Cougar Sports Roundtable: Expectations For BYU QBs After Portal Additions

Jan 8, 2024, 11:07 AM | Updated: 11:22 am

The Cougar Sports Roundtable is a weekly BYU Athletics feature on KSL Sports with KSL NewsRadio’s Cougar Sports Saturday team of BYU Insider Mitch Harper, Matt Baiamonte, and Nate Slack. You can listen to them on Saturdays from Noon to 3 p.m. on 102.7 FM, 1160 AM, or On-Demand on the Cougar Sports Saturday podcast.

PROVO, Utah – Every week here on KSL Sports, me and the Cougar Sports Saturday crew will tackle the biggest questions around BYU athletics. This week, we take a look at the BYU football quarterback unit in 2024 as the winter semester of school begins on Monday.

Plus, the BYU basketball team struggling out of the gates in Big 12 by falling at home to Cincinnati. Then the surprises from KSL Sports’ Way-Too-Early Big 12 football power rankings for the 2024 season that will feature a 16-team league.

Is it already time to hit the panic button on BYU Basketball after the Cincinnati loss?

Mitch Harper: No, it’s not.

However, that performance against Cincinnati raised some real concerns about this team’s ceiling in the league.

The long-range three-point attempts from 35 and 40 feet can’t be happening. Also, this team badly needs Fousseyni Traore to return to his usual self. The physicality of Cincinnati –a fellow Big 12 newcomer– was staggering. BYU’s most physical presence down low is Traore, but he wasn’t right against the Bearcats. That hamstring needs to heal quickly, or else it’s live-and-die by the three in all 18 league games.

Nate Slack: I agree, Mitch. I don’t think it’s quite time to hit the panic button, but it did make me less optimistic for the rest of the season.

We knew the Big 12 would be tough, but it was disappointing to see BYU struggle so much at times against another newcomer. In a lot of ways, it felt like a carbon copy of the Utah game. Both games featured long-scoring droughts and highlighted weaknesses against athletic bigs—namely Branden Carlson at Utah and Cincinnati’s Aziz Bandaogo. It was especially disheartening to see BYU shoot so poorly at home.

It seemed to me like BYU had better looks against Cincinnati than it did against Utah, but the results were nearly identical.

Matt Baiamonte: I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button yet because BYU didn’t shoot the ball well. Guys not named Trevin Knell went 4-for-30 from the three-point line. It won’t be easy to beat anyone in this league with numbers like that.

However, the loss highlighted a potential concern going forward: rebounding. The Bearcats out-rebounded the Cougars by nine. Shooting poorly from the field (33 percent) and being out-rebounded will lead to a lot of conference losses.

Cincinnati was the more physical team and BYU didn’t have a second punch. They’ll have to find ways to generate points in these physical conference games besides hoping the long ball is falling.

What are your expectations for the BYU football QB unit in 2024 after the additions of Bohanon and Bourguet?

RELATED: BYU football adds former Baylor, USF QB Gerry Bohanon; Western Michigan transfer Treyson Bourguet commits to BYU

Harper: BYU desperately needed additions to the quarterback unit. But I don’t come away thinking these additions are ready to be anointed QB1 in January. Jake Retzlaff has the returning experience. I’m curious to see how he responds in spring to these additions.

Gerry Bohanon, when healthy, was solid at Baylor. But the key long-term for BYU football is for youngsters Ryder Burton and Noah Lugo to make significant strides this spring. One-year QBs are not the answer to becoming a winning program in the Big 12.

Baiamonte: The Cougars needed to add options to the quarterback room after Jake Retzlaff committed too many back-breaking turnovers last year. True competition was needed and bringing in Bohanon and Bourguest will provide that.

With that being said, I think the best outcome for a successful season, however, is having Retzlaff develop and earn the starting job. He has the most game experience in the offense. If he can eliminate the turnovers and build better chemistry with his receivers, I believe he has the talent to be a starting-caliber quarterback in the Big 12.

Slack: I wasn’t feeling great after BYU announced Slovis and Retzlaff last year, and I’ve got the same feeling with Bohanon and Bourguet this year. I’m not crazy about the Cougs going after a P5 quarterback who is multiple years removed from his best season and only has one year of eligibility remaining. I’d prefer they go all in on Burton and Lugo to try and replicate what the offense was able to accomplish with homegrown Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall from 2019-2022.

Were there any surprises to you in the KSL Sports Way-Too-Early Big 12 football poll?

RELATED: KSL Sports Way-Too-Early Big 12 Football Power Rankings for 2024 season

Baiamonte: I was surprised to see the Utah Utes come in at 3rd.

Yes, they are returning Cam Rising. However, who will he be playing with on the offensive side of the ball? Utah has lost key players in the transfer portal and several others declared for the NFL draft.

Several other teams in the Big 12 will be returning more talent from 2023 than Utah. I understand there is a history and standard set by Kyle Whittingham, but I think it will be a challenge for them to replace so many key players while also learning the ins and outs of a new conference.

Harper: I was surprised Kansas State was at No. 6. They could be Top 15 in the preseason Top 25 next year. Avery Johnson has a higher ceiling at the quarterback position than Will Howard, who is now at Ohio State.

The placement of BYU football at No. 12 was a spot or two lower than I expected, but without clarity at QB, it’s understandable.

Slack: I’ll bite on this one, too. I understand Utah was towards the top of the Pac-12, but the Big 12 is a different beast. The Utes have a favorable schedule in 2024, but Kalani Sitake and Aaron Roderick said multiple times last year that the Big 12 teams were bigger and more physical than what the Pac-12 teams presented when Utah made the jump from the Mountain West. I don’t think the Big 12 is getting enough respect for how tough of a league it is.

When it comes to BYU’s position, I’m with Mitch. I had them at 11 in my ranking just because I don’t know what to expect from the offense.

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Cougar Sports Roundtable: Expectations For BYU QBs After Portal Additions