BYU enters 2016 with a lot of star power at the top of their roster with quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum returning along with running back Jamaal Williams.
The stars of BYU’s team will be leaned upon to pull out games against a tough schedule this fall. But leaning on just the stars for BYU will only take the Cougars so far. The key for BYU (and any team in college football for that matter) to have a special season to get significant production from players that have high expectations but have yet to perform on a consistent basis on Saturdays in the fall.
Who will those players be for BYU in 2016? Here are five to keep an eye on.
Tomasi Laulile, Jr., Defensive End
Laulile had a breakout moment last season in the regular season finale against Utah State where he had a scoop and score. Throughout spring practices and fall camp, Laulile has earned praise from BYU’s new defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki as one of the top pass rushers on BYU’s defense as the Cougars look to replace NFL Draft pick Bronson Kaufusi and the 11 sacks he had last season.
Jonah Trinnaman, Jr., Wide Receiver
New BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer held off a late recruiting push from rival Utah to secure a commitment from junior college transfer Jonah Trinnaman.
Trinnaman is viewed as a player who will have an immediate impact on BYU’s offense as a potential home-run threat in the passing attack for either hill or Mangum. Trinnaman fits that bill perfectly as he excelled in track and field in high school. Already in fall camp, Trinnaman has been a deep threat on numerous occasions.
Micah Hannemann, Jr., Safety
Last season, Hannemann played out of position at cornerback starting in all 13 games for the Cougars. Hannemann had his share of struggles at times, but he also displayed his athleticism on a variety of occasions.
Hannemann goes to his natural position in safety where he should flourish paired with returning starter Kai Nacua, who had six interceptions last season. Hannemann’s athleticism and his football intelligence make him a great fit at safety, and with Nacua the two will be a hard-hitting safety tandem.
Squally Canada, So., Running Back
A transfer from Washington State, Canada played in one game for BYU last season and that was the Las Vegas Bowl against Utah. He had one carry and it ended up in a fumble. Canada’s case of fumble-itis was a storyline again during spring ball, but the other storyline during spring and now fall camp is his speed and vision. Canada possesses both, and those are skills that you can’t teach. It’s now a matter of holding on to the rock. If he does that, Canada could form a thunder and lightning pairing with the aforementioned Williams.
Butch Pau’u, So., Linebacker
When Pau’u signed with BYU in 2012 (yes, he’s a sophomore and it’s 2016), Pau’u was considered to be one of the better linebackers in the west in his class, turning down offers from Nebraska and Washington to sign with the Cougars.
Now with Harvey Langi moving to defensive end in fall camp, Pau’u has stepped into a role as one of the Cougars’ top three linebackers. A tackling machine in high school, Pau’u has earned high praise from defensive coaches in camp for his relentless motor and high IQ of the game.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site, CougarNation.com, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.