Five BYU Football Players Who Could Be X-Factors In 2023

Jun 16, 2023, 11:23 AM

BYU Football, Kedon Slovis, Spring Game...

BYU football QB Kedon Slovis will make an introduction to Cougar fans at the spring scrimmage. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – For BYU football to exceed people’s low expectations for them heading into the Big 12, X-factors will need to emerge.

Who could those players be for BYU this season?

Here are five players that I believe have the potential to cause a greater impact on BYU’s season than people are expecting right now.

RELATED: BYU Football Wide Receiver Position Analysis For 2023 Season

Kedon Slovis, QB

It’s pretty easy to pick this one. In moments during his college career, Slovis has shown the ability to be an all-conference type of quarterback. But can he maintain that consistency over the course of a full Power Five season?

The good thing for Slovis is that the coaching staff he signed to play for at BYU is still intact. It’s the first time that has happened in his college career.

USC had an offensive coordinator change before he arrived on campus. The same thing happened at Pitt after Mark Whipple was pushed out and then star WR Jordan Addison left shortly after.

BYU made Slovis a top priority during the transfer portal cycle. In fact, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Slovis was his number one transfer target in the 2023 cycle.

They got their guy, and during spring ball, he took to Roderick’s offense with ease. Slovis himself said BYU’s offense was easy for him to learn and that he and Roderick are on the same page for how this offense should operate.

On the high end, most projections have BYU around six wins right now. Maybe even a team that doesn’t qualify for a bowl game. If Slovis recaptures the highly efficient play he displayed at USC, Slovis could lead BYU to eight wins this season.

You could make a case that BYU’s entire season rests on the arm of Slovis.

Deion Smith, RB

Smith is an underrated addition to BYU’s backfield. He comes to Provo after four seasons in the Colorado Buffaloes program. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Smith initially had planned to be part of Coach Prime’s Colorado program. During Prime’s viral introductory speech to the CU team, Smith is on the front row. He told KSL Sports that Coach Prime’s messaging inspired him and it motivated him to become a better player.

Smith competed during spring practices in Boulder but opted to move on for another opportunity.

If healthy, Smith gives BYU a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield with projected starter Aidan Robbins. Robbins is viewed as a potential First-Team All-Big 12 player, but there’s always a need for depth at a position like running back. Smith was the leading rusher for the Buffs last season and he brings an element to BYU’s backfield that they didn’t have prior to his arrival.

RELATED: BYU Football Lands Commitment From Arizona Safety Thomas Prassas

Jackson Bowers, TE

BYU has a need to identify a number two tight end after Isaac Rex. There’s no shortage of options with Ethan Erickson, Anthony Olsen, and even Masen Wake. But the player with the highest ceiling and the potential to be the next star tight end is Jackson Bowers.

Bowers was a four-star recruit out of Mountain View High School in Mesa, Arizona. He plays with an intensity and physicality that will be hard to keep him off the field.

If Bowers emerges, it could give BYU the luxury of having two tight end sets, which was not a common occurrence last year after the sudden departure of Dallin Holker.

Keelan Marion, WR

Marion comes to BYU after beginning his collegiate career at UConn. He models his game after NFL superstar Jamarr Chase. If Marion is a tenth of the player that Chase is, BYU has a potential x-factor at wide receiver.

Marion was the leading receiver for the Huskies in 2021 and was well set to be the No. 1 receiver in 2022 before suffering a neck injury.

BYU’s receiver unit has three pass catchers that have earned the trust from coaches in Keanu Hill, Chase Roberts, and Kody Epps, but a talent like Marion has the ability to push for playing time immediately. The biggest reason for that is because of Marion’s speed he brings to BYU’s offense.

Isaiah “Zay” Bagnah, EDGE

It has been well-documented the lack of a pass rush BYU has had in the Kalani Sitake era. Last year, BYU was near the bottom nationally in sacks. They made it a priority in the transfer portal to bolster that area with the addition of transfer portal edge rusher Isaiah Bagnah from Boise State.

Bagnah has the measurables at 6-foot-4, 235-pounds to be a force off the edge in a defensive scheme that now has Kelly Poppinga coaching the defensive ends.

BYU returns Tyler Batty at the bull rusher spot, so he should draw a lot of attention, potentially freeing up Bagnah to be a playmaker in this defense.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Five BYU Football Players Who Could Be X-Factors In 2023