Kalani Sitake's Cougars have some work to do on offense this spring
BYU's annual Blue-White spring game is set to kick off on Saturday, March 2 at the old Provo High School, which is now the BYU west campus as LaVell Edwards Stadium undergoes renovations.
BYU is coming off of a 7-6 season where the Cougars ended 2018 on a high note with a bowl victory over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Now Kalani Sitake's team looks to take that next step as BYU hopes to insert itself back into the national conversation once again.
5 Storylines to watch during BYU's Spring Practice
1. Backup quarterback job
Starting quarterback Zach Wilson is out for spring due to a shoulder injury. Wilson will be at all of the practices taking mental reps and acting as a coach/leader for his teammates. Who will stake a claim to the spot on the depth chart behind Wilson is anyone’s guess, but it's an important position battle to watch. Since becoming an FBS Independent in 2011, B has had to turn to its backup QB every year but one (2003). The top three candidates are Joe Critchlow, Jaren Hall, and Baylor Romney. Critchlow has the most experience (three starts in 2017), but Hall and Romney are two of the best athletes on the roster.
2. Battle at right tackle
The good news for BYU is that only one starter — right tackle Austin Hoyt — needs to be replaced along the offensive line. New offensive line coach Eric Mateos, who was previously at Texas State, has been reunited with Cougars offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes as the two coached together when both were at LSU in 2016. Mateos will take a close look at Chandon Herring, Harris LaChance, and Thomas Shoaf this spring as potential starting material. Once that spot is figured out, he'll join a solid group that's headline by center James Empey. Depending on how the right tackle spot shakes out, BYU could have one of the best offensive lines out west.
3. Pass rushers
Losing Corbin Kaufusi and Sione Takitaki is significant since they were two of BYU’s best pass rushers a season ago. The Cougars will look to yet another Kaufusi, and he might end up being the best one. Devin Kaufusi will play a rover defensive end/linebacker role for coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki this fall. The rising sophomore along with former four-star recruit Langi Tuifua and Uriah Leiataua are shaping up to be BYU's best options for getting after the opposing quarterbacks in 2019.
4. Establish an identity on offense
Last year, BYU’s offense held the same principles over the course of the season, but the look and feel changed drastically from the opener against Arizona with heavy sets, multiple tight ends, and the quarterback lining up under center to an attack by the end of the season that used the shotgun and run pass options to take full advantage of Wilson's skill set.
So what will the Cougars' offense look like in 2019? Sitake and Grimes want to have balance. Even in the glory years under LaVell Edwards, BYU’s pass/run ratio was always around 60-40. That’s a sweet spot that the Cougars could achieve this fall.
5. Who will be the running backs?
Sophomore Lopini Katoa returns and is healthy. He looks to be the Cougars' top back entering spring, but after him there are a lot of questions. And there's also the uncertainty surrounding whether Katoa is up to the task of being a feature back in the first place. Other players to watch as BYU sorts out its backfield include preferred walk-on Tyler Allgeier, Sione Finau, and Kavika Fonua.
— 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.