This is Zach Wilson’s team now, as long as he stays healthy. The sophomore worked hard on developing mentally as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, so in theory he should make reads more effectively. He still has to prove he can lead the team to wins over good opponents. Jaren Hall isn’t far behind and might give BYU options to be creative with his athleticism.
This unit has great potential with a lot of unknowns. BYU’s leading rusher from 2018 returns — but Lopini Katoa only had 423 yards on the ground. The Cougars added transfers Ty’Son Williams and Emmanuel Esukpa but they are learning the offense. All of the guys have skills but how the repetitions get spread around and how many stay healthy will certainly impact the success of this group.
It’s impossible to ignore what junior Matt Bushman should be capable of doing but he’s going to need help. Injuries and academic question marks might limit the other guys but Moroni Laulu-Pututau, Joe Tukuafu and a host of young players should find ways to pick up the slack.
This is still a unit with something to prove heading into 2019. Aleva Hifo is a solid slot receiver who can make things happen but players like Talon Shumway, Gunner Romney, Dax Milne and Micah Simon also have to be much more consistent and dangerous for the BYU offense to truly excel in the passing game.
With four returning starters and others who have experience, there is plenty of reason to believe BYU is ready to take a big step forward in the trenches. James Empey, Brady Christensen, Tristen Hoge and Keanu Saleapaga should be better, while guys like Thomas Shoaf, Kieffer Longson, Harris LaChance and Chandon Herring will also be in the mix. With Jeff Grimes involved in the development, this should be an area of strength in 2019.
The Cougars need to continue to increase their performance level at the point of attack and they have guys who are capable. Look for junior Khyiris Tonga to be tough to stop in the middle, while returners like Trajan Pili, Zac Dawe, Bracken El-Bakri and Devin Kaufusi bring a lot of experience. Don’t be surprised if Earl Tuoti-Mariner, Uriah Leiataua and Lorenzo Fauatea emerge as playmakers as well.
It’s tough to ignore what Zayne Anderson and Isaiah Kaufusi have already shown on the field — but they’ve also dealt with injury issues. BYU has a stable of potential stars in players like Kavika Fonua, Jackson Kaufusi, Chaz Ah You and Payton Wilgar, but they still have steps to make.
With Austin Lee, Malik Moore and Sawyer Powell in as capable safeties, BYU has options with what it decides to do with Dayan Ghanwoloku — who can be a force at any secondary position. BYU has D’Angelo Mandell and Isaiah Herron back with experience at cornerback, as well as a number of talented young players. The depth of the unit might be impacted by the health of Chris Wilcox and Troy Warner, who are recovering from injuries.
The Cougars have a kicking battle between Skyler Southam and Jake Oldroyd, while those two are also competing with Danny Jones for the punting duties. BYU should be solid — although maybe not incredibly explosive — in the return game while the expectation for good kick and punt coverage is already in place.
After extensive shuffling last year, the only chance on the entire coaching staff was adding Eric Mateos as the offensive line coach. Conceptually, the continuity should pay dividends for the BYU offense with everyone having better understanding of what the Cougars will be doing. The main goal for this staff is improving the team’s consistency while making more big plays.