BYU Football Returning More 2021 Production Than Other In-State Teams
SALT LAKE CITY – The BYU Cougars are currently set to return 88 percent of their 2021 production, including the nation’s best 97 percent on defense.
ESPN’s Bill Connelly released the report on Monday, May 23.
Connelly lists the Utah Utes as 49th in the country with 67 percent of production returning. Utah State is 119th on the list, returning 49 percent of their 2021 production.
Jaren Hall and Jacob Conover return at quarterback but the backfield took a hit when running back Tyler Allgeier was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2022 NFL Draft. Lopini Katoa and Jackson McChesney step into the backfield and will be joined by former Cal Bears transfer Christopher Brooks.
Gunnar Romney and Puka Nacua return at the wide receiver position while the tight end spot is in good hands with the return of Isaac Rex.
The Cougar offensive line expects to return three starters from 2021. Blake Freeland and Clark Barrington remain on the left side of the line with Connor Pay expected to shift from right guard to center where he replaces James Empey. Campbell Barrington is listed at right guard and is expected to be flanked by Kingsley Suamataia at right tackle.
Defensively, the Cougars return experience at every level. Their top-10 leading tacklers in 2021 are all expected to return, bolstering a unit that was visibly worn down after injuries sapped its depth late in the year.
Cam Rising returns at QB after taking over for an ineffective Charlie Brewer in the teams third game of the season. Rising excelled in the role, allowing the Utes the luxury of knowing who their quarterback is going forward, something they did not experience in the months leading up to last season.
Tavion Thomas and Micah Bernard each return to the Utah backfield. Thomas rushed for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2021 on his way to being named to the Pac-12 All-Conference first-team.
Leading receiver Britain Covey is now with the Philadelphia Eagles but Devaughn Vele and Solomon Enis return to bolster the position. With Dalton Kincaid and Brant Kuithe returning, the tight end position has two potential NFL players in the group.
With the loss of Nick Ford and Bamidele Olaseni, the offensive line will have some re-tooling to do but the return of Keaton Bills, Sataoa Laumea and Braeden Daniels should ease the transition.
On defense, the Utes main concern will be replacing the production of linebackers Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell, last seasons two leading tacklers. Clark Phillips III and Cole Bishop will mentor a young secondary while Devin Kaufusi, Van Fillinger and Junior Tafua anchor the defensive line.
Utah State Aggies
The Aggies bring back Logan Bonner for another season at quarterback but he will be throwing to an almost entirely new supporting cast. Justin McGriff and Kyle Van Leeuwen are the most productive receivers returning, combining for 43 catches and 477 yards in 2021.
At running back, Tyler Calvin Jr. returns along with third leading rusher John Gentry.
Along the offensive line, the Aggies return two honorable mention all-Mountain West players in Quazzel White at right guard and Alfred Edwards III. All told, the Aggie offensive line has 38 career starts with Jackson Owens expected to step in at left guard as the only newcomer.
On defense the Aggies return just safety Hunter Reynolds as a top-five tackler in 2021 and only four of their top-ten tacklers overall. Connelly has the Aggies replacing more than half of their defensive production from 2021.
Utah State opens their 2022 campaign at home against the Connecticut Huskies on Saturday, August 27; kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m (MST). Utah and BYU begin their seasons a week later with each team in Florida. The Utes take on the Florida Gators at 5 p.m. (MST) on Saturday, September 3 while the Cougars will be in Raymond James Stadium to take on the South Florida Bulls with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m. (MST)