BYU 1-on-1: Midseason MVPs recognized, QB situation analyzed
BYU linebacker Payton Wilgar makes a tackle during the 22-17 Cougar loss to Coastal Carolina at Brooks Stadium in Conway, S.C. on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.
BYU sports experts Jared Lloyd and Darnell Dickson tackle five of the big questions facing the Cougars this week:
1. Are you still sold on Jaren Hall as BYU’s starting quarterback, or should Baylor Romney get a shot if he’s healthy?
DICKSON: What’s a BYU season without a little quarterback controversy, huh? Hall won the job because of his ability to run with the football and that didn’t happen last week against Boise State. Cougar offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said the Broncos did a great job of spying on Hall and it didn’t look like he really had a lot of opportunities to get out and run. Hall threw for a career-best 302 yards but 17 points isn’t good enough to win most games. I think he’ll be more effective this week and should be the starter. I love what Romney did in his starts but I think BYU is riding with Hall.
LLOYD: Let me start by emphasizing that that part about Romney is a huge “if,” since concussions can have wide-ranging effects and you have to be sure before a player returns to action. If Romney can’t go, I don’t think there is any question who will start. I like what Romney did against South Florida and Utah State but I also think those were the two weakest defenses BYU has played this year (Arizona is in its own category, since that was a weird situation). Hall wasn’t flawless last week but I felt like the rain changed both what he was trying to do and what plays were called. The Cougars have to walk a tightrope between using his athleticism and risking having him get hurt again, which isn’t easy to do. Darnell is right when he asserts that — at least for now — Hall is QB1.
2. Who is your defensive MVP for the first half of the BYU football season?
LLOYD: I think if Keenan Pili hadn’t gotten hurt, he would be a shoo-in for this recognition. Since he did get injured, however, I’m going to go with one of his linebacker teammates, Payton Wilgar. In six games, Wilgar has 35 tackles (second on the team), six tackles for a loss (first), 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. Cougar linebackers have to be able to stop the run, drop into coverage and spy the quarterback, so he’s had to demonstrate a variety of skills. I think he can still continue to improve and have an even bigger impact, which would be great to see. I would also put Malik Moore, Chaz Ah You, Kaleb Hayes and Ben Bywater in this conversation.
DICKSON: BYU uses so many defenders it’s sometimes hard to keep track of who’s in the game and making plays. But one guy has stood out to me as a solid contributor and a leader on the defense, and that’s junior free safety Malik Moore. He does a great job directing traffic and made one of the most spectacular interceptions of the season against Utah State. Cougar coaches have moved Chaz Ah You all over the field to take advantage of his unique skills and it’s probably comforting for them to know that Moore has the free safety spot locked down.
3. Who is your offensive MVP for the first half of the football season and why is it Tyler Allgeier?
DICKSON: This is a play off a familiar meme I’ve seen on social media. When there is an obvious choice, you have to acknowledge it. Despite the costly fumble against Boise State (which didn’t give the Broncos a touchdown, the defense did) Allgeier has been absolutely terrific and pretty much single handedly won the Arizona State game with the defensive play of the year. If I’ve learned anything about Allgeier he will come back on Saturday with a high level of focus and have a big game.
LLOYD: It’s tough to argue with Tyler Allgeier, who has done everything the team has asked him to do. I’m going to list two other guys who I feel deserve to be in the conversation and that’s wide receiver Neil Pau’u and offensive lineman Clark Barrington. Pau’u hasn’t always had jaw-dropping numbers but he’s been a reliable receiver who has made a number of key plays while also being willing to block downfield to create bigger plays. Barrington has been excellent for the Cougar offensive line, steady and consistent throughout the season. Both also deserve to be lauded for their leadership roles.
4. What is the biggest concern for BYU traveling to Baylor on Saturday?
LLOYD: I’m going to point to the Cougar running game, which has been such a strength all year. Boise State found some ways to stop BYU’s favorite run plays and I’m pretty sure the Bear defensive coaches were watching closely. When facing a good offense, one of the best ways to limit its success is to keep it off the field — just like teams have done to BYU. That means the Cougars need efficiency with the ground attack and the pass game. BYU has to get good performances from Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa to put together some lengthy drives and force Baylor to wait to get the ball. If the Cougars aren’t able to find some holes, the Bears will focus on getting to Jaren Hall and forcing bad throws.
DICKSON: The Bears will be the most talented offensive team the Cougars have faced this season. The defense is going to be tested by the speed of the Baylor receivers and the accuracy of quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who has completed 66 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. BYU hasn’t shown the ability to pressure the quarterback and Bohanon will have a field day if he’s allowed to just stand in the pocket all day. If BYU decides to bring pressure, that puts a lot of the shoulders of the secondary and linebackers. From what I’ve seen this year, I am concerned the game will turn into a track meet the Cougars will lose.
5. The BYU women’s soccer team has outscored its first three West Coast Conference opponents (Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego) 19-1. What the heck got into the Cougars?
DICKSON: I think this team, which brought back all but one starter from the spring season, presented a huge challenge for long-time coach Jennifer Rockwood. Part of the reason for the inconsistency on offense was that senior forward Cameron Tucker missed a few games early in the season but something just wasn’t clicking. The low point was a shocking 2-1 overtime loss to Utah State, the first win in the series ever for the Aggies. With two weeks between that game and the start of the WCC season, BYU reset. According to star midfielder Mikayla Colohan, those two weeks produced some of the best practices the team has had this year and now the Cougars look right.
LLOYD: It’s interesting how even a team that has talent and is used to playing as a unit still has times where things just don’t go well. I felt like most of BYU’s losses came when opponents tried to “park the bus” in front of their goal and then defeat the Cougars by capitalizing on counterattacks. That philosophy does have some drawbacks, however, in that it gives the other team a chance to organize in the attacking third. I see BYU now finding ways to be more decisive on offense and a number of players are now confidently putting the ball on frame. I don’t know if these numbers are sustainable but it’s clear the Cougars are incredibly capable of tallying a lot of goals and that’s going to be a challenge for opponents for the rest of the season.