The good, the bad and the most likely: projecting the 2014 football season for BYU
BYU lost more than its fair share of big-time players to graduation, and there are some big shoes to fill. The biggest of those are on the defensive end where the Cougars lost Eathyn Manumaleuna, leading tackler Uani Unga, hard-hitting safety Daniel Sorensen, Spencer Hadley and Van Noy. The offense was hit hard by departures as well, including the receiving core. Gone are JD Falslev, Skyler Ridley and all-time leading receiver Cody Hoffman as well as backup quarterback Ammon Olsen.
Taysom Hill really struggled with his accuracy a year ago and now his three favorite targets are gone. Also gone are his two biggest weapons in the passing game from the tight end spot in Brett Thompson and Kaneauka Friel. With so many new players to incorporate in the passing game, chances of Hill improving will be more difficult.
Although the ramifications seem much smaller than when first reported, there is still an NCAA ruling hanging over the Cougars. On top of that, they already have a pair of suspensions to deal with for the UConn game.
The worst-case scenario is that the brutal travel schedule and the loss of some very talented players will be very difficult for the Cougars to get over. While the schedule isn't as tough as a year ago, there are still some very good teams on the docket, and most of those games are on the road. Suspensions and injuries may be too much for BYU to overcome, and the Cougars may struggle to a 6-6 season.
The most likely
Thanks to a remarkable showing by the offensive line, the Cougars put on a show on the offensive side of the ball and put up more than 35 points a game. Taysom Hill makes improvements with his accuracy and ends up with plenty of weapons, taking trips to the end zone in the passing game. Jamaal Williams manages another 1,000-yard campaign while Algernon Brown, Paul Lasike and Adam Hine give the Cougars plenty of talented options in the backfield. The running game (including Hill) puts up more than 3,000 yards to make BYU one of the most balanced teams in the country.
The defense has a hard time replacing so many good players, but they have enough talent and leadership to stay in every game. Bills, Fua, Kaufusi and Johnson all make big plays along the way as the Cougar defense has another quality season. BYU overcomes one of the toughest travel itineraries in the nation and finishes with a 10-3 record.
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