Transfer Superlatives For BYU Football Entering 2023 Season

Jul 26, 2023, 1:56 PM

BYU Football, Eddie Heckard, Transfer Portal...

Weber State transfer Eddie Heckard is one of the top transfer portal additions for the BYU football team. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO, UtahΒ – Transfers comprise a big piece of the 2023 BYU football roster. BYU added more than 25 players from the transfer portal and some prospects from the junior college ranks.

It has been a busy off-season for BYU’s coaching staff to build a roster that allows them to compete in their first year in the Big 12 Conference.

Transfer portal players are expected to play a significant role for BYU this season.

To help sort through all of the transfers BYU added, here are some superlatives as the Cougars prepare to kick off the 2023 season.

Best Transfer

Eddie Heckard, Defensive Back (Weber State)

Heckard was an FCS All-American cornerback during his time at Weber State. His coach was Jay Hill, now the defensive coordinator at BYU. It wasn’t an easy sell to land Heckard. BYU had to beat out UCLA and Cincinnati to get him, but when they landed him, it was a potential NFL defensive back added to the secondary.

Heckard liked the idea of competing against Big 12’s pass-happy offenses to help elevate his NFL draft stock.

From the moment BYU kicked off spring ball last March, it was noticeable how talented Heckard is and he brings a veteran leadership to the secondary.

Biggest impact in 2023

Aidan Robbins, Running Back (UNLV)

BYU has produced a string of talented running backs during the Kalani Sitake era (since 2016). From Jamaal Williams, Ty’Son Williams, Tyler Allgeier, and Chris Brooks, it’s become a position of strength for Sitake’s program.

The next ball carrier is UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins. Robbins has excellent size at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and has maintained strong relationships at BYU since he was a prep recruit. He didn’t participate in any team portions of spring practice due to wrist surgery, but he’s expected to be ready for camp and to lead the backfield this fall.

Robbins has garnered some preseason buzz from publications as a 1st Team All-Big 12 performer.

Transfer Sleeper(s)

David Latu, Defensive Tackle (Snow College) / Nuuletau Sellesin, Defensive End (Weber State)

BYU’s defensive line has the potential to surprise this season. To do that, they will need some under-the-radar sleepers to emerge as contributors this season. JUCO lineman David Latu and Weber State transfer Nuuletau Sellesin are my picks.

Sellesin consistently made plays during spring practices coming off the edge and had active hands in passing lanes.

David Latu did not go through spring practices. He arrived on campus in the summer. Last season at Snow, he was a second-team All-American pick by the NJCAA. As a prep standout at Bingham High, Latu was an interior lineman who created a pass rush. He had six sacks in his senior year at Bingham.

Best Fit

Jackson Cravens, Defensive Tackle (Boise State)

The former Boise State and Utah defensive tackle was an immediate player during spring practices for BYU. Cravens comes to the BYU football program with only one year of eligibility remaining as a graduate transfer. He will be a perfect fit in BYU’s revamped four-down front and will be a guy that should plug the gaps and stuff the run. That was something BYU struggled with a lot last season.

Along with on the field, Cravens has been referred to by teammates such as John Nelson as a leader in his position room.

Most Needed

AJ Vongphachanh, Linebacker (Utah State)

Coming out of spring practices, BYU had some questions at linebacker. They knew stars Ben Bywater and Max Tooley would be back from offseason shoulder surgeries, but who were the guys ready to line up next to them?

After spring practices, BYU added AJ Vongphachanh from Utah State. The former Aggie racked up 222 tackles over the last four seasons in Logan.

Vongphachanh picking BYU over South Carolina and Minnesota brought everything into place for BYU’s linebacker unit. The players that earned first-team reps in the spring (Isaiah Glasker, Ace Kaufusi, Maika Kaufusi) can round out the second unit.

Highest Upside

Kedon Slovis, Quarterback (Pitt)

When you’ve once been viewed as a first-round NFL draft pick, it’s hard not to say Slovis possesses the highest upside out of this group of transfers. The upside is still there for Kedon Slovis. But he has to prove it in his last year of college football.

Slovis has fit in well with the BYU football program to the point where coaches think he’s been around for years. Players have pointed to Slovis as quickly becoming a leader of the team. He took the offensive skill players on a retreat to St. George in June to continue building chemistry with his teammates.

NFL draft evaluators such as Jim Nagy from the Senior Bowl still see the talent in Slovis. “People who claim ‘stats don’t lie’ have no clue because they do in many cases when it comes to projecting college players to NFL,” tweeted Nagy.

Unlike his time at Pitt or USC, Slovis is playing for the coaches that he committed to play for. Slovis has taken to Aaron Roderick’s offense in a hurry. Now it’s up to him to perform on Saturdays in the fall.

Most Underrated

Keelan Marion, Wide Receiver (UConn)

BYU needed wide receivers after spring ball concluded. They were fortunate to add former UConn transfer Keelan Marion, who, at the time of his official visit to BYU, had a verbal commitment to transfer to East Carolina.

Marion comes to BYU with an opportunity to make an immediate impact as a potential big-play receiver. During his one healthy season at UConn in 2021, Marion averaged 16.9 yards per catch and had 28 receptions for 474 yards and five touchdowns.

Position strengthened the most by transfers

Offensive Line

BYU’s offensive line lost Blake Freeland, their starting left tackle, to the NFL draft. Yet, they might be better this season.

Part of the reason for that optimism along BYU’s offensive front is the transfers they added. Former Utah starting center Paul Maile joins for his graduate transfer season. Weylin Lapuaho also signed during the winter portal window. Lapuaho started 13 games in his true freshman season with the Utah State Aggies.

Having Brayden Kearsley on the staff as an analyst gave BYU football a connection to land Caleb Etienne from Oklahoma State. Etienne started in 13 games last year at left tackle for the Cowboys and had SEC and Big 12 programs immediately contact him when he announced he was going into the portal.

BYU football also added Missouri State offensive tackle Ian Fitzgerald, who Dane Brugler rates as the 15th-best senior offensive tackle in the country.

Other additions include Jake Eichorn from Weber State and former Ute Simi Moala for his grad transfer season.

Because of the additions along the offensive line from the portal, this unit is the strength of BYU’s offense heading into the 2023 campaign.

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 in the Big 12 Conference on TwitterΒ andΒ Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Transfer Superlatives For BYU Football Entering 2023 Season