BYU's football team kicks off its spring practice Monday with a lot of accompanying storylines. Here are 10 such storylines we'll be keeping a close eye on over the coming month:
Quality depth behind starting quarterback Taysom Hill took a hit when Ammon Olsen decided to transfer back to Southern Utah in the offseason. Olsen backed up the spot last season and was considered by most to be a very adequate replacement for Hill if called upon.
Olsen’s transfer leaves the backup duties fairly wide open this spring. Billy Green (6-2, 206) will be participating in his second spring practice session and should be primed to compete for the role along with Christian Stewart (6-2, 201), who was the third-string QB last season.
Both players should see plenty of reps this spring to prove themselves worthy of the role. Stewart should have the inside track to the spot unless Green proves otherwise.
It was announced in the offseason that Bronson Kaufusi, who started at defensive end in 2013, will make the switch to outside linebacker. Kyle Van Noy made outside linebacker the marquee position at BYU and Kaufusi will attempt to replace at least some of that same play-making ability.
Kaufusi has remarkable agility for a 6-foot-7 athlete and should be a good fit for the spot. We’ll be keeping tabs on what strides he makes at the spot throughout March.
Trammell (6-0, 190) tore his ACL on the very first day of spring practices last year and sat out the entire 2013 season as a result. He’s now fully recovered and looking to make the type of impact most assumed he’d make last season.
Coaches have raved about Trammell’s ability since he transferred to the program from San Francisco College last year. He should see plenty of reps this spring and will look to lock down the open starting cornerback spot opposite Jordan Johnson.
Robertson Daniel turned out to be a lifesaver for last year’s secondary — transferring to the program just after Trammell’s injury and providing solid play throughout 2013. The De Anza junior college transfer showed he was capable of playing boundary corner last season and could certainly fill that same role this year.
Considering the return of Trammell and Jordan Johnson, a position may be in store for Daniel as a result. Coach Bronco Mendenhall likes to play his best players, regardless of position, and it won’t be surprising if the four best defensive backs prove to be Trammell, Johnson, Craig Bills and Daniel.
Considering Daniel’s size, and ability to tackle, it seems a switch to either strong or free safety may be in store. If the move doesn’t happen this spring, it could very well happen during the fall practice session.
BYU scored big on the recruiting front signing Grossmont Junior College transfer Nick Kurtz. Everything about the 6-foot-6 receiver strongly indicates a strong immediate impact is in store, and we’ll begin to learn of that impact this spring.
Michael Davis played at cornerback last season after entering the program as a receiver prospect. He’s now switched back to receiver and will have this spring to find a role for himself at the position. Speed is perhaps Davis’ biggest asset, and the offense could certainly use someone who can stretch the field consistently.
Both junior college transfer Devon Blackmon and UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie could also make huge impacts at receiver, but both players won’t arrive until fall.
BYU lost a lot with the graduation of Uani Unga, who started at Mike linebacker last season. Now the search for his replacement begins in earnest and the player who should have the inside track to start at one of the most critical positions on defense is Manoa Pikula. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound athlete saw a lot of action last season and will make his bid to start this spring.
Others vying for the spot include Teu Kautai, a couple of LDS returned missionaries (Taloai Ho-Ching and Austin Heder) and Zac Stout, who returns to the program this season.
Replacing Eathyn Manumaleuna at nose tackle could also prove a difficult task for defensive coaches. Fortunately they return Marques Johnson, who played a lot at nose tackle down the stretch last year while Manumaleuna saw some reps at defensive end.
Johnson should have the edge for the starting spot, but will be pushed by others, including JonRyheem Peoples along with Travis Tuiloma and Kesni Tausinga, both who recently returned from LDS Church missions.
Michael Alisa started his career at BYU as an outside linebacker prior to switching to running back following his LDS Church service. After sitting out most of last season with injury, he’s decided to switch back to outside linebacker, a position in need of quality depth.
Alisa saw quite a bit of playing time at linebacker as a true freshman and should be able to make a good impact there for his final senior season. The battle for spots at outside linebacker should intensify considerably come fall when blue chip recruits such as Fred Warner and Tyler Cook enter the program.
It’s no secret that the offensive line struggled throughout 2013, but the group should be aided by a year’s experience with the new offense and a few new faces at the position. Two of the more notable faces will be Tuni Kanuch, who switched over from defense in the offseason, and Ului Lapuaho, who recently returned from LDS mission service. Coach Bronco Mendenhall pinpointed Lapuaho as someone who has impressed in workouts since returning and we’ll begin to learn of any impact he’ll make this spring.
The program graduated a host of tight ends, which makes space for some promising faces at the position. Brett Thompson was assumed to take the lead at the position last year before being beset by injury. He returns this spring and will look to establish himself as the starter.
How much an actual tight end will be employed within the offense is also in question. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae turned away from use of a traditional tight end last year in favor of a slot receiver, and we’ll see if this changes this spring and into the fall.