Can BYU take the next step forward in 2020 after back-to-back seven-win seasons? The Cougars face one of their most challenging schedules and will need to fill holes at a few key positions. They do welcome back enough important leaders like Zach Wilson, Matt Bushman, and Khyiris Tonga to give optimism that progress can be made.
BYU did not make much of a splash nationally with its 2020 signing class. The Cougars hope their mix of under-the-radar freshmen, returned LDS missionaries, and graduate transfers can produce some newcomers that will help get the team over that seven-win hump.
There are a few newcomers in particular who seem poised to make an immediate impact this fall:
Devonta'e Henry-Cole, RB
Injuries decimated BYU's backfield last season and the Cougars' depth was perilously thin again heading into 2020. Henry-Cole, a graduate transfer from Utah, has a chance to be BYU's lead back from day one. The 5-foot-9 senior is a speedy and shifty back who saw limited snaps with the Utes while backing up Zack Moss. Henry-Cole will give BYU a dynamic runner who can be a difference-maker against Power 5 opponents – much like Ty'Son Williams was last season. Henry-Cole ran for 469 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry during his four seasons at Utah.
Kody Epps, WR
BYU needed to get more targets for Zach Wilson after losing three of its top receivers from last season — Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo and Talon Shumway — to graduation. Epps gives the Cougars a burner who has the right combination of speed and shiftiness to potentially be a game-changing playmaker. The 5-foot-10 receiver is BYU's highest-ranked recruit in the team's 2020 signing class and signed with the Cougars during the early signing period in December. As a senior at Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei, Epps tallied 1,735 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns on 93 receptions. He chose BYU over Oregon, Oregon State, USC, and Washington.
Tyler Batty, DL
Batty has the potential to be disruptive as an edge rusher. He originally signed with the Cougars out of Payson (Utah) High School in 2017, where he also played tight end. Batty (6-5, 235) has the size to dominate up front. BYU can use the help in generating additional pressure in the backfield. The Cougars struggled to make opposing quarterbacks feel the heat a year ago while consistently rushing three defensive linemen. They ranked 111th out of 130 FBS teams with 17 total sacks. BYU averaged just 1.31 sacks per game.
Miles Davis, WR/DB
The final addition to BYU's 2020 signing class on National Signing Day, Davis is another tantalizing prospect at wide receiver. The Cougars signed Davis as a defensive back, but there's a good chance he will end up on offense when all is said and done. Davis is a fluid route runner who has good hands. During his senior season at Las Vegas High School, Davis racked up 1,041 yards and 11 touchdowns on 46 catches. He averaged 22.6 yards per reception. Davis chose BYU over Kansas, UNLV, Washington State, and West Virginia.
Jacques Wilson, DB
Injuries hit BYU's secondary hard last season. Having a cornerback like Wilson can give the Cougars some needed depth and insurance at the position. He has enough speed and tenacity to guarantee himself some snaps this fall. The 5-foot-11 junior college transfer played in 19 games over two seasons at West Los Angeles College. He made a name for himself as a disruptive playmaker in the defensive backfield. Over two seasons at West LA, Wilson racked up 83 tackles, nine interceptions, 21 pass breakups, and six forced fumbles. He also saw some time on special teams as a punt returner and kick returner.
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.