BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Football Preview

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Quarterback Taysom Hill's return from injury among key developments for struggling offense

<p> BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>

BYU’s second season as an independent was a little rockier than the first, but the Cougars still finished the season in a bowl game.

Injuries and ineffectiveness meant BYU had to start three quarterbacks through the course of its 8-5 season. The Cougars were a stout defensive team, but struggled to score points against tougher competition. BYU hopes it has its quarterback of the future already on the roster and on the mend in sophomore Taysom Hill.

This spring, he’ll be a handful of players reintroducing himself to the coaching staff. BYU has a handful of players, like Hill, returning from injury, and as usual, the Cougars will welcome a handful of key players coming back from LDS missions.

BYU Cougars 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 5

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Taysom Hill, 181 of 308, 425 pass yds., 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jamaal Williams, 166 car., 775 yds., 12 TDs
Receiving: Cody Hoffman, 100 rec., 1,248 yds., 11 TDs
Tackles: Daniel Sorensen, 68
Sacks: Kyle Van Noy, 13
Interceptions: Daniel Sorensen, 3

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OL Josh Carter, OL Tim Duran, OL Edward Fusi, DB Sam Lee, DB Trent Trammell, DL Kalolo Uto, OL De'Ondre Wesley

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at Virginia
Sept. 7 Texas
Sept. 21 Utah
Sept. 27 Middle Tennnessee
Oct. 4 at Utah State
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 19 at Houston
Oct. 26 Boise State
Nov. 9 at Wisconsin
Nov. 16 Idaho State
Nov. 23 at Notre Dame
Nov. 30 at Nevada

Offensive Strength: Beyond questions at quarterback, BYU should feel comfortable at the offensive skill positions. As the Cougars started three quarterbacks last season, Cody Hoffman was the consistent target. He finished with 73 more catches and nearly 1,000 more yards than anyone else on the roster. Jamaal Williams took over the starting running back duties at midseason and finished with 775 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Offensive Weakness: The offensive line is the most uncertain spot on this side of the ball. The most steady lineman, right tackle Braden Brown, is gone. An influx of junior college transfers will be in the mix for starting jobs. The Cougars also have a few health concerns with quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Michael Alisa returning from injuries.

Defensive Strength: BYU’s defensive strength begins with Kyle Van Noy, an All-America candidate. The pass rush extraordinaire finished with 13 sacks last season. Though he was consistent for most of the season, he finished with 9.5 tackles for a loss in the final three games and added a pick six in the bowl win over San Diego State. As a unit, the defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense (86.9 yards per game) and held five opponents to seven points or fewer.

Defensive Weakness: Perhaps not a weakness as much as a question for the spring: BYU loses seven starters on the defense. That includes five in the front seven. The Cougars may have the depth to replace the players gone with experienced backups, a handful of newcomers and several players returning from injuries or LDS missions.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cougars

1. Taysom Hill’s recovery. Hopes are high for BYU’s young quarterback. The dual-threat started twice before missing the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. In his best game of the season (albeit against Hawaii), Hill passed for 112 yards and two touchdowns with an interception while rushing for 143 yards and a score. He’ll have to show this spring he’s healthy and ready to take over the offense full time.

2. Junior college transfers on the offensive line. Left tackle Ryker Matthews may be the only sure thing on the offensive line. That may be startling for a team that returns four starters. BYU addressed its need by adding four junior college offensive linemen to compete for positions.

3. Competition at cornerback. The most uncertain position on the defense may be cornerback where three graduated, including one starter in Preston Hadley. Early enrollee Trenton Trammell may compete for time. Depth beyond the other starting cornerback, Jordan Johnson, is far from settled as well.

4. Returning bodies on the defensive line. All three starters on the defensive line are gone, but there’s no reason for Bronco Mendenhall to panic. Eathyn Manumaleuna started the first four games last season before missing the end of the year with an injury. He earned a medical redshirt, giving BYU a lineman who can play all line positions. In addition, Tuni Kanuch and Sae Tautu are back from LDS missions.

5. Depth at middle linebacker. Like defensive line, the linebacker group lost starters, but a mix of players will give BYU options. Both starting inside linebackers are gone. Austen Jorgensen received a medical waiver and will look to reclaim the form he had in 2010 when he amassed 46 tackles. Uani Unga had 28 tackles as a redshirt freshman last season.

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