BYU's season opener at UConn is still 198 days away, and it's still way too early to look at where the Cougars stand at every position.


Of course it's too early, but with BYU's 2014 recruiting class in the bag and spring camp just around the corner there's plenty to talk about. For example, who will replace the likes of Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman? Can the offensive line finally gel? What happens if Taysom Hill goes down to injury?

Here's our way-too-early position-by-position breakdown for 2014.

Lafe Peavler is a sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.

Offensive overview

It's year two of offensive coordinator Robert Anae's "go fast, go hard" offense, so the BYU offense should get off to a quicker start than what happened at Virginia last season. Anae already has key pieces in place with Hill and Jamaal Williams, and he's landed a fantastic batch of wide receivers to help compensate for the loss of Hoffman and the other seniors.

The offensive line remains a concern headed in 2014, and the tight ends are far from what BYU's greats of old were. Still, there's plenty of room for optimism on this side of the ball.


Taysom Hill is BYU's undisputed starter headed into spring not only because he started all of last season. He's also starting because nobody else on the roster can.

The good news is that Hill is poised to build on his sophomore season. No one can dispute his ability to blow past defenses and rack up a lot of yards. His 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing give ample testimony of that.

Yes, Hill's arm still needs some work. However, he made steady improvement as the season progressed. After he threw just one touchdown pass in his first four games, he finished with 19 by season's end. It's doubtful he'll ever break any passing records at BYU, but with a bit more seasoning and work he can certainly become the quarterback the Cougars need to win double-digit games.

The biggest concern for the Cougars is what happens if Hill goes down for any reason this upcoming season. With Ammon Olsen gone to SUU, his potential backups are Christian Stewart and Billy Green. Both players have extremely limited experience actually running the offense. Throwing either quarterback into Robert Anae's "go fast, go hard" offense could be disastrous if something sidelines Hill.

In short, the Cougars need Hill to stay healthy. That will likely affect how the coaching staff uses him in 2014.

Running back

The Cougars are deeper at running back than on any other position on offense. Williams will remain BYU's feature back after rushing for 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns last season. His speed and elusiveness are more than enough to place him on the top of the depth chart again.

BYU also has some decent backups. While Williams and Hill combined for 69.7 percent of the carries last season, Paul Lasike, Algernon Brown and Adam Hine all at least have some good experience.

Former rugby star Lasike will likely remain Williams' primary backup. While he's not as shifty as Williams, he can provide the Cougar offensive with a nice change of pace as he's solid in the power running game. Hine will likely remain BYU's primary kick return man, and he'll probably get most of his yards from that in 2014.

Also, the Cougars will have Iona Pritchard back, and he'll have plenty of work to do to distinguish himself from this already crowded backfield.

Overall, BYU doesn't have much to worry about here.

Wide receiver

BYU's biggest losses are clearly at wide receiver. BYU's top four wide receivers from last season are gone. Hoffman leaves really big shoes to fill as he finished his college career as BYU's reception, yards and touchdown record holder. BYU also lost seniors Skyler Ridley and JD Falslev, both of whom combined for 73 catches for 782 yards and five touchdowns.

Which is why the Cougars focused so heavily on recruiting wide receivers.

The nice thing is BYU's wide receiver recruits have more experience than players fresh out of high school. The Cougars have a solid pair of junior college transfers in Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon. At 6-6, Kurtz brings excellent size combined with a 4.5 40-yard dash time. Blackmon doesn't have that towering size, but he does bring a 4.4 40-yard dash speed to the table.

BYU also landed UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie. Because he's already graduated with a degree in electrical engineering, he'll be able to play right away. Leslie had 44 receptions for 612 yards and seven touchdowns last season, but more importantly he brings valuable experience at the FBS level.

And don't forget Mitch Mathews. Before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Wisconsin, the 6-6 sophomore had 23 catches for 397 yards and four touchdowns. Plus, Ross Apo returns and will hopefully start living up to his hype after catching just 14 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.

While BYU will have a bunch of new faces, these wide receivers have a tremendous upside.

Tight end

It's been too long since BYU has had a reliable tight end. This position used to be a trademark for the Cougars up until Dennis Pitta and Andrew George graduated in 2009.

The Cougars return Brett Thompson and Devin Mahina, but both of these players combined for just 19 receptions for 217 yards and no touchdowns. Part of the reason is that tight ends simply haven't been an emphasis of the BYU offense for the past four seasons.

But now that Anae has had a year to install his new offense, we could see more passes directed at tight ends.

The Cougars have two tight ends returning from their missions in Colby Jorgensen and Matt Sumsion. The bottom line is that tight ends still have a long way to go to live up to BYU's tradition and expectations at this position.

Offensive line

When all is said and done, BYU's success on offense in 2014 will depend on the offensive line.

BYU returns most of its offensive linemen from last season, but with how much this unit was rotated and beaten up last season, that's hardly a cause for confidence. That being said, this line now has a full year under Anae's "go fast, go hard" system and should be better prepared in 2014 for BYU's new fast pace.

BYU's biggest concern on the line remains at tackle. Michael Yeck took over for Ryker Mathews after Mathews' injuries kept him from being effective at that position. Unfortunately, Yeck had trouble containing talented defensive ends, such as Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha. With BYU's lack of depth behind Hill, protecting his blind side becomes that much more critical this season. De'ondre Wesley could be the answer, but he struggled with committing false starts last season.

BYU has some up-and-coming guards in sophomore Brayden Kearsley. Kearsley can play at either guard position or even at center. Edward Fusi and Terrance Alletto are also competitive at guard, while Mathews could continue to play as a guard if his hip injury doesn't allow him to return to play tackle.

Hopefully, the BYU line will be able to gel in 2014 in a way that it just wasn't able to in 2013. Also, returned missionaries Corbin Kaufusi, Ului Lapuaho, Manu Mulitalo and Brian Rawlinson should add some much-need depth.

Defensive overview

Coach Bronco Mendenhall has a lot of holes to fill on this side of the ball. The linebacker core will need to be almost completely rebuilt, the defensive line also needs some rebuilding, but the secondary has just one major loss while many of BYU's beat-up defensive backs return to health and hopefully the field.

Mendenhall has already proved his salt at building solid defenses, but he'll be tested again this year, particularly on the front seven. The Cougars will hope that he and the defensive coaching staff can quickly rebuild the defense in time for their opening road trips against UConn and Texas.

Defensive line

The defensive line loses Eathyn Manumaleuna, and the Cougars will miss his leadership and versatility at both defensive tackle and defensive end. Furthermore, Bronson Kaufusi is being moved from defensive end to help out at outside linebacker. That leaves Remington Peck as BYU's lone returning starter on the line. Peck had 38 tackles and 3.0 sacks last season, but he'll need to step up his game.

The other key Cougar returning is Marques Johnson. The junior college transfer will compete for the starting defensive tackle position, but he'll have plenty of competition.

The Cougars are about to get a massive influx of new talent. BYU has five defensive linemen returning from missions. Travis Tuiloma got some experience at defensive tackle before leaving on his mission to Samoa. Graham Rowley has two years experience as a backup and could see significant playing time as well.

The defensive line positions will be the most competitive ones coming up in spring camp, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top of the depth chart.


Mendenhall has his work cut out for him as he rebuilds the linebacker corps. Not only does BYU have to replace the versatile Kyle Van Noy, but it also needs to replace Uani 'Unga and Spencer Hadley.

Alani Fua will be BYU's leader at linebacker after a solid season in 2013. Fua made 63 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. He'll have help from Manoa Pikula and Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, both of whom saw at least some playing time last season.

Mendenhall has made two major moves this offseason to help compensate for the departure of so many talented linebackers. First, he's moved players such as Bronson Kaufusi and running back Michael Alisa to linebacker. Second, his coaching staff has landed an impressive group of linebacker recruits, including Tyler Cook and Fred Warner.

BYU has plenty of young talent on its hands. The biggest question is how fast Mendenhall and the BYU coaching staff can develop that talent and quickly this new linebacker corps can gel.


BYU lost an awful lot of cornerbacks before the season even started last season. Jordan Johnson, Trent Trammell and Sam Lee all suffered season-ending injuries before BYU's opening game at Virginia.

The Cougars are hoping that lightning doesn't strike the cornerbacks twice.

Johnson and Trammell are the most probable starters. And 2014 recruit Michael Shelton enrolled early at BYU and will participate in spring camp. Lee will likely miss spring camp as he recovers from back surgery. Trevor Bateman and Skye PoVey can also make a case for playing time.

The Cougars were fortunate that the secondary was as good as it was in 2013 despite all those injuries. However, BYU can't afford to lose the same level of talent again this season.


Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills were one of the most underrated safety duos in the nation, and Bills is going to have to step up with Sorensen graduated. Robertson Daniel should move back to safety after having to play corner last season due to the multitude of injuries there.

Depth could be an issue here, particularly as BYU has no defensive backs returning from missions and 2014 recruit Isaiah Kaufusi leaving on a mission. Colorado State transfer Drew Reilly could see some playing time. However, BYU's best hope is that Bills and Daniel can stay healthy and be as great of a team as Bills and Sorensen.

Special teams

BYU has a solid kick return man in Adam Hine, but little else is solid on special teams at this point. The Cougars have to replace Justin Sorensen, who had at least a measure of redemption last season after a rough 2012. Trevor Samson will likely take over kicking duties this season. He transferred from Fresno Community College last year. While he made 85 percent of his kicks at his previous school, he has yet to attempt a field goal while at BYU.

Scott Arellano will likely return as BYU's starting punter, but he was far from consistent last season. While he has a 73-yard punt on his resume, he averaged just 32.8 yards per punt against Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

BYU still has plenty of work to do before the season starts to make the special teams anything special.