#77 BYU 2018 Football Preview

BYU Cougars
Overall Rank: #77
#3 FBS Independent
 BYU Logo
Coming off their worst season in over four decades and their first losing campaign in 13 years, the expectations are very low for BYU. The Cougars went 4-9 with those wins coming against Portland State, San Jose State, UNLV and Hawaii. Losing to Massachusetts at home is not acceptable for this program and Coach Kalani Sitake needs to quickly turn things around as he heads into his third year leading the program.
2017 Record: 4-9
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Kalani Sitake (13-13 at BYU, 13-13 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Grimes
Defensive Coordinator: Ilaisa Tuiaki
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Squally Canada, RB, 710 yards
Passing: Tanner Mangum, QB, 1,540 yards
Receiving: Matt Bushman, TE, 520 yards
Tackles: Sione Takitaki, LB, 79
Sacks: Corbin Kaufusi, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Zayne Anderson, LB, 2; Dayan Ghanwoloku, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Ula Tolutau, QB Joe Critchlow, WR Aleva Hifo, WR Micah Simon, LB Butch Pau’u
Key Losses: WR Jonathan Trinnaman, LB Fred Warner
The offensive staff has been completely retooled after their disappointing year. Jeff Grimes is the new offensive coordinator after coming in from LSU. He has some decent options to work with. Three different quarterbacks started last season and freshman Zach Wilson brings high expectations as well. Tanner Mangum has the most experience and threw for 1,540 yards and eight touchdowns last year before suffering an injury. Beau Hoge started a couple games before he too was injured and Joe Critchlow had some decent moments, including two victories, starting the final three games of 2017. Expect the quarterback battle to continue well into the fall. Tight end Matt Bushman is a quality receiving target and the Cougars return every other significant target as well. With a couple talented newcomers, most notably graduate transfer Dylan Collie and freshman Gunner Romney, whoever is under center has some quality receivers at his disposal. Running back Squally Canada played very well late last season. On the year he rushed for 710 yards and six touchdowns. The Cougars will also get production from freshman Zachary Katoa.
The defense was decent last year, but still not up to BYU’s standards. The biggest problem was getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and that will be the first issue that needs to be addressed. Corbin Kaufusi will do most of the pass rushing work. The senior end led the team with 6.0 sacks in 2017. Sione Takitaki is moving to outside linebacker and will certainly help get to the quarterback. Last year he tallied 79 tackles, 5.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss. With Butch Pau’u and former safety Zayne Anderson also back at linebacker, that is the most experienced group on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary has been largely retooled in the offseason. Dayan Ghanwoloku and Troy Warner moved from cornerback to safety, leaving some inexperienced, but promising, pieces at cornerback.
The Bottom Line:
If BYU does not have to rotate through quarterbacks because of injuries, they will be better. That complete lack of continuity really hurt the offense. The schedule starts tough with trips to Arizona, Wisconsin and Washington in September, but it gets much easier after that. If the Cougars can stay healthy and learn a few things early on, they can play for a bowl berth in November.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 130.5 (104th in nation, 4th independent)
Passing Offense: 194.6 (90, 2)
Total Offense: 325.2 (118, 4)
Scoring Offense: 17.1 (123, 4)
Rushing Defense: 147.6 (44, 1)
Pass Defense: 225.2 (67, 4)
Total Defense: 372.8 (51, 3)
Scoring Defense: 24.7 (46, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.77 (117, 4)
Sacks: 1.31 (115, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (60, 2)