One of the challenges at BYU is consistently having depth. Every year, BYU is one of the highest in the country for attrition due to the various reasons players come and go in any given season.
The depth has improved under second-year head coach Kalani Sitake already, but the talent at the top of BYU’s roster has always been a group of players that can compete with anyone in the country.
The 2017 edition of BYU’s team is no different as the Cougars boast potential star power and future NFL players in the following 10 players.
Fred Warner, LB
Entering his senior season, many around the BYU program feel that Warner’s best play has yet to be seen. Now is the time for Warner to show his best with Bo linebacker Francis Bernard now opting to redshirt for “personal reasons,” Warner’s importance for the Cougars’ defensive front is magnified. Remember Kyle Van Noy, who’s now a Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots? Warner fits that bill nicely for the Cougars.
Sione Takitaki, DE
When the 2017 season is over, Takitaki is going to be atop the national leaderboard for sacks. He’s an elite pass rusher that head coach Kalani Sitake is just chomping at the bit to see in action. Last season, Takitaki sat out due to a violation of team rules, but is now better than ever and ready to show he’s no longer a one-trick pass rusher, he’s now an every-down defensive lineman.
Related: BYU Wild Card Players in 2017
Tejan Koroma, OL
One of the highest graded centers in college football last season by Pro Football Focus. Koroma has been a starter at BYU since his true freshman season in 2014, and now he’s a captain of the team. He’s the anchor of a Cougar offensive line that looks to be the best BYU has had in a decade.
Tanner Mangum, QB
The tradition at the quarterback position for BYU is as rich as they come in college football. Mangum has the makeup and the look of the next great Cougar signal-caller. How fitting would it be for BYU to have a quarterback put up numbers in a season where the Cougars are honoring the late great head coach LaVell Edwards, a man who revolutionized offensive football at all levels of the sport.
Mangum has grown leaps and bounds since that soggy night in San Diego last December in the Poinsettia Bowl against Wyoming. The learning curve of Ty Detmer’s complex pro-style offense has been steeper than even Mangum expected, but he’s hitting his stride and I’d expect improved play from the QB position for BYU this fall.
Butch Pau’u, LB
A wrecking ball in the middle of BYU’s defense. Don’t be fooled by Pau’u’s million dollar smile and small stature, he’s one of the hardest hitting linebackers in the country. Just ask former Utah running back and current San Francisco 49er Joe Williams about that, Pau’u’s the guy who put Williams in that infamous retirement phase.
Troy Warner, CB
The younger portion of BYU’s “Warner Brothers,” Troy is the brother to Fred, who led this list. Now a sophomore, Troy Warner is set to be BYU’s best cornerback in 2017. Warner has been BYU’s best cornerback since he stepped on the field last season as a true freshman, but now he’s expecting more this year being healthy and more comfortable in defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defense.
Micah Hannemann, DB
An all-around great athlete that excels at any sport he plays, Hannemann has played pretty much every spot in BYU’s secondary over the last four years. The question for Hannemann is how good does he want to be? If he wants to be in the NFL, he could, but he will need to perform at his best every week this season.
Corbin Kaufusi, DE
For football junkies out there, you’re reading this thinking, another Kaufusi? Yes, another Kaufusi. The Kaufusi family is synonymous with football and Corbin, who has now given up his role with the BYU basketball program, is a full-time football athlete. That’s not music to opponents’ ears. Kaufusi was a raw project at best at defensive end last season. One year later, Kaufusi is right there with Sione Takitaki as a starting defensive end and expected to contribute to a pass rush that looks to improve its lackluster production at getting to the quarterback (29 sacks in 2016, tied for 46th in FBS).
Tuni Kanuch, OL
He’s in the best shape of his career and he has a ton of experience under his belt. If the back pain stays at bay, Kanuch will be an excellent guard for BYU in the interior of an offensive line that could be pretty nasty this season.
Matt Bushman, TE
I look at the 10th spot as a wild card of sorts. Kind of like the last spot in anyone’s top 25 poll. So here you go, Matt Bushman. Get familiar with the name. “The Bushmaster” as some are calling him, has excelled since returning home from an LDS mission. Bushman had a breakout performance in the spring game last March and he followed up that performance as one of the stars in fall camp. He’s a true freshman and yet to play a down at the FBS level, but he’s ready to contribute and revive the tight end position that BYU hasn’t seen production from in nearly a decade.
— 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.