The argument can be made thatBYU was the most disappointing team in college football for the 2017 season. The Cougars had become one of the more consistent programs in the sport for the past decade but they took a significant dip in the wrong direction last fall.
Tough decisions had to be made from the top after a disastrous 4-9 season and head coach Kalani Sitake made those tough calls by relieving BYU legend Ty Detmer of his offensive coordinator duties. The move had mixed reviews from a fan base that expects not only winning football, but a program that produces big numbers on the offensive end.
With a new staff in place and a new commitment to not taking success for granted, there are some reasons to get optimistic about BYU football in 2018.
1. Jeff Grimes as offensive coordinator
BYU hiring the former LSU offensive line coach was a big splash for the Cougars. Very few in the Cougar fan base felt they could land a coach who had experience at the Power Five level. Grimes has never been an offensive coordinator in his two-decade-long career, but he has experience in various offensive war rooms at Auburn when they won the national championship in 2010, LSU, Colorado, Arizona State, Boise State, and also BYU where he was the offensive line coach from 2004-06. Grimes knows the unique challenges that BYU poses, but he wanted the challenge to make an advancement in his career.
2. Trio of Pac-12 transfers eligible to play in 2018
BYU had a wealth of talent redshirting a season ago and many of those players will make an impact for the Cougars in 2018. Keep an eye out for Oregon transfer defensive lineman Wayne Tei-Kirby. Kirby made an impact for the Ducks in his true freshman season back in 2016, but decided to transfer out of Eugene due to the environment. Kirby was a standout on scout team defense a year ago.
At linebacker, BYU looks to replace Fred Warner, who is headed for the NFL. A player that has an opportunity to see significant time in BYU’s linebacking corps is Oregon State transfer Christian Folau. Folau, who was once a four-star recruit out of high school, originally signed with the Beavers. Folau redshirted a year ago and will be a playmaker immediately this fall.
On the offensive side, former Oregon State signee Zachary Lopini Katoa could be a surprise in BYU’s busy running back room. The Cougars return a lot of players to the position, but with no one emerging as the clear-cut starter week-in and week-out, competition will be taking place in spring and fall camp allowing for Katoa to rise up the depth chart.
3. Offensive line
Last season, BYU’s offensive line was a bright spot for an otherwise terrible offense in 2017. Sitake has made a concerted effort to improve the talent in the trenches and that hard work the past few years at offensive line is one of the many reasons Grimes took the offensive coordinator job. Grimes’ protege Ryan Pugh, who was the starting center on Auburn’s 2010 national championship team, will coach up the BYU offensive line and he has a group that very well could be better in 2018. Former Notre Dame lineman Tristen Hoge will be eligible to play and he is projected to be a starter at either guard or center. Former Utah signee James Empey also is eligible after redshirting a year ago along with four-star recruit Kieffer Longson, who could see time at either guard or tackle this season.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is BYU Insider for ESPN 960 Sports and Publisher of Cougar Nation, part of the Rivals network. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.