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Where BYU Football’s Roster Stands After Closure Of Spring Transfer Portal

May 2, 2024, 3:24 PM

PROVO, Utah – Transfer portal activity for BYU football has been relatively quiet in 2024. But that’s been by design.

BYU committed to retaining its roster heading into year two as a Big 12 member after a disappointing 5-7 campaign last year.

Those efforts are being rewarded as most of the key players who BYU prioritized to retain are still part of the program.

Ten players from BYU’s roster entered the spring transfer portal window, but only four were on scholarship. Of those four scholarship players, only one was in our projected post-spring depth charts.

Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of where the BYU football roster stands coming out of the spring transfer portal window.

Quarterback

BYU gained one quarterback while losing another in the spring transfer portal window. The addition was Utah State transfer McCae Hillstead, who started four games last season for the Aggies.

After Hillstead announced his commitment to BYU, redshirt freshman Ryder Burton announced he was entering the Transfer Portal.

Jake Retzlaff and Gerry Bohanon are expected quarterbacks to compete for the starting job in the fall. Giving more than two guys first-team reps during fall camp is difficult. However, Hillstead, Western Michigan transfer Treyson Bourguet and Cade Fennegan should be next in line if Roderick decides to expand the battle.

Hillstead is an intriguing addition. The biggest knock on him as a recruit was his height at 5’10”. He’s a dynamic athlete, who Utah State head coach Blake Anderson told the KSL Sports Zone was a surprise loss to the portal.

Hillstead is talented enough to be BYU’s starting quarterback at some point this season. Will it be week one? That feels like a stretch, considering Retzlaff and Bohanon took all the first and second-team reps in the spring. But what gives Hillstead a chance to emerge at some point is his arm talent to make plays downfield and his ability to run the ball.

That’s a quarterback recipe that has worked for Aaron Roderick during his time at BYU.

It will be interesting to see where Burton lands out of the portal. He has the talent to be a starting QB at an FBS program. Burton loves the game and is relentless in his film study. In his 16 months at BYU, he was viewed as a developmental quarterback, so there wasn’t a path to competing for the starting role.

Running Back

BYU has not turned to the transfer portal for another ball carrier as they have done in previous years. Instead, the Cougars are focusing on retention and development with the current group.

Sophomore LJ Martin is the projected starter, with Miles Davis as the backup. Both players were impressive in the spring.

Re-establishing BYU’s violent ground attack from past seasons is a top focus for BYU in 2024. Are Martin, Davis, Hinckley Folau Ropati, and freshman Pokaiaua Haunga enough to deliver that goal? We will find out soon enough.

Wide Receiver

BYU is in a good spot at the wide receiver unit. Passing Game Coordinator Fesi Sitake feels it’s the deepest wide receiver unit he’s had since he joined the staff in 2018.

Chase Roberts and Darius Lassiter lead the way. Kody Epps, who graduated last month, is back for his fifth season with the program.

Redshirt freshman Jojo Phillips made some excellent catches in the spring and looks poised to make an impact this season.

BYU welcomes heralded freshman Cody Hagen, who has served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the past two years, and Timpview’s Tei Nacua into the fold.

Tight End

How BYU utilizes the tight end unit will be an intriguing storyline in 2024. Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick moved Keanu Hill from wide receiver to tight end, and the move earned rave reviews from coaches during the spring.

After Hill, 17-year-old freshman Ryner Swanson appears poised to play right away. He was one of the most impressive players during spring practices and has a bright future.

Heralded redshirt freshman Jackson Bowers was battling an injury during the final two weeks of spring practices. BYU also has Ethan Erickson, who missed the entire spring due to an injury. Plus, they have Ray Paulo returning.

Another freshman joins the mix this fall in Noah Moeaki, a former American Fork High standout.

Offensive Line

BYU needs to dip into the Transfer Portal to bolster its depth at the offensive line position. There is talent at the top of BYU’s offensive line unit. I’d argue that some of BYU’s best NFL prospects are in this group: Weylin Lapuaho and Connor Pay are some of the notables.

However, after the first four guys in the unit, there are questions for a group that severely underperformed last year.

BYU extended an offer to Akron transfer Ronan Chambers, who is currently committed to Tulane. They’ve also expressed interest in a handful of players on the portal.

Freshman Joe Brown will be one to watch in the fall. He dealt with an injury that limited his availability in the spring. If healthy, Brown might be talented enough to start at guard in week one. He will compete with Sonny Makasini for that right guard position.

Defensive Line

BYU’s defensive line took a big hit with the sudden departure of JUCO transfer Danny “Tui” Saili in the spring transfer portal window. Saili spurned a commitment with Texas Tech to sign with BYU last December. He was an immediate factor at nose guard during practices and earned high praise from Kalani Sitake.

BYU’s top interior lineman is John Nelson, who anchors the defensive tackle spot. Nelson is among the top pass rushers along BYU’s defensive front for the upcoming season.

However, the nose guard spot is an area that has questions after Saili’s departure.

At defensive end, BYU is led by All-Big 12 selection Tyler Batty and outside edge Isaiah Bagnah.

Summer JUCO additions Luke To’omalatai and Sani Tuala will have opportunities to play immediately this season.

Linebacker

One of the strengths of BYU’s roster resides at linebacker. When healthy, it’s one of the top units for BYU in 2024.

All eyes will be on super senior Ben Bywater’s health. He’s returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him after last year’s Kansas game. It’s unclear if he will be ready when fall camp opens at the end of July.

If Bywater isn’t ready, sophomore Harrison Taggart, a former Oregon transfer, seems poised for a step forward.

Another sophomore to watch at linebacker is Siale Esera, who missed all of spring due to an injury. The former four-star recruit from Timpview showed flashes of his potential in the second half of last season.

Weber State transfer Jack Kelly is a plug-and-play guy in Jay Hill’s defense. He was one of the top performers during spring media observations. Another outside backer is Isaiah Glasker, who dealt with an injury last year that he suffered in week three at Arkansas. Glasker has been a camp standout for a handful of years. Now, will it translate to game days in the fall?

BYU lost one scholarship linebacker after spring. Nukuluve Helu from Tooele High School. Helu was part of the running back unit last year before switching to linebacker this past winter.

Cornerback

BYU lost Zion Allen in the post-spring transfer portal window. Allen was a three-star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class. He earned a lot of snaps in the spring due to the various injuries to cornerbacks in March, but he wasn’t projected in the two-deep coming out of spring.

Jakob Robinson will be BYU’s top cornerback in 2024. Through three seasons at BYU, Robinson has eight interceptions and 144 tackles.

Robinson is a versatile defensive back who could take snaps at nickel this season if called upon. He primarily played that position in 2021.

There will be competition for the other starting cornerback spot. Weber State transfer Marque Collins is a potential favorite to win the job. Collins didn’t compete in spring due to an injury.

Freshman “Tre” Alexander, redshirt junior Mory Bamba, and sophomore Marcus McKenzie will likely factor into the starter competition.

McKenzie, a special teams ace for BYU last season, missed spring practices due to an injury he was recovering from last season.

BYU also welcomes freshman Jonathan Kabeya from Texas this summer.

Safety

The safety position will be fascinating for BYU in 2024. Coming out of spring, 17-year-old freshman Tommy Prassas made a splash and occasionally took first-team reps during media observation windows.

BYU brings back Micah Harper, who missed last season due to a season-ending ACL injury he suffered in fall camp. Harper is a playmaker on the back end of the defense and has NFL potential. Keeping him healthy will be a top priority for BYU.

Talan Alfrey, who has starter experience, also returns this year. Others with starting experience returning in 2024 include Ethan Slade, Tanner Wall, and Crew Wakley. Wall and Wakley missed spring due to injuries.

Things get interesting at safety with the arrival of four-star freshman Faletau Satuala from Bountiful High School this summer. Satuala is talented enough to contend for a starting role immediately.

BYU also brings in one of the fastest recruits from Texas in Matthias Leach.

Specialists

Will Ferrin was a standout at kicker for BYU last season. He’s back for his second year as the starter.

At punter, BYU looks to replace Ryan Rehkow, who is now off to the Kansas City Chiefs organization. The top candidates are Pitt transfer Sam Vander Haar and Rehkow’s younger brother, Landon Rehkow.

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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Where BYU Football’s Roster Stands After Closure Of Spring Transfer Portal