Early Look At Returning Leaders For BYU Football In 2021
PROVO, Utah – BYU football lost many players to the NFL and graduation from their 11-win team in 2020. It doesn’t mean the cupboard is suddenly bare for the Cougars in 2021.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake has always been quick to point out the depth within his program. Now that depth has a chance to showcase itself in 2021 against a schedule that features seven Power Five opponents.
Who are the top returning players? Here’s a look based on their statistical production in 2020.
Passing: QB Baylor Romney (261 passing yards in 2020)
When you lose one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, like Zach Wilson, the returning leader won’t have many passing yards under their belt from the previous year. The good news for BYU football is that Baylor Romney does have starting experience.
Romney started in two games in 2019 in relief of Zach Wilson and Baylor Romney. Romney won both games, including a victory over No. 14 Boise State. In 2019, Romney passed for 747 yards and completed 64 percent of his passes.
The El Paso, Texas native, was the No. 2 QB behind Wilson throughout the 2020 season. He appeared in seven games and completed one touchdown pass while also tossing an interception.
For his career, Romney now has 1,008 passing yards already under his belt. He will be in a hotly contested quarterback battle with Jaren Hall, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters, and Jacob Conover to become the heir apparent to Wilson.
Rushing: RB Tyler Allgeier (1,130 rushing yards in 2020)
Tyler Allgeier emerged as one of college football’s top running backs in 2020, after an off-season where it wasn’t clear if he would be on offense or at linebacker with Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defense. The former preferred walk-on popped off for 1,130 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 150 carries.
He averaged 7.5 yards per carry and 102.7 yards per game. Allgeier’s 1,000 yards in 2020 marked the first BYU football running back to hit that milestone since Jamaal Williams in 2016.
According to Pro Football Focus, Allgeier is the second-highest rated returning running back in all of college football for the 2021 season.
Along with Allgeier, BYU also returns rushers Lopini Katoa, Sione Finau, Jackson McChesney, and Miles Davis in the running back room.
Receiving: WR Gunner Romney (767 receiving yards in 2020)
When Dax Milne announced that he was foregoing his senior year at BYU to pursue a career in the NFL Draft, all attention zeroed in on Gunner Romney to be BYU’s number one wide receiver. Romney showed in 2020 that he has the ability to be the number one receiver next season.
The junior wideout and younger brother to QB Baylor Romney had 39 catches for 767 yards and two touchdowns. Those two touchdowns should have probably been five or six had a few of his grabs not ended up at the one-yard line.
Along with Romney, BYU returns Neil Pau’u, who had 603 receiving yards, and tight end Isaac Rex who put together a 12 touchdown season as a redshirt freshman.
Tackles: LB Keenan Pili (72 in 2020)
Sophomore linebacker Keenan Pili didn’t receive much fanfare this week, but he let his play do all the talking. Each week at the end of games, you’d look at the box score, and Pili would be near the top in tackles. A Freshman All-American by PFF in 2019, Pili finished second on BYU’s defense in tackles behind only Isaiah Kaufusi.
Pili was named the defensive MVP of the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl win over UCF, where the Cougars limited the high-powered Knights offense to only 23 points.
Interceptions: Four tied at one INT each
Last season, senior safety Troy Warner led BYU football in interceptions with two. The Cougars bring four players who each had an interception, and only one of them plays cornerback. Those four players include linebacker Drew Jensen, linebacker/edge rusher Max Tooley, safety Malik Moore, and cornerback Caleb Christensen.
Scoring: K Jake Oldroyd (99 points in 2020)
The Lou Groza Award finalist, Oldroyd, was perfect on field-goal attempts this season, going 13-13. He nearly hit the 100-point mark had it not been for a pair of missed extra points. Oldroyd will be entering his fourth year with BYU, but with the NCAA’s blanket waiver, he could enter next year as a redshirt sophomore when he takes on the Arizona Wildcats again.
Punting: Ryan Rehkow (45.1 yards per punt in 2020)
BYU didn’t turn to Ryan Rehkow often in 2020, but he was impressive when they did. Rehkow booted 28 punts in 2020, averaging 45.1 yards per punt. His long was a 61-yarder against Houston.
If BYU’s offense in 2021 has some early-season struggles with a new quarterback, they can have the peace of mind knowing they have a punter who can swing field position in their favor.
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 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.
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