BYU football 1-on-1: Linebackers and specials teams are biggest concerns

2014-08-21T06:10:00Z BYU football 1-on-1: Linebackers and specials teams are biggest concernsJared Lloyd and Darnell Dickson Daily Herald Daily Herald
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  • LLOYD: I'm actually going to sidestep the question because I think the biggest concerns are on special teams. The kicking positions have yet to be finalized and the Cougars have to find someone who can be surehanded and dependable as a punt returner. With all of those areas in doubt, special teams could cause some big headaches this fall.

    DICKSON: I know everyone is excited to see if Alani Fua can step up and Bronson Kaufusi is an intriguing prospect moving from defensive end, but the amount of production lost at linebacker for BYU is staggering. Kyle Van Noy was one of BYU’s all-time great playmakers. Spencer Hadley was as solid as they come and Uani Unga would be in an NFL camp right now but for his late-season injury. As much as there seems to be promise with the replacements, it seems unlikely they will be able to produce as much as the previous unit.

  • LLOYD: Right now this program probably belongs around 35th. The Cougars consistently beat the teams they are supposed to and lose to elite opponents. That's not terrible but in order to climb up that ladder, BYU has to play its best in big games and win more. If it can start the year with three straight wins, it could catapult into the Top 20 or possibly higher. That would be because the Cougars proved it on the field, not on paper.

    DICKSON: I think there is a lot of respect for BYU as a program in college football. I know there is in the Big Ten, at least with the players and coaches I’ve talked to. As far as ranking, I would put them somewhere in the Top 25-30 programs in the country. I think the Cougars have the potential to be a Top 20 team. That comes with taking care of business, especially in the early part of the season.

  • LLOYD: There are two factors that need to be looked at. I don't think any of the players who have been limited or who we know won't play in the first game are irreplaceable and if the Cougars struggle, then they simply aren't that good. When it comes to discipline, BYU has to enforce the rules fairly and equitably while the athletes buy in to accepting the consequences and moving on. That can be a tough line to walk sometimes.

    DICKSON: Every program goes through these kinds of bumps during the season. Depth becomes an issue when teams start to lose front-line players. There are some positions – quarterback, running back, safety – where I don’t think BYU can afford to lose the starter for any length of time.

  • LLOYD: I love what we’ve seen from the wide receivers but I’m going to give the nod to Harvey Langi at linebacker. The former Ute has rocketed up the depth chart in fall as the absences of other middle linebackers have allowed him to get a lot of reps. Langi is athletic and has good size, so if he understands what needs to be done he could be in for a big year.

    DICKSON: So far I like Jordan Leslie. He’s the kind of talent that can step in right away. BYU has even adjusted the offense to take advantage of his skills as a big receiver. That’s a big deal in Robert Anae’s offense, which has yet to utilize the tight end spot effectively.

  • LLOYD: My prediction is that there will be five “or” designations on the depth chart, specifically on the defensive line, the linebackers, the wide receivers and the offensive line. There has been a lot of talk about depth at those positions, so I expect to see a lot of guys getting time on the field, even if they are listed with the No. 2s heading into the game.

    DICKSON: That seems to be a trend in college football, and it’s really due to the pace at which the game is played now. Hardly any teams huddle anymore. Offenses are trying to get as many plays as possible. So both sides of the ball need to have subs ready to get 10-15 plays a game to relieve the starters.

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