COUGAR TRACKS

Projecting BYU Football’s 2023 Post-Spring Depth Chart

Apr 19, 2023, 11:00 AM

PROVO, Utah – With BYU football spring practices in the rearview mirror, it’s a great time to take a crack at the potential depth chart.

It could be risky as BYU could add a few more players out of the Transfer Portal. But for now, with the additions of Oklahoma State transfer Caleb Etienne and Utah State linebacker AJ Vongphachanh, I’ll give my post-spring projections for a depth chart.

Post-Spring BYU Football Depth Chart Projection

These projections are based on various factors from observations in spring practices, intel around the program, and the incoming transfers and freshman class.

Let’s get to it. Here’s my projected post-spring depth chart for BYU football in 2023.

Quarterback

Kedon Slovis, graduate senior

Jake Retzlaff, junior

No surprise here. Aaron Roderick has already named Slovis BYU’s starting quarterback heading into fall camp. The former Pitt and USC signal-caller quickly took on a leadership role since he arrived on campus in January.

Where the intrigue lies is at the backup quarterback spot. I’m giving the edge to JUCO transfer Jake Retzlaff who earned all of the second-team reps in BYU’s scrimmage last month.

Retzlaff has a knack for making plays while throwing the football with unique arm angles. Former Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan was sick during the last week of spring practices, but Retzlaff, who was sidelined due to tonsil surgery, came on strong in the final weeks of camp.

Running Back

Aidan Robbins, junior

Hinckley Folau Ropati, junior

The running back position shouldn’t be a debate. UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins is an immediate impact prospect for BYU in the backfield. Last year, he rushed for over 1,000 yards at UNLV. With BYU’s offensive line, Robbins could be in that 1,000-yard conversation again.

Behind Robbins, Hinckley Folau Ropati should slide into former ball carrier Lopini Katoa’s role as an excellent pass-catching receiver out of the backfield. Ropati is a tough runner, and he appears to have cleared up some of the ball security issues that plagued him early in his BYU career.

After Ropati, Miles Davis and incoming freshman LJ Marti will push the projected top two for playing time. Plus, true freshman Nukuluve Helu showed flashes of his potential during spring camp.

Wide Receiver

Starters: Chase Roberts, sophomore / Kody Epps, sophomore / Keanu Hill, junior

Backups: Talmage Gunther, junior / Parker Kingston, redshirt freshman / Koa Eldredge, freshman

BYU’s top three wide receivers are locked in for the upcoming fall with Roberts, Epps, and Hill. Kody Epps didn’t participate in spring practices due to a shoulder injury suffered last year late in the fourth quarter of the Liberty loss. But there’s no question of his status in the fall.

This group will look to replace the do-it-all star Puka Nacua. A tall task. The receiver best suited to fill the number one role is Chase Roberts. Roberts, who now wears No. 2 instead of 27, added some weight but has maintained the speed that made him a coveted recruit coming out of American Fork High. He appears to have strong chemistry already with QB Kedon Slovis.

While the starters are a lock, the backups are up for grabs. BYU probably needs to add a receiver or two in the Transfer Portal because they have the numbers available that would allow for such activity. But the good news is that Talmage Gunther, Koa Eldredge, Parker Kingston (before he suffered a hand injury), Dom Henry, and Hobbs Nyberg took steps forward in the spring. But are they ready for the Big 12? That’s to be determined.

Tight End

Isaac Rex, junior

Ethan Erickson, sophomore -OR- Anthony Olsen, redshirt freshman -OR- Jackson Bowers, freshman* (Arrives in the summer)

Last season, BYU’s Isaac Rex played through a gruesome injury he suffered against USC in 2021. Unfortunately, the injury caused Rex to perform nowhere near what fans had grown accustomed to from him in his first two seasons as the starting tight end.

Rex, now a father with his wife Lexi (nee Davies), participated in all spring practices. That was something he wasn’t able to do last season. BYU coaches didn’t have Rex take any hits, but they want to get him to gamedays in the fall. When healthy, he’s one of the best tight ends in college football.

The battle for the backup tight end spot should be interesting. Ethan Erickson appears to have the inside track, but don’t count out Anthony Olsen or incoming freshman Jackson Bowers to win the job.

Left Tackle

Kingsley Suamataia, sophomore

Lisala Tai, junior

Left Guard

Weylin Lapuaho, sophomore

Vae Soifua, redshirt freshman

Center

Connor Pay, junior -OR- Paul Maile, graduate senior

Peter Falaniko, redshirt freshman

Right Guard

Paul Maile -OR- Connor Pay

Ian Fitzgerald, graduate senior

Right Tackle

Caleb Etienne, redshirt junior* (Arrives in May)

Brayden Keim, junior

Adding Oklahoma State transfer Caleb Etienne is a game-changer for BYU along the offensive line. Etienne gives BYU an offensive tackle with 16 games of experience in the Big 12 Conference. That will be hard to keep off the field.

The good news is that iron will likely sharpen iron for Brayden Keim. Keim had a productive spring ball and showed he could be a starter for BYU at right tackle.

Locks to start along the offensive line include Kingsley Suamataia, Connor Pay, and Paul Maile. Where the intrigue lies are one of the guard spots. I’m giving the edge to Utah State transfer Weylin Lapuaho who started 13 games last season for the Aggies.

Defensive End

Tyler Batty, junior

Blake Mangelson, junior

Defensive Tackle

John Nelson, junior -OR- Caden Haws, junior

Josh Larsen, sophomore -OR- Joshua Singh, sophomore

Nose Tackle

Atunaisa Mahe, senior -OR- Jackson Cravens, graduate senior

David Latu, sophomore* (Arrives in summer)

Outside Edge

Isaiah Bagnah, junior

Aisea Moa, redshirt freshman -OR- Nuuletau Sellesin, sophomore

Before spring practices kicked off, the defensive line had the potential to surprise folks. After 15 practice sessions, this group has some quiet momentum building. It’s the best-looking defensive line two-deep for BYU since Kalani Sitake’s first season as head coach in 2016.

Defensive coordinator Jay Hill has consistently praised the play of defensive end Tyler Batty throughout the spring. He will be viewed as one of the leaders of this group. Batty will anchor the bull rusher spot on the defensive line.

Look for athletic Isaiah Bagnah at the outside edge to anchor that spot.

In the interior, Naisa Mahe put together some of his best film since early in his career. In addition, Boise State transfer Jackson Cravens has provided a valuable veteran presence.

Meanwhile, John Nelson switches from the edge to the interior and will be a key factor along the defensive front.

ROVER Linebacker

Max Tooley, senior

Chaz Ah You, senior -OR- Maika Kaufusi, freshman

MAC Linebacker

Ben Bywater, junior

Ace Kaufusi, freshman -OR- Siale Esera, freshman* (Arrives in summer)

SAM Linebacker

AJ Vongphachanh, graduate senior* (Arrives in May)

Isaiah Glasker, redshirt freshman

Adding Utah State transfer AJ Vongphachanh provided much-needed clarity for BYU’s linebacker unit. Pair up the addition of Vongphachanh, who had 101 tackles last season for the Aggies, with a pair of proven linebackers in Tooley and Bywater; it makes for a nice starting trio.

Tooley and Bywater were out during spring while Vongphachanh explored his transfer portal options. So that meant freshmen Isaiah Glasker, Ace Kaufusi, and Maika Kaufusi got all the starter reps in the spring.

It provided a valuable evaluation period for coaches to get a sense of those guys’ talent before the fall. The one that improved his stock the most was Glasker.

A former wide receiver out of Bingham High, the 6-foot-5 Glasker is a good athlete that can drop back in coverage while also playing with surprising physicality to get up in the box and stop the run.

Cornerback

Starters: Eddie Heckard, graduate senior / Jakob Robinson, junior

Backups: Mory Bamba, junior / Jayden Dunlap, junior

Weber State transfer Eddie Heckard might end up being BYU’s best player in 2023. A former FCS All-American, Heckard turned down declaring for the NFL draft to run it back one more year in college, and he chose BYU to team up with Jay Hill again.

On the opposite side is another talented player Jakob Robinson. Robinson, despite playing a lot of snaps over the past two seasons, the former Orem High speedster seems poised for a breakout role this fall. He was a mainstay with the first-team defense throughout the spring.

The second unit at cornerback is a little bit light. It’s an area where BYU football would be well served to get an undergrad portal prospect to come in and compete. If they don’t get a portal player, JUCO transfers Mory Bamba, and Jayden Dunlap could be the key reserves.

Free Safety

Malik Moore, graduate senior

Talan Alfrey, sophomore

Strong Safety

Micah Harper, sophomore

Chika Ebunoha, redshirt freshman

Micah Harper and Malik Moore have been teammates at BYU football since 2020, yet they’ve never played together on the backend of the defense due to injuries. Harper started his BYU career, like Moore, at cornerback. Then he permanently switched to safety in 2021 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Harper worked his way back slowly from injuries in fall camp last year before having a breakout performance against Notre Dame in Las Vegas.

By the time BYU played Notre Dame, Moore was sidelined due to a broken hand injury against Wyoming. Lucky for Moore, it was the fourth game of the season, so it allowed him to use an available redshirt year. So he runs it back for a sixth season and teams up with Harper at safety.

The two should complement each other well, as Harper is known for being a hard-hitter, and Moore is an agile athlete with a knack for zeroing in on interceptions two years ago.

Behind those guys, I project Talan Alfrey, who had a lot of snaps last season. Plus, Chika Ebunoha. Ebunoha is a big personality that turned heads last season as a special teams ace.

Kicker

Matthias Dunn, freshman -OR- Will Ferrin, sophomore

Punter

Ryan Rehkow, junior

Landon Rehkow, freshman

Long Snapper

Austin Riggs, junior

Dalton Riggs, freshman

At punter, Ryan Rehkow has an NFL leg. There are no concerns about him and the punter position at large. BYU did add a safety net behind him in his younger brother, Landon. The younger Rehkow joined the team this past January. Out of high school, he initially signed with the University of Idaho.

While the punter spot is in good hands, the placekicker spot has concerns. During many media observation periods in spring ball, BYU would wrap up with kickers attempting kicks between 35 to 47 yards. It was an adventure nearly every time.

The final practice of the spring saw BYU’s kickers in Will Ferrin, Matthias Dunn, and Justen Smith miss six of the seven attempts. Ferrin, a transfer from Boise State, eventually hit a 35-yard kick to end the dry spell.

It would not be the worst idea from special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga to go into the portal to add another kicker. But, for now, it’s a race between Ferrin and Dunn.

Kick Return

Koa Eldredge, freshman / Talmage Gunther

Punt Return

Hobbs Nyberg, junior

Koa Eldredge

Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters, sophomore

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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 MiMitch’soverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Projecting BYU Football’s 2023 Post-Spring Depth Chart