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Cougar Sports Roundtable: BYU QB Predictions Entering Spring Ball

Feb 26, 2024, 6:00 AM

BYU Football, Jake Retzlaff, Starting QB Prediction...

The Cougar Sports Saturday crew makes pre-spring predictions on who will start at QB for BYU football in 2024. The favorite is Jake Retzlaff. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The Cougar Sports Roundtable is a weekly BYU football, basketball, and athletics feature on KSL Sports with KSL NewsRadio’s Cougar Sports Saturday & Cougar Nation team of BYU Insider Mitch HarperMatt 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 – It’s time for another week of the Cougar Sports Roundtable.

This week’s three questions focus on Tuesday night’s BYU basketball game against Big 12 powerhouse Kansas.

After that, we switch to BYU football, where we discuss the players with the most to gain in spring practice. Then, our pre-spring BYU starting quarterback predictions.

How will BYU basketball fare against blueblood Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night?

Matt Baiamonte: I’m not optimistic about BYU’s chances on the road against Kansas. The Cougars have not played well on the road in conference play.

Some defensive issues are plaguing BYU right now. Their opponents are shooting the ball well above their averages in the past four games. Shooting will come and go, but defensive intensity should always be there.

Offensively, the Cougars aren’t shooting the ball well from the three-point line on the road. They are 0-6 when they shoot below 32 percent on the season.

It’s critical that BYU wins their final two remaining home games in conference play because I do not believe this team will win another road game in the regular season.

Nate Slack: BYU will lose this game by 10 to 15 points. If it were being played in Provo, I’d take BYU, but this year’s squad hasn’t shown they can win on the road.

The Cougars are 2-6 on the road this season, with the lone wins coming over two of the three worst teams in the Big 12.

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar not suiting up because of a knee injury helps BYU’s chances, but the Jayhawks have fared just fine without him.

I predict we will see something similar to the Oklahoma State or Kansas State games­, where BYU struggles to score and get stops through six or seven minutes of the game. I think they’ll find their footing, but it’ll probably be too late. Good luck overcoming an early deficit in Allen Fieldhouse.

Mitch Harper: This is one of those spots where a respectable showing could be treated as a moral victory. Mark Pope and BYU players would probably scoff at hearing such a thing, but the fact is, no one wins at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas is 313-17 all-time in home games since Bill Self became the head coach in 2003. BYU has 12 losses at the Marriott Center since Mark Pope became the head coach in 2019.

Battling for 40 minutes would be great for the narrative of BYU basketball heading into the home stretch.

I’m curious to see how BYU attacks Kansas defensively. There’s Hunter Dickinson in the post, KJ Adams is one of the most improved players in the Big 12, and Nick Timberlake is an underrated athlete stepping in for Kevin McCullar.

One thing is for sure: BYU needs a lights-out shooting performance to make the Jayhawk faithful sweat heading into the game’s final four minutes.

I’ll say Kansas wins by eight.

Spring ball begins this week. Which BYU football player has the most to gain from these 15 practices?

Slack: For me, it’s Gerry Bohanon.

How healthy is his shoulder? How much will he be able to participate this spring? What type of chemistry can he build with the receivers? How rusty will he be after missing nearly 18 months of action?

 

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When Bohanon is healthy, he can be great. He led Baylor to a Big 12 title and Sugar Bowl victory over Ole Miss in 2021.

Things didn’t work out like he expected at USF, but he has a good enough resume to start for BYU this fall if he has a good showing in these next 15 practices.

Baiamonte: Kody Epps has a lot to gain in the spring. Right now, I’d put Chase Roberts, Keelan Marion, and Darius Lassiter as players currently ahead of him on the depth chart. Can he build chemistry with Jake Retzlaff or Gerry Bohannon to return to form as we saw two years ago with Jaren Hall as the signal caller?

I’d love to see him re-emerge as a reliable slot receiver. It felt like BYU was missing a smaller, shiftier playmaker in the offense last season. When he’s healthy and locked in, he’s someone who can move the chains and be a weapon in the red zone.

Harper: Sophomore running back LJ Martin.

Based on BYU’s lack of activity in the transfer portal, they are giving Martin every opportunity to be the number one running back this fall.

Martin has star potential in his BYU future, but the question remains: is that stardom ready to shine in year two? Spring ball should give us a nice appetizer on whether BYU needs to hit the portal or not after spring practices.

There’s a high bar for running back play in the Big 12.

Ollie Gordon (Oklahoma State), Tahj Brooks (Texas Tech), Devin Neal (Kansas), RJ Harvey (UCF), DJ Giddens (Kansas State), and Jaheim White (West Virginia) all reside in this league. Those are some of the best running backs in the nation.

The Big 12 is a physical league with star power in their backfields. BYU needs a star to emerge at running back in 2024. That guy needs to be LJ Martin, who finished with 518 rushing yards in 10 games in his freshman campaign.

After Martin at running back, there’s Hinckley Folau Ropati, who’s coming back in 2024 after an ACL injury. They get Miles Davis back after a brief stay in the transfer portal. Plus, returned missionaries Jovesa Damuni and Pokaiaua Haunga have garnered some buzz entering spring practices.

Pre-spring predictions: Who will be BYU’s starting QB in six months against Southern Illinois on August 31?

Slack: I’m going with Jake Retzlaff.

He did some good things last year and seemed to earn the trust of Aaron Roderick despite making some costly mistakes. It’s still sort of a mystery as to what happened with Kedon Slovis, but Retzlaff showed promise at times.

He was placed in a difficult position by taking his first Division I snaps for a struggling BYU offense against four of the top five finishers in the Big 12.

With a full offseason to fix mistakes and build on last year’s experience, I expect Retzlaff to be the guy against SIU.

Baiamonte: I agree with Nate regarding Retzlaff. He has a leg up on everybody because he started four games in A-Rod’s offense last year. The coaching staff invested a lot of time and practice reps in Retzlaff, meaning he’ll be given every opportunity to win the job.

This is an important year for Roderick. His offenses have been trending downward since Jaren Hall’s first season as the starter. Perhaps with a full off-season, Retzlaff will show improvements in the areas that hurt him last season.

It’s in the program’s best interest to have Retzlaff win the job because he could be the starter for the next two seasons. It’s not ideal to break in a new starting quarterback every season.

Harper: Retzlaff is the favorite. Would we have a debate right now if he handed the ball off to Aidan Robbins in the red zone against Oklahoma? He had opportunities last November to plant the flag as the clear-cut number one guy, but he never seized those opportunities.

Roderick believes in Retzlaff and sees him as a power conference starting quarterback. As you guys have noted, he appears to have the leg up on everyone.

However, if he doesn’t blow everyone away in the spring, BYU should not be afraid to shop for another quarterback in the post-spring portal market. There could be better options in that window than in December.

The sleeper to me is Ryder Burton. He’s young and raw, but he’s got arm strength that makes him an intriguing prospect. Burton obsesses over the game like Zach Wilson did. There are qualities in Burton that remind me of Wilson.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Cougar Sports Roundtable: BYU QB Predictions Entering Spring Ball