was able to play in four games a season ago and maintain his redshirt. Now he heads into his final season looking to put his best work out there for NFL scouts so he can have a shot at the next level.
Who will be the surprises of spring?
Every year there are a handful of guys that emerge out of nowhere to make a name for themselves during spring ball. Who will those guys be this year? A few names that I believe could emerge as surprises include returned missionary defensive end Tyler Batty, redshirt freshman tight end Isaac Rex, Utah transfer offensive tackle Mo Unutoa, junior defensive end Alden Tofa, and walk-ons Koy Harris and Michael Bruno.
What will the spring scrimmage look like?
The annual Blue & White spring scrimmage has lost a lot of its luster over the years, but last year’s annual spring event was entertaining and had a lot of snaps ran for the fans in attendance to watch. Health always plays a large role in how extensive a spring scrimmage (game) will end up looking, but it’s something to keep an eye on heading into camp.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.