The Cougars ended strong last season through the air, with quarterback Jake Heaps settling in as the established starter. The paltry, un-BYU-like 198.4 yards per game through the air last season was mostly due to some incredible futility experienced early in the season.
“We’re way ahead of where we were last year entering the season,” Heaps said. “You can’t really even compare it. Guys are confident, we had good summer workouts and we had a very good fall camp. We’ll be putting up some good numbers I feel.”
Most of Heaps’ primary targets return from last season, including a key addition in redshirt freshman Ross Apo, 6-3, 202. Apo will join with last year's standout, Cody Hoffman, 6-4, 208, and senior McKay Jacobson, 5-11, 199, who looks to finish with his best season as a Cougar.
Up front, the Cougar offensive line was very effective in providing ample time for Heaps to throw the football last season as it came to a close. Overall, the Cougars gave up 21 sacks on the year, but again that number was frontloaded as the team improved in that area during the final half.
The Rebels' secondary returns three players with starting experience in senior cornerback Marcus Temple, 5-10, 190, senior safety Damien Jackson, 6-2, 210, and sophomore free safety Charles Sawyer, 5-11, 175.
Overall, the Rebels gave up 246.3 yards per game last season. They play a lot of man-coverage that could allow for some big gains by the Cougar wideouts.
“They play a lot of cover one, but they’re in man a lot with some zone thrown in on occasion,” observed Heaps. “Like it is in most games, if we’re successful in running the football, it will open up a lot of play-action opportunities and hopefully we can get some big-gainers down the field.”
This game will mark the debut for Apo, and fans should look for at least a couple of deep attempts to be thrown his way. The unsung hero on the BYU passing tree is Di Luigi, who led the team in receptions a season ago.
With the tight ends looking much improved entering the Ole Miss match-up, the Cougars shouldn’t have much trouble in throwing for more than 250 yards on Saturday.
BYU rush defense vs. Ole Miss
The Cougars will present three nose tackle types as their three down linemen. They’ll use a rotation consisting of very experienced players such as senior Romney Fuga, 6-2, 321, junior Eathyn Manumaleuna, 6-2, 294, and sophomore Graham Rowley, 6-4, 280.
They’ll go six deep at the very least on Saturday to help with the brutal heat that is expected. The rotating options look strong, with junior college transfer Hebron Fangupo, 6-1, 331, leading the way.
Ole Miss will feature senior running back Brandon Bolden, 5-11, 215, who is generally considered to be the top offensive option for the Rebels.
“They’re a smash-mouth type of offense from what we’ve seen,” said outside linebacker Jameson Frazier about Ole Miss. “They’ll pound it away at you on the inside and set up play-action, but they also have some guys that can get you on the edge. Their running back is very good, and they’ll be a challenge.”
The Rebel offensive front is the unquestioned strength of the entire team. It will return all five starters from a season ago and will be led by tackles Bobby Massie, 6-6, 315, and Bradley Sowell, 6-7, 320.
“They’re a very good and experienced offensive front,” said Eathyn Manumaleuna. “They’re a lot like our guys that we have on offense there.”
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