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BYU's basically a power program, but 2015's schedule would challenge anybody

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The 128-team preview countdown inspects a mid-major independent that's testing itself against a fun mix of huge schools and non-power elites.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

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1. You belong! Now what?

The small details sometimes mean the most.

In the last nine seasons, BYU has gone 22-22 against teams that are currently in power conferences. The Cougars have boasted an F/+ ranking in the top 55 in all nine of those seasons and have ranked in the top 30 five times.

Since leaving the Mountain West before the 2011 season, they have pounded Texas (twice) and beaten Georgia Tech (twice), Ole Miss, Oregon State, California, Washington State, and Virginia, plus mid-major powers Boise State, UCF, and Utah State (three times).

No matter what portion of history you want to view -- last five, 10, 30, 50 years -- BYU's résumé compares favorably to at least half of the power-conference universe, probably more. But until mid-March, the Cougars were not considered by most to be a "power" opponent.

But in a series of unintended, Playoff-related consequences, status changed. With athletic directors perhaps overreacting to a potential emphasis on scheduling, the SEC reversed course and decided BYU counts as a power team. (In a roundabout dig, it decided Army counts, too.) When it was a status argument, BYU didn't count. But now that everybody's looking for tougher games, BYU counts.

And wow, is the Cougars' 2015 schedule a work of independent art. In September, they play at Nebraska, at UCLA, and at Michigan, hosting Boise State in the middle. They scheduled two of the AAC's strongest programs (Cincinnati and ECU) for mid-October, and they finish November with the Mountain West's 2013 title combatants, Fresno State and Utah State. They play Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium on November 14. That's four power-conference teams, two mid-major elites, and three recently successful mid-majors.

The 2016 schedule includes trips to Arizona, Utah, WVU, and Michigan State and visits from UCLA and Mississippi State.

The 2017 schedule sees a neutral-site game against LSU, visits from Utah and Boise State, and trips to Mississippi State, Utah State, and ECU.

In 2018, BYU has trips to Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, Utah, and Boise State and visits from Cal, Utah State, and MAC power NIU. Wisconsin, USC, Washington, and Michigan State come to Provo in 2019-20, and there's a home-and-home with Stanford in the 2020s.

I think this independence thing is going to work. Now the Cougars need to keep winning their share of these big games.

BYU has been consistently decent, but it has to be disconcerting that, since peaking at 18th in the 2012 F/+ rankings, the Cougars fell to 27th in 2013 and 46th in 2014. Sure, there was context -- for instance, last fall, they fell apart in the wake of quarterback Taysom Hill's injury, then rallied -- but the offense has only improved in small increments, and the defense trailed off dramatically.

The fruits of a strong 2013 recruiting class are returning from their missions, and the base of talent appears as strong as it has ever been. But a defensive rebound is going to require unproven pieces to step up in the back seven, and an offensive line that was key to BYU's early- and late-season success gets thinned out.

I'm not necessarily worried about BYU's long-term prospects, but there is growing dissatisfaction with head coach Bronco Mendenhall, fair or not. How much patience is shown if, now that scheduling is looking up, BYU lays some eggs against power teams?

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 46
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
29-Aug at Connecticut 119 35-10 W 77% 17.4 100%
6-Sep at Texas 53 41-7 W 95% 38.7 100%
11-Sep Houston 73 33-25 W 62% 7.2 66%
20-Sep Virginia 39 41-33 W 73% 14.1 87%
3-Oct Utah State 52 20-35 L 30% -12.1 7%
9-Oct at Central Florida 60 24-31 L 50% -0.3 34%
18-Oct Nevada 64 35-42 L 28% -13.9 16%
24-Oct at Boise State 21 30-55 L 13% -26.3 0%
1-Nov at Middle Tennessee 87 27-7 W 86% 25.2 99%
15-Nov UNLV 118 42-23 W 79% 19.1 100%
22-Nov Savannah State NR 64-0 W 90% 29.8 100%
29-Nov at California 65 42-35 W 60% 5.6 78%
22-Dec vs. Memphis 41 48-55 L 47% -1.8 17%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 31.7 50 25.5 49
Points Per Game 37.1 15 27.5 73

2. Three seasons

Recent years have required quite a bit of explanation. In 2012, the Cougars ranked in the F/+ top 20, with a legitimate top-10 defense, but a 1-4 record in one-score games relegated them to the same 8-5 record they've produced since. Last year, BYU spent two-thirds of the season playing like a legitimate top-30 team but cratered in the middle, losing four in a row.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 4 games): 77% (record: 4-0)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 4 games): 30% (record: 0-4)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 4 games): 79% (record: 4-0)

The reason was in no way mysterious. BYU had Taysom Hill, lost him, then figured out how to win without him.

Through four, BYU was averaging 38 points and a decent 5.7 yards per play. Hill had rushed for 428 yards and completed 66 percent of his passes, and in the first half against Utah State, he completed eight of 11 for 99 yards, rushed for 35 yards, and engineered two touchdown drives.

But he fractured his leg in an awkward tackle, and he was lost for the season. Utah State surged for a 15-point win, the BYU offense was stagnant (4.4 yards per play) in losses to UCF and Boise State, and the defense fell apart in a loss to Nevada. BYU went from 4-0 to 4-4, playing at barely a top-90 level in the losses.

Then, the offense stabilized, and the defense surged. The Cougs allowed 4.1 yards per play over the final four games (4.6 if you take away punching bag Savannah State), and the offense averaged 6.6. BYU was back on a roll before the wild bowl loss to Memphis.

Obviously defensive shakiness couldn't be pinned on Hill's injury, but there's no question BYU was an top-30-caliber squad when the quarterback position was stable. That says good things for 2015.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.89 45 IsoPPP+ 122.5 25
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.3% 42 Succ. Rt. + 107.5 42
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 31.3 93 Def. FP+ 100.0 65
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 40 Redzone S&P+ 113.0 32
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 28.3 ACTUAL 27 -1.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 28 28 39 25
RUSHING 49 24 33 26
PASSING 27 33 45 31
Standard Downs 36 39 37
Passing Downs 14 34 8
Q1 Rk 28 1st Down Rk 47
Q2 Rk 32 2nd Down Rk 54
Q3 Rk 26 3rd Down Rk 15
Q4 Rk 63

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Christian Stewart
199 348 2621 25 9 57.2% 21 5.7% 6.7
Taysom Hill 6'2, 232 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8484 88 132 975 7 3 66.7% 14 9.6% 6.2
McCoy Hill 6'6, 230 So. NR NR 2 2 27 0 0 100.0% 0 0.0% 13.5
Hunter Moore 6'2, 190 So. 2 stars (5.2) NR
Tanner Mangum 6'3, 195 Fr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9448
Beau Hoge 6'1, 198 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8258
Koy Detmer Jr. 5'10, 165 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) NR

3. Welcome back, Taysom

For the first time since 2009, BYU's offense was reaching a high level before Hill went down. The Cougars ranked in the Off. S&P+ top 40 each year between 2005-09 but collapsed to 76th in 2010 and have been putting the pieces back together since.

You can build something impressive around Hill's combination of insane rushing (7.4 yards per non-sack carry, with 68 percent of his rushes gaining at least five yards) and efficiency passing. He doesn't have much of a deep ball, and while his completion rate rose drastically in 2014, his per-completion average fell to just 11.1 yards. You can make do with that when you've got such explosive legs, but the optimal situation would be to uncork more of a deep threat.

As fun as Hill is to watch -- if he has a great first month and BYU pulls a couple of upsets, he's going to be high on Heisman lists -- the backup race is going to be intriguing, too. Hill is a senior, and the race for 2016 starter will include last year's end-of-year backup (McCoy Hill, no relation), a Detmer (Koy Jr., a preferred walk-on and probably not a true threat, but a Detmer!), a three-star freshman (Beau Hoge), and the jewel of the 2013 class, Tanner Mangum. Mangum is back from his two-year mission and could be one heck of a backup.

But we won't think about Hill going down. In the last two seasons, we've lost three exciting Utah quarterbacks to serious injury four times (Hill, Utah's Travis Wilson, Utah State's Chuckie Keeton twice). No more, please. These guys are too fun to watch.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Jamaal Williams RB 6'0, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8335 112 517 4 4.6 3.5 36.6% 2 1
Paul Lasike RB
79 364 7 4.6 4.2 32.9% 3 1
Taysom Hill QB 6'2, 232 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8484 72 535 8 7.4 4.0 68.1% 3 1
Algernon Brown FB 6'1, 229 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.0000 68 324 0 4.8 3.2 41.2% 2 2
Christian Stewart QB
61 302 4 5.0 3.5 49.2% 7 3
Nate Carter RB 5'9, 181 Sr. NR NR 46 290 1 6.3 3.9 56.5% 0 0
Adam Hine RB 6'1, 208 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8721 40 154 2 3.9 4.8 25.0% 1 0
AJ Moore RB 5'9, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8546 10 62 1 6.2 3.6 60.0% 0 0
Hunter Moore QB 6'2, 190 So. 2 stars (5.2) NR 7 30 0 4.3 1.5 28.6% 0 0
Mitchell Juergens HB 5'10, 182 Jr. NR NR 6 23 0 3.8 0.5 50.0% 3 2
McCoy Hill QB 6'6, 230 So. NR NR 5 27 0 5.4 3.7 40.0% 0 0
Toloa'I Ho Ching FB 6'1, 242 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8525
Charles West RB 5'10, 187 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8447
Riley Burt RB 6'1, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8166

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Mitch Mathews WR 6'6, 215 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8410 111 73 922 65.8% 24.0% 66.7% 8.3 43 8.4 117.7
Jordan Leslie WR
103 55 779 53.4% 22.3% 68.0% 7.6 88 7.8 99.4
Mitchell Juergens HB 5'10, 182 Jr. NR NR 47 28 424 59.6% 10.2% 61.7% 9.0 80 9.1 54.1
Terenn Houk IR 6'5, 223 Sr. NR NR 35 21 241 60.0% 7.6% 45.7% 6.9 -16 7.0 30.8
Paul Lasike RB
30 25 267 83.3% 6.5% 46.7% 8.9 -22 9.3 34.1
Devin Mahina TE
29 20 244 69.0% 6.3% 69.0% 8.4 5 8.0 31.1
Colby Pearson IR 6'0, 191 Jr. NR NR 22 16 270 72.7% 4.8% 68.2% 12.3 81 11.9 34.5
Algernon Brown RB 6'1, 229 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) NR 20 14 139 70.0% 4.3% 65.0% 7.0 -28 7.1 17.7
Devon Blackmon WR 6'1, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.9772 15 10 130 66.7% 3.2% 46.7% 8.7 10 9.1 16.6
Jamaal Williams RB 6'0, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8335 11 8 47 72.7% 2.4% 54.5% 4.3 -48 4.1 6.0
Adam Hine RB 6'1, 208 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8721 9 7 43 77.8% 1.9% 66.7% 4.8 -39 4.6 5.5
Kurt Henderson WR 6'1, 180 Sr. NR NR 8 2 44 25.0% 1.7% 62.5% 5.5 13 5.9 5.6
Ross Apo WR
8 1 13 12.5% 1.7% 37.5% 1.6 -9 1.1 1.7
Keanu Nelson WR
7 5 44 71.4% 1.5% 28.6% 6.3 -15 9.2 5.6
Trey Dye HB 5'9, 175 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8120 3 3 8 100.0% 0.6% 100.0% 2.7 -26 NR 1.0
Jake Ziolkowski IR 6'0, 195 Jr. NR NR
Bryan Sampson TE 6'4, 221 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8484
Nick Kurtz WR 6'6, 205 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8705

4. Mitches and other options

Between Hill, Jamaal Williams, and Mitch Mathews, BYU will not lack for senior leadership in the skill corps. Williams, never great and never terrible, has been a steady force for three years, and after averaging 10.2 yards per target as a No. 2 receiver (pre-injury) in 2013, Mathews averaged 8.3 as a heavily targeted go-to last fall.

And it appears there will be plenty of options to keep wear and tear down. Big Algernon Brown is a nice efficiency option in the backfield, Terenn Houck is a decent possession receiver, and Mitchell Juergens was a huge threat down the stretch (last two games: 11 catches, 194 yards).

Add to this group some intriguing newcomers -- four-star JUCO receiver Nick Kurtz, three-star JUCO tight end Bryan Sampson, three-star freshman running backs Charles West and Riley Burt -- and you've got all the weapons Hill might need.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 116 3.18 4.05 43.7% 76.9% 17.6% 86.3 5.6% 9.1%
Rank 18 32 8 22 13 43 87 83 91
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Ryker Mathews LT 6'6, 320 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.885 22
De'Ondre Wesley RT
22
Kyle Johnson LG 6'4, 303 Jr. NR NR 20
Solomone Kafu LG
19
Tejan Koroma C 6'0, 280 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7719 13
Brock Stringham RG
10
Terrance Alletto RG
9
Ului Lapuaho LT 6'7, 333 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8373 8
Brayden Kearsley RG
5
Tuni Kanuch RG 6'3, 325 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8484 4
Brad Wilcox LT 6'7, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8081 0
Manu Mulitalo LG 6'2, 373 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8410 0
Parker Dawe C 6'3, 285 Jr. NR NR 0
Jaterius Gulley RG 6'3, 346 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000
Austin Hoyt OL 6'7, 268 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8549

5. Lose four starters, return four starters

BYU's line situation has been interesting. The Cougars ranked No. 7 in Adj. Line Yards in 2013 and returned nine players with starting experience, but injuries were a catalyst for shuffling in 2014. Some new players were forced into the rotation, and BYU finished with TEN guys with starting experience ... and still ranked 18th in Adj. Line Yards. (The sack rates were bad both years, but that's always going to be the case with Hill running around.)

BYU is in a strange spot: four guys with at least eight career starts are gone, and four return. Depth could be a bigger issue if injuries to players like Ryker Mathews don't subside, but the starting five should be pretty experienced and strong ... whoever's actually on that starting five.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.86 73 IsoPPP+ 103.2 58
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.5% 29 Succ. Rt. + 99.6 65
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.9 27 Off. FP+ 102.0 38
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.3 62 Redzone S&P+ 98.2 71
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 28.8 ACTUAL 26.0 -2.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 58 58 64 58
RUSHING 20 29 43 23
PASSING 114 79 86 76
Standard Downs 57 67 62
Passing Downs 59 69 59
Q1 Rk 57 1st Down Rk 38
Q2 Rk 84 2nd Down Rk 60
Q3 Rk 34 3rd Down Rk 50
Q4 Rk 32

6. Opponents didn't run if they didn't have to

You weren't getting anywhere quickly if you tried to run. The Cougars allowed six rushes of 20-plus yards, the fewest in the country. They did a good job of preventing opportunities and quickly swallowing up the ones they allowed. They got pushed around in power situations, but that's only so much of a problem if you're shutting down first-and-10 carries.

Opponents knew the path of least resistance was through the air, and they took advantage. The BYU pass rush, so dangerous in recent years, was shaky, especially outside of Bronson Kaufusi. The secondary was relatively dangerous, getting hands on quite a few passes, but without a pass rush, there were easy completions. Even against an active secondary, opponents completed 58 percent.

Granted, there aren't many incredible passing teams on the 2015 schedule, and that could be a boon for BYU's odds of putting together another eight-plus wins. Still, pass defense will likely be a weakness if opponents tire of trying to move the ball with handoffs.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 99.2 2.68 3.10 31.3% 76.1% 20.0% 79.7 4.0% 5.1%
Rank 65 33 45 7 113 55 99 83 108
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Bronson Kaufusi DE/WLB 6'7, 265 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9279 11 38.5 4.9% 11.5 7.0 0 5 1 0
Logan Taele DE 6'2, 280 Sr. NR NR 12 23.5 3.0% 2.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Travis Tuiloma NT 6'2, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7889 13 23.0 2.9% 6.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Graham Rowley DE 6'4, 280 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8780 13 20.0 2.5% 2.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
Remington Peck DE 6'4, 271 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389 13 19.0 2.4% 3.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
Marques Johnson NT
12 14.5 1.8% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tomasi Laulile DE 6'3, 285 Jr. NR NR 13 5.5 0.7% 1.5 0.0 1 0 0 0
Theodore King DL 6'2, 265 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 1 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kesni Tausinga NT 6'1, 308 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8432
Isaiah Nacua DE 6'3, 250 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8582
Tevita Mo'unga NT 6'3, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8478
Moses Kaumatule DE 6'1, 254 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8600






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Zac Stout MLB
12 53.0 6.7% 7.5 1.0 1 1 1 0
Manoa Pikula BLB 6'1, 239 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8391 13 38.5 4.9% 2.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
Alani Fua SLB
10 35.0 4.4% 7.5 3.0 2 4 0 0
Jherremya Leuta-Douyere BLB 6'1, 236 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8056 13 25.5 3.2% 2.0 0.0 0 3 2 0
Michael Alisa SLB
13 21.0 2.7% 2.0 1.0 1 2 1 0
Fred Warner SLB 6'3, 220 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8921 10 19.5 2.5% 1.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
Sione Takitaki WLB 6'2, 240 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510 11 17.0 2.2% 4.0 3.0 0 0 1 0
Teu Kautai MLB 6'1, 231 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7889 13 17.0 2.2% 3.0 3.0 0 2 1 0
Austin Heder MLB 6'2, 234 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8366 10 14.0 1.8% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Harvey Langi MLB 6'2, 240 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9068 12 12.5 1.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sae Tautu SLB 6'3, 235 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8111 12 8.0 1.0% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Troy Hinds WLB 6'5, 230 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9230 12 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Cook WLB 6'3, 218 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8478
Lene Lesatele LB 6'1, 238 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8269
Butch Pauu LB 6'0, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8581
Rhett Sandlin LB 6'3, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7900








7. Find another pass rusher

How the Playoff gave BYU power

With Kaufusi at linebacker, linemen combined for just 2.5 sacks. That doesn't cut it, even in a 3-4.

The front seven is going to need to help more on pass defense, as the secondary has been thinned out considerably. Thanks to injuries, quite a few DBs played last year, but of the nine who recorded at least 10 tackles, four return.

So who's it going to be? Remington Peck might have decent pass-rushing potential, but the most intriguing candidate might be sophomore Sione Takitaki, who in limited opportunities recorded three sacks from the WLB position.

If the pass rush is better, the run defense should be all right. Linebackers Zac Stout and Alani Fua (combined: 11 non-sack TFLs) are gone, but play-making tackle Travis Tuiloma's back, and senior LBs Manoa Pikula and Jherremya Leuta-Douyere are steady. Losing Stout and Fua means the same level of run defense isn't guaranteed, but the major questions are still with the pass defense.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Skye PoVey FS
13 66.5 8.4% 4 1 2 5 0 0
Craig Bills FS
9 43.0 5.4% 0.5 0 1 2 0 0
Robertson Daniel CB
12 41.0 5.2% 0 0 1 14 1 0
Michael Davis CB 6'2, 181 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7785 13 39.5 5.0% 0 0 0 6 0 0
Dallin Leavitt KAT
11 37.0 4.7% 3.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Kai Nacua FS 6'1, 207 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7891 13 35.0 4.4% 3.5 0 2 3 0 0
Harvey Jackson KAT
13 24.5 3.1% 2.5 1 0 5 0 0
Jordan Preator CB 6'0, 183 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7783 12 21.5 2.7% 2 1 1 9 1 0
Kavika Fonua FS 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 11 12.5 1.6% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Johnson CB
5 7.5 1.0% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Hadley (2012) DB 6'0, 191 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8292 7 6.0 1.0% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wadsworth DB 6'1, 210 Sr. NR 0.7873 13 5.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Badger FS 6'1, 197 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8641 12 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Garrett Juergens DB 5'10, 185 Jr. NR NR 5 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Micah Hannemann (2012) CB 6'1, 200 So. NR NR 8 1.0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Shelton CB 5'9, 180 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7954
Eric Takenaka KAT 5'10, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8056
Grant Jones KAT 6'5, 210 So. NR NR
Sawyer Powell DB 6'1, 203 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8432
Dayan Lake DB 5'11, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8730
Zayne Anderson DB 6'2, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8268

8. Young, questionable, and full of options

If you are going to enter a season with few proven options, you might as well bring tons of candidates.

Corners Michael Davis and Jordan Preator showed high-caliber potential, combining for 16 passes defensed, and safeties Kai Nacua and Kavika Fonua got plenty of playing time as underclassmen. Matt Hadley and Micah Hannemann, backups from 2012, are also back. So are some unproven three-star options.

Competition should assure that the starting four is solid. But last year's DBs were more than solid, and BYU ranked 79th in Passing S&P+. If the pass rush doesn't improve, the secondary will have to come up big.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Scott Arellano 69 45.0 2 21 27 69.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Andrew Mikkelsen 72 59.1 17 3 23.6%
Trevor Samson 5'11, 183 Sr. 11 49.4 0 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Trevor Samson 5'11, 183 Sr. 62-63 10-11 90.9% 2-3 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Adam Hine KR 6'1, 208 Sr. 22 24.5 1
Mitchell Juergens KR 5'10, 182 Jr. 5 22.4 0
Devon Blackmon PR 6'1, 185 Sr. 12 5.7 0
Mitchell Juergens PR 5'10, 182 Jr. 9 6.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 40
Field Goal Efficiency 43
Punt Return Efficiency 98
Kick Return Efficiency 74
Punt Efficiency 11
Kickoff Efficiency 52
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 65

9. In need of a couple new legs

Despite an only decent return game, special teams were a net benefit for BYU. The return men are back (including Adam Hine, who did score a kick return touchdown), but ace punter Scott Arellano is gone, as is a decent kickoffs guy in Andrew Mikkelsen. Place-kicking won't be a concern with Trevor Samson back, but with a new punter, it might be difficult to finish in the special teams top 40 again.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep at Nebraska 30
12-Sep Boise State 21
19-Sep at UCLA 12
26-Sep at Michigan 54
2-Oct Connecticut 119
10-Oct East Carolina 61
16-Oct Cincinnati 47
24-Oct Wagner NR
6-Nov at San Jose State 116
14-Nov vs. Missouri 20
21-Nov Fresno State 102
28-Nov at Utah State 52
Five-Year F/+ Rk 16.3% (33)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 70 / 70
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -1 / 0.5
2014 TO Luck/Game -0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (8, 6)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 8.0 (0.0)

10. September defines the season

There are two ways to look at BYU's schedule:

1. Holy crap, look at those big names early in the year.

2. Holy crap, of all those big names, is there one that can take advantage of BYU's iffy pass defense?

No. 1 tells us a lot of people will be paying attention to BYU in September. No. 2 will determine just how high a profile the Cougars and Hill have when they venture into Mid-Major Land in October. Each of the first four opponents is breaking in either a new coach or quarterback, and while Missouri awaits late, the Tigers are breaking in a brand new receiving corps.

Pass defense and health are the two issues in the way of a brilliant BYU season. Hill is the real deal and has a mix of experience and upside at his disposal. And while the offensive line could suffer injuries again, it's a solid line regardless. Even against the big names, a healthy BYU offense is going to score.

This is a huge year for Mendenhall. This isn't going to be his best team, but it's going to be good enough to play in a lot of close games against a lot of interesting teams. In theory, anything between about 11-1 and 6-6 is possible with a slight variation in quality and luck.

After 2012's "good, but 8-5" season, is this the year the breaks go a little more in BYU's favor?