Offense: Quarterback Max Hall leads a returning cast of virtually no one. In skill position players the Cougars have running back Harvey Unga and tight end Dennis Pitta returning but that’s it. Bryan Kariya steps in this year at the other running back position while Luke Ashworth and the guy with two last names, O’Neill Chambers, will fill the voids at receiver.
Hall is certainly capable of distributing the ball to his supporting cast and Unga is a proven workhorse after averaging 4.7 yards per carry in 2008. The immediate concern for BYU, on offense, has to be along the line. Sophomore left Tackle Matt Reynolds is the only returning starter for the Cougars and he is currently recovering from surgery to repair a broken hand and is questionable for the start of the season. Starting left guard Jason Speredon is also gone for the season with a shoulder injury and reserve lineman Houston Reynolds (younger brother to Matt) suffered an ACL injury on his right knee and could be lost for the season as well.
Behind veteran leadership BYU scored at a pace of 34.2 points per game in 2008. With 310.4 of their 444.8 offensive yards per game coming through the air the key offensive positions, outside of quarterback, are receivers and linemen. Now they are faced with new personnel at receiver and a rash of injuries along the line. Things can still come together, offensively, for the Cougars because they are known for producing talent but it sure has been a rough start in
Defense: Defensively the Cougars were the exact opposite of their offensive teammates…initially. Where the offense only has four returning starters the defense is only minus three starters from last season’s squad that at one time went eleven consecutive quarters without surrendering any points. However, like the offense they Cougar defense is facing injuries at key positions. Starting cornerbacks Brandon Bradley (knee tendonitis) and Robbie Buckner (hamstring) have been limited in practice making way for a pair of JUCO transfers.
BYU runs a 3-4 defensive scheme and should be solid along the front seven. All three linemen are back from last season including defensive end Jan Jorgenson who led the team in sacks. Two of BYU’s four linebackers return from `08 and Matt Bauman is one of them. Last season Bauman led the team with 108 tackles.
Stacking up well against the run, it may be the passing game that gets to the Cougars. They only allowed 215.6 yards per game through the air last season but on several occasions they were burned on short passing routes which cost them dearly in losses to both TCU and
Outlook: If BYU is able to get their offense going they are as dangerous as just about anyone in the country. At times last season they looked like a legitimate Top 10 team, particularly after crushing UCLA 59-0 in
With a cast that includes 10 new starters the tendency to buckle under pressure may be gone but now the talent is unproven. With