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Early Look Into BYU Secondary For The 2022 Season

Apr 13, 2022, 11:13 AM | Updated: 11:22 am
BYU Football - D'Angelo Mandell...
BYU football defensive back D'Angelo Mandell is an alternate captain for the Cougars. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU’s secondary has been bolstered after another year of experience and new pick-ups.

BYU’s defense last year was 77th in opponent pass yards per game and 29th in opponent interception’s thrown percentage. One of the biggest question marks surrounding BYU football in recent years has been depth at key positions. The medical retiring of both Shamon Willis and Keenan Ellis strengthens these concerns. Through the transfer portal and scouting, BYU is hoping to make their depth a positive, rather than a negative.

New Additions

BYU football fans should be ecstatic over the addition of Vanderbilt cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally. At Vanderbilt, Jeudy-Lally faced many high-octane offenses such as Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the eventual National Champion Georgia Bulldogs. Jeudy-Lally started 13 of his 23 games at Vanderbilt. In those games, he recorded 63 tackles (45 solo tackles), 2 TFLs, and 2 interceptions. The addition of Jeudy-Lally doesn’t immediately make BYU’s secondary elite, but it does make the cornerback room much more competitive.

Four freshman defensive backs are looking to leave a mark on the BYU football program in 2022. Those names include Dean Jones, Talan Alfrey, Quenton Rice, and Nick Nethercott. Jones is a three-star prospect originally from Queen Creek, Arizona. He had 70 tackles and an interception in his senior season at American Leadership Academy. Alfrey is also a three-star recruit and was a top 20 prospect from Washington state. 2021 redshirt Quenton Rice, originally from Las Vegas, is the son of former BYU defensive back Rodney Rice. Nethercott is the only Utah native in this group of young defensive backs.

Some players who recently committed to BYU are Korbyn Green, Zion Allen, Evan Johnson, and Nathaniel Gillis. Of these names, most likely to get playing time and have an impact sooner rather than later is Korbyn Green. Green recorded 27 tackles, 9 pass break-ups, and 2 interceptions at Owasso High School in 2021.

Returning Players

Returning starters are headlined by D’Angelo Mandell, Kaleb Hayes, and Jakob Robinson. Others returning include Isaiah Herron, Caleb Christensen, Ethan Slade, and Jaylon Vickers.

Hayes and Mandell were 1st and 2nd respectively in pass break-ups for BYU last year. Both seniors, they will be competing with Jeudy-Lally for cornerback minutes. It is also plausible for the 3 upperclassmen to share the field together. Despite becoming a full-time cornerback at spring practices, Robinson could move back to the nickel/safety spot where he found so much success in the back half of his freshman year.

Herron played in 10 games last year and recorded at least one tackle in 8 of those games. He also had a fumble recovery that helped BYU defeat Utah for the first time since 2009. Christensen and Vickers, coming off their freshman year, and Slade, coming off a redshirt year, are all looking to provide the depth that BYU needs.

Safeties returning to BYU include Chaz Ah You, Matthew Criddle, Malik Moore, George Udo, Hayden Livingston, Jacob Boren, Ammon Hannemann, and Javelle Brown. Ah You and Criddle both serve as hybrid linebacker-safeties who bring versatility to the defense. Moore started all 13 games last year and tied with Robinson for a team-leading 3 interceptions. Livingston is a player to watch as he could make a big jump in production. He played in all 13 games last year and recorded 13 tackles along with 2 interceptions. Boren and Hannemann, two more talented safeties, both recorded 5 or more tackles in multiple games last year. Brown’s effect on the game is felt most when he steps on the field for special teams. He is a developmental player who has left many wondering when he will make that next step.

Final Thoughts on BYU’s Secondary

In BYU’s first full year of recruiting as a member of the BIG 12, they have done a tremendous job addressing some of the roster’s shortcomings. Jeudy-Lally has 3 years of eligibility, but will likely stay for 2 at the most and declare for the draft. He has also expressed his want to showcase himself and play for a winning program. With Hayes, Mandell, and Robinson all potentially looking to enter their name in the draft in the coming years, this 2022 BYU secondary has a chance to produce some big NFL talent.

 

Mitch Harper, KSL Sports BYU Insider, discussed the BYU secondary on Cougar Tracks podcast.

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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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