Ranking BYU Football’s Best Duos Of All-Time

Jul 6, 2020, 6:00 AM
Dennis Pitta - BYU...
Brigham Young tight end Dennis Pitta (32) runs for a big gain as he is chased by Colorado State linebacker Jake Pottorff (42) left and Colorado State defensive back Zac Bryson (10) during game with Colorado State University at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (August Miller, Deseret News)
(August Miller, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Great duos in sports can leave a lasting legacy for years after their playing days are over. BYU football has had some great duos at various position groups over the years. Some have gone on to achieve the highest accolades college football has to offer.

As the football off-season continues to roll on, let’s look at the best duos in one position group over the years in the BYU football program.

Could BYU in 2020 have a duo emerge on this list? Maybe Matt Bushman and Isaac Rex at tight end or Khyiris Tonga and Lorenzo Fauatea along the defensive line. Maybe even Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall or Baylor Romney. There are some intriguing duos this fall, but they would have to be great this season to try and crack this list.

10. Curtis Brown and Fui Vakapuna, 2006 

Curtis Brown: 201 carries, 1,010 yards, 7 TD’s

Fui Vakapuna: 92 carries, 445 yards, 8 TD’s

Brown and Vakapuna were the featured running backs on a team that revived BYU Football from one of the worst four-year stretches in program history. Brown, a senior leader in 2006, went on to become the school’s all-time leading rusher at the time he completed his career. Vakapuna, fresh off serving a mission, was an instant fan favorite for his hard running style and physical play out of the backfield.

9. Shad Hansen and Rocky Biegel, 1991

Shad Hansen: 193 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 TFL, 13 QBH

Rocky Biegel: 192 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 TFL, 14 QBH

The sheer statistical output from Hansen and Biegel at linebacker during the 1991 season is unreal. 193 and 192 tackles respectively, incredible. These guys got a lot of work in on the defensive end with how quick of an offensive attack BYU had with Ty Detmer leading the offense.

8. Dennis Pitta and Andrew George, 2009

Dennis Pitta: 62 receptions, 829 yards, 8 TD’s

Andrew George: 30 receptions, 408 yards, 5 TD’s

Whenever BYU’s offense needed to move the sticks to pick up a first down on a critical play, Max Hall could usually turn to Dennis Pitta or Andrew George to make it happen. Both players were critical to BYU’s success from 2007-2009 that saw the Cougars amass 32 wins in that span.

7. Brian McKenzie and Ronney Jenkins, 1996

Brian McKenzie: 167 carries, 950 yards, 11 TD’s

Ronney Jenkins: 128 carries, 733 yards, 11 TD’s

After missing a bowl game for the first time in two decades in 1995, LaVell Edwards signed two instant impact running backs in the class of 1996. Junior college transfer Brian McKenzie and Southern California’s best high school running back in Ronney Jenkins. These two paired up in the backfield gave BYU the elite ground attack to pair up with Steve Sarkisian. Together, BYU went on to go 14-1 in ’96 and finished with a No. 5 ranking.

6. Chad Lewis and Itula Mili, 1996

Itula Mili: 46 receptions, 692 yards, 3 TD’s

Chad Lewis: 37 receptions, 420 yards, 5 TD’s

To go with the aforementioned McKenzie and Jenkins, BYU also featured two of the nation’s best tight ends in Chad Lewis and Itula Mili. Both of whom went on to have careers in the NFL. From hurdling defenders to big playmaking ability to blocking in the trenches, these two could do it all at the tight end spot.

5. Todd Watkins and Austin Collie, 2004

Todd Watkins: 52 receptions, 1,042 yards, 6 TD’s

Austin Collie: 53 receptions, 771 yards, 8 TD’s

BYU in 2004 faced a lot of challenges from off-the-field scandals to uncertainty with the head coach. But one thing they did have was playmakers at wide receiver. Todd Watkins from Grossmont College and Austin Collie out of El Dorado Hills, showed that despite losing records, BYU could still get elite talent into the program. Watkins and Collie were two of the top deep threats in college football in 2004.

4. Jamal Willis and Kalin Hall, 1992

Jamal Willis: 196 carries, 1,004 yards, 11 TD’s

Kalin Hall: 138 carries, 742 yards, 4 TD’s

A pair of Las Vegas guys were doing it big in BYU’s backfield in the early 1990s. Willis was the star with his big 6-foot-3, 220-pound build, while Hall was the shifty back who could break open a big play at a moment’s notice. Willis ended his BYU career in 1994 as the school’s all-time leading rusher.

3. Kurt Gouveia and Leon White, 1984

Kurt Gouveia: 107 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 TFL, 3 FF, 21 QBH

Leon White, 90 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 TFL, 10 PBU, 3 FF, 13 QBH

BYU as a program is historically known for its offense. But the year they won the National Championship in 1984, it was the defense that led the way and that defense had a pair of NFL standouts in Kurt Gouveia and Leon White. Both players had a swagger on the field and each helped get BYU out of some close calls on the path to the school’s lone undefeated season.

2. Jason Buck and Shawn Knight, 1986

Jason Buck: 59 tackles, 13 sacks, 13 TFL, 17 QBH

Shawn Knight: 60 tackles, 16 sacks, 4 TFL, 8 QBH

Throw on some AC/DC, get a lift in, kick someone’s trash on Saturdays, and then do it all over again. That was BYU football on defense with Buck and Knight leading the way. Buck was the star as he won the Outland Trophy Award in 1986 but Knight was just as dominant recording 16 sacks. You don’t see many defensive line tandems put up numbers as Buck and Knight did in 1986.

1. Marc Wilson and Jim McMahon, 1978

Marc Wilson: 1,499 passing yards, 8 TDs

Jim McMahon: 1,307 passing yards, 6 TDs

Can you name a better duo? I’ll wait. BYU’s offensive coordinator Wally English couldn’t go wrong with who was going to play at quarterback. Both Wilson and McMahon were becoming the best QBs in all of college football. Wilson eventually became the full-time starter in 1978 and LaVell begged McMahon to redshirt in 1979. It all worked out for BYU as these two sent the Cougars quarterback factory into high gear.

Just missed the cut: Tim McTyer and Omarr Morgan, 1996; Margin Hooks and Jonathan Pittman, 2000; Marv Allen and Todd Shell, Eric Lane and Homer Jones.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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.

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