COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Football Midseason Superlatives: MVPs, Areas To Improve

Oct 16, 2023, 9:16 PM

BYU football is officially at the midway point of its inaugural Big 12 season. They sit at 4-2 overall and 1-2 in Big 12 play.

It’s been a unique year for BYU, with some twists and turns that many weren’t expecting.

Whenever you get to the midway point, it’s an excellent time to assess the time. We will call it some midseason superlatives.

BYU Football midseason superlatives for the 2023 season

I asked my Cougar Sports Saturday colleagues on KSL NewsRadio, Matt Baiamonte and Nate Slack to give their superlatives as well at the midway point.

Offensive MVP

Mitch Harper’s pick: Chase Roberts, WR

Matt Baiamote’s pick: Chase Roberts, WR

Nate Slack’s pick: Darius Lassiter, WR

There was strong buzz from spring and fall practices that Chase Roberts would be the No. 1 receiver for BYU football this season. But the best player on offense? That might have been a stretch a few months ago.

The former American Fork High standout is in his third year with the BYU program. He’s one of the few players on BYU’s offense this season, performing at a high level each week.

Also, his game-winning catch at Arkansas alone puts him at the top.

But as Nate Slack points out, there is a case for Darius Lassiter too. Lassiter is tied for second in receptions with 225 yards and three touchdowns this season from the Eastern Michigan transfer.

Defensive MVP

Harper’s pick: AJ Vongphachanh, LB

Baiamonte’s pick: Max Tooley, LB

Slack’s pick: AJ Vongphachanh, LB

You can’t go wrong with either one of these picks. Both AJ Vongphachanh and Max Tooley have been solid for BYU this season. The TCU game was a black eye for everyone, but aside from that game, these two have been tone-setters in games.

Their workload will only grow with Ben Bywater officially out for the remainder of the 2023 season with a torn labrum.

Special Teams MVP

Unanimous pick: Ryan Rehkow, Punter

Even though Rehkow had an uncharacteristic performance at TCU, he’s been vital to BYU’s success this season. The margins are thin for BYU to win games in the Big 12.

Rehkow’s ability to flip a field on a moment’s notice allows BYU to widen those margins slightly in Big 12 play. He will need to be at his best going forward.

In week one, he was a Big 12 Co-Special Teams Player of the Week selection for his performance against Sam Houston.

Most Improved Player

Harper’s pick: Blake Mangelson, DE

Baiamonte’s pick: Jakob Robinson, CB

Slack’s pick: Tyler Batty, DE

Three different answers for this one. And all three players have a great argument for earning this title of most improved player.

Tyler Batty earned week three Big 12 defensive player of the week for his nine-tackle performance at Arkansas last month. Batty is up to 28 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks this season.

Jakob Robinson has been a clutch playmaker for BYU, coming up with three interceptions, one of which resulted in a pick-six against Cincinnati. Coaches have viewed Robinson as a big-time defensive back since he arrived on campus two years ago. But now he’s become far better than anyone envisioned.

Blake Mangelson is the highest-graded defensive player for BYU by Pro Football Focus.

A former walk-on from Juab High School, Mangelson is already in his third season, which is unfortunate because it feels like he’s starting to hit his stride and he could use a few more years in the program to maximize his potential. But he’s made significant strides at the defensive end position and is one of the strongest players on the roster.

Underachieving Position

Harper’s pick: Offensive Line

Baiamonte’s pick: Defensive Line

Slack’s pick: Offensive Line

The trenches are where we turned our focus. BYU’s offensive line has retooled and appears to have personnel in the right spots from now on. But will it lead to improved play with the rushing attack?

It’s a big question no one expected to ask at the midway point. That’s because BYU has potential NFL talent along its offensive line. They’ve underachieved to this point of the season.

Strength of BYU Football team in 2023

Unanimous pick: Linebacker

It says a lot about the linebacker unit that you lost Ben Bywater for the season, and there’s still optimism that they will operate at a high level. Oregon transfer Harrison Taggart looks to be the next star in the middle.

Tooley and Vongphachanh are known commodities. But the depth at linebacker is intriguing with Siale Esera finally healthy after an MCL setback in fall camp. Isaiah Glasker, a fall camp standout, is returning from an injury suffered at Arkansas.

BYU has options at linebacker and they’ve been highly productive.

Weakness of the BYU Football team in 2023

Harper’s pick: Run game

Baiamonte’s pick: Run game

Slack’s pick: Slow starts on offense

At some point, the run game has to fall into place, right? After having Jamaal Williams, Ty’Son Williams, Tyler Allgeier, and Chris Brooks. BYU knows good running backs.

When healthy, LJ Martin and Aidan Robbins have the same pro potential as the players mentioned above. But something isn’t working and the focus would have to center on the offensive line up front to get it started.

Bold Prediction for the second half of BYU’s season

Harper’s pick: BYU wins three more games

Baiamonte’s pick: QB Kedon Slovis throws for 500 yards in a win against Texas Tech

Slack’s pick: BYU upsets Oklahoma on Senior Night

I’m sticking with the 7-5 prediction I gave this BYU team in the preseason. The Texas Tech game will go a long way toward fulfilling that prediction and winning three games in the remaining six.

Kedon Slovis throwing for 500 yards would undoubtedly help those win probabilities against the Red Raiders.

Can you imagine the same BYU team that TCU smoked over the weekend, shocking the college football world and knocking off Oklahoma? Hey, it’s the Big 12. Expect the unexpected if we’ve learned anything about this conference this season.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Football Midseason Superlatives: MVPs, Areas To Improve