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BYU Football: 3 Reasons for Optimism About the Cougars in 2019

BYU Football: 3 Reasons for Optimism About the Cougars in 2019

BYU Football: 3 Reasons for Optimism About the Cougars in 2019

BYU football had a nice bounce-back year in 2018, going 7-6 and capping off the season with a dominating win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

The Cougars are now heading into year four of the Kalani Sitake era and everyone around the program knows that six or seven wins won’t be the expectation next year. Projections will be higher and more expectations will be placed on the team. But that’s what BYU wants. BYU is one of the winningest programs in college football over the last four or five decades. There’s a high standard of success and they desperately want to get back to the level of play they once enjoyed.

There are reasons to be optimistic about BYU football in 2019 and I’ll give you three of those reasons right here.

1. QB Zach Wilson

Last year, Wilson took over midway through the season for senior Tanner Mangum and he had his ups and downs like any true freshman quarterback would. But Wilson closed out the season strong with a gutty performance against rival Utah in defeat and then a flawless performance in the bowl win over Western Michigan, completing all 18 of his pass attempts for 317 yards and four touchdowns.

BYU knows Wilson is their quarterback of the future and he has all the ability in the world to be one of the best the Cougars have had in the last 20 years. Former BYU wide receiver Dylan Collie said, “Zach could be the best quarterback ever in this school’s history. He knows that and he’s working for that.”

A lot of BYU’s struggles since becoming an FBS Independent in 2011 have been due to inconsistent play at quarterback. If healthy, and that’s always something to monitor with any player in football, Wilson should be a lot of fun to watch and could be one of the better quarterbacks out west in 2019.

2. Talented secondary

Since Kalani Sitake took over in 2016, the Cougars have made it a point of emphasis to build the depth at secondary to have the cornerbacks that can be physical at the line of scrimmage and makes plays on the ball. BYU has that in 2019. Senior Dayan Ghanwoloku is the best of the bunch. He’s believed to be switching back from safety to cornerback this fall where he played his first two seasons with the Cougars. Youngsters D’Angelo Mandell, Isaiah Herron, and junior college transfer Eric Ellison give BYU depth at cornerback and then the guy with the highest upside is three-year starter Chris Wilcox. He has the talent and intangibles to become an NFL cornerback.

The safeties are really good as well with seniors Austin Lee and Troy Warner along with reserves Sawyer Powell and Malik Moore, who each saw extensive playing time in 2018.

3. Three of BYU’s four games against Power 5 teams are in Provo

As an independent, BYU has usually taken their show on the road to venues from coast to coast in the first month of the season. But this season will have a different look. It’s front-loaded once again but three of the four Power 5 teams have to travel to Provo, including the season opener against Utah on the opening Thursday night of the season. If BYU can defend home turf at LaVell Edwards Stadium against the Utes as well as fellow Pac-12 members USC (Sept. 14) and Washington (Sept. 31), the Cougars could be generating headlines in the month of September once again.

— 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.

(Top photo courtesy of