Kalani Sitake and the Cougars are ready for a fresh start after going 4-9 last season
It’s hard to get a clear read of where BYU football is right now. Was 2017’s 4-9 showing a fluke, or was that season the new reality for Cougar football? Through two seasons under head coach Kalani Sitake, BYU is 13-13. Getting back to respectability and a bowl game would be an excellent step in the right direction for a team that not only lost many games, but wasn’t competitive in most of those losses.
This will be an important spring football for BYU as the coaches and players look to bring pride and excitement back to a program that only knows winning football over the last 50 years.
5 Storylines to Watch During BYU’s Spring Practice
1. Establishing a culture on offense
New offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes has a tall task in front of him to take one of the nation’s worst offenses a year ago and transform it into one that is consistent and ultimately has an identity. Object number one for Grimes will be to create a culture on offense and then start to execute the playbook once that culture is created.
2. Quarterback battle
Tanner Mangum is still recovering from an Achilles injury and he is expected to be limited in spring ball. Look for junior Beau Hoge and sophomore Joe Critchlow to have the most first-team reps early on in spring, but keep an eye on true freshman Zach Wilson, who is the only QB who was recruited to BYU by Grimes.
3. Replacing Fred Warner at Flash Linebacker
BYU has built a brand of producing excellent outside linebackers that end up in the NFL over the past 10 years. Warner was a bright spot in an otherwise dark season for the Cougars. But who replaces Warner as he heads to the NFL? Senior walk-on Morgan Unga looked to have the inside track but he is out with a shoulder injury. Safety-turned-linebacker Zayne Anderson will get an opportunity to play there as well.
4. Clean slate
A lot of changes to this BYU program have taken place since the 2017 season ended in November. New coaches, new members of the support staff, new players, and a new commitment to not cutting corners and taking things for granted. A clean slate feels like the approach the new coaches and retained ones are going to incorporate into the program after the worst finish since World War II. Anyone that is assumed to be a starter entering spring, don’t bank on it. There are very few players that you can write in pen into BYU’s two-deep right now. There will be competition everywhere you look.
5. Kalani Sitake’s seat is starting to get warm
This feels like another year one for Sitake as there is so much change in the program, but everyone, especially the head coach, understands college football is a results-driven business. Produce or someone else will be hired to perform. When a program icon like former offensive coordinator Ty Detmer is relieved of his duties, nobody’s job is safe. Sitake is showing that he is fighting for his job by making these changes and he will need to get the program back on track immediately after a difficult offseason.
— 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.