Insider Insight: Brigham Young

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Ohio State, Clemson and USC.


Irish fans know how the 2022 regular season begins, ends and is highlighted in between.


And then there’s Notre Dame’s independent comrade — but not for long — Brigham Young: 21-4 over the past two seasons with a loaded and veteran returning offense for head coach Kalani Sitake in Provo.


Mitchell Harper, host of Cougar Sports on Saturday stops by Irish Illustrated for information on Notre Dame’s Oct. 8 opponent, the BYU Cougars.


Irish Illustrated: The offense looks loaded. Including Jaren Roomcan you give Irish fans a look at the stacked unit of Cougars skill position players?


Mitchell Harper: This is the best offense BYU has fielded in its independent era. BYU Offensive Coordinator Aaron Roderick told me there was no QB in the country he would trade Jaren Room for. There’s a belief around BYU’s program that Hall could be the Cougars’ next first-round NFL QB. There are high expectations for him. This calendar is much more difficult than the one he had to face a season ago.


Hall has had an injury history, so the save point is a big area of ​​focus for BYU. Former four-star recruit Jacob Conover is the No. 2 guy, but he looked shaky in an appearance last year against Utah State. The coaches liked the way he played in the spring, but if there’s one weakness in BYU’s skill points, it’s definitely the reserves behind Hall.


At wide receiver, BYU is bringing back a pair of players who could also be NFL draft picks in Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney. Romney’s return was unexpected as he had planned to move on after last season. But due to injuries, he took advantage of the extra COVID year. Former Washington transfer Nacua may be BYU’s best receiver since former Indianapolis Colt austin collie.


Then at running back, BYU replaces school singles leader Tyler Allgier (now with the Atlanta Falcons). Replacing him is the Cal graduate transfer Christopher Brooks, who reported a bit of interest from the Irish when he was in the portal. Brooks was the running leader at Berkeley in 2019. He shocked BYU’s offensive staff with his knowledge of BYU’s playbook. There is no doubt that he will be RB1 this fall.


Irish Illustrated: I asked everyone the same question because it’s a Notre Dame specific game: The Irish DL is the strength of the program (by Marcus Freeman). How does BYU’s offensive line stack up against the best defensive fronts on its schedule?


MH: BYU Offensive Line Coach Darrel Funkwho was once in Michigan under Brady Hoke, told me in the spring that he thinks he has an offensive line that could be the best in the country. They go 10 deep and it’s led by the left tackle Blake Freeland, who is still learning football. A former high school quarterback (not a typo), Freeland didn’t start playing offensive line until he arrived at BYU. He’s been a full-time starter for the past two seasons, and there are high expectations for him this fall.


On the right, BYU brings one of the transfer portal’s top five prospects in the 247Sports Portal Composite transfer to Oregon Kingsley Suamataia. Suamataia chose BYU to be closer to her family. I would be shocked if he didn’t start from the right tackle this fall.


Inside, guard clark barrington receives preseason All-American nods by various publications. They’re a good group who are technically sound and believe they can compete with anyone. We’ll have a good barometer of the quality of BYU’s offensive line in Week 2 against Baylor and then, of course, against the Irish in Vegas.


Irish Illustrated: On to defence: Elephant in the Room or an improving unit? Can BYU’s defense play complementary football for offense this fall and who are some players to watch?


MH: Defense is a hot topic here. Everyone believes the offense will produce big numbers, but there are reservations about the scheme and BYU’s ability to leave the field on third down. BYU allowed opponents to convert 43% of their third down opportunities last season and 65% on fourth downs. Struggles getting off the field limited BYU’s powerhouse offense from potentially having two or three extra drives in any given game. This will be a big area of ​​focus in 2022.


From a personnel standpoint, the strength is with the linebacker. Keenan Pili is in the middle and he is returning after suffering a season-ending ACL injury in September. He’s the guy who will likely be the one to rack up a bunch of tackles. BYU has also Ben BywaterPayton Wilgar and Max Tooley at linebacker. The defensive line fires everyone from last season except one player. keep an eye on Tyler Batty. BYU hasn’t had a player record 10+ sacks in a season since 2015. If anyone can end this drought, it’s Batty.


Irish Illustrated: How has BYU approached the transfer portal and is there an influx (or loss) of talent regarding the upcoming season?


MH:BYU did a good job navigating the transfer portal. The players they lost were mostly guys who fell victim to a numbers crunch. So there were no major losses on the portal. As for adding guys from there BYU coach Kalani Sitake focused on finding players who fit the BYU culture.


So identify mature athletes in Brooks (Cal RB) graduate and Vanderbilt starter transfers Gabe Jeudy Lally at cornerback are nice additions. Then land a hometown player in Suamataia and a former Stanford captain in Houston Heimuli at the back, the transfer portal was positive for BYU in 2022.


Irish Illustrated: Separate from the Notre Dame game, it’s one hell of a program. Considering Baylor, Oregon, ND, Arkansas, Boise State and Stanford, what is the Cougars cap in 2022?

MH: The cap for BYU is probably 11 wins if a lot of rebounds come through. Last year’s schedule featured seven P5 opponents. This year only has five, but the quality of power conference teams is better this year. I could see four of the five (Baylor, Oregon, ND and Arkansas) all ranked at the end of the season.


Then road trips to Boise State, Stanford, and an unusual hike across country to Liberty make for a tough slate. In reality, I would go with 9-3. The attack will be really good. It’s all about defense. If they’re like the group that shut down Pac-12 Champion Utah last year, they could hit that ceiling I just mentioned. If they’re the injury-ravaged team again, the seven- or eight-win low could become reality.

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