When the Brigham Young Cougars started spring practice, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL had six burning questions for the new year of BYU football. Now that spring football is in the books, these burning questions can be revisited.
1. Who will seize the moment?
Several players capitalized on the opportunities given them this spring. On offense, Cody Raymond became Bronco Mendenhall’s new favorite receiver. He could play quality reps in the slot this fall. McCoy Hill started the spring adding to the depth at quarterback. He now has a future at tight end after his mission. Speaking of quarterbacks, everyone’s confidence in senior James Lark has become firm that he can lead the team, if needed. Rugby star Paul Lasike looks like he will be the team’s number two fullback after he turned some heads.
On defense, Manoa Pikula found a way to stand out among the deep talent pool at middle linebacker. Alani Fua is making a push for playing time at outside linebacker, another position with stiff competition. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is really starting to mature as a football player. He could be an impact player at two positions. Despite missing some time to injury, O’Neill Chambers made a few interceptions and showed a lot of potential. If he continues on this track, he could force his way onto the field this fall.
2. How do the new quarterback's look?
Taysom Hill and Ammon Olsen both got plenty of work. They had their moments—good and freshman. Hill is clearly a threat to run with the ball. It is also clear that Hill needs some polishing in the pass department. Olsen isn’t as mobile as Hill, but he looked a little more polished passing the ball at this point.
They both have mission rust to knock off. As a reminder, there is a night and day difference between James Lark now and two years ago when he was fresh off his mission.
3. Can BYU stay healthy?
Maybe it would have been better to ask if ice wouldn’t melt in an oven. Multiple injuries were nearly a daily occurrence. Brandon Ogletree, Ross Apo, and nearly every offensive lineman highlighted the injured during spring list. Coaches became very cautious and started to avoid all forms of contact. The injuries piled up to the point that the spring game was changed to a scrimmage between the third and fourth string players.
The “good news” is that not many of the injuries were severe enough to be season ending. Tight end Trevor Brown is the only one I can remember. All of the projected starters will be ready to go when fall camp opens in approximately four months.
4. Has Robbie Buckner's time finally come?
Buckner just can’t catch a break. Jordan Johnson appears firmly entrenched as the starting cornerback opposite Preston Hadley. After Johnson, the pecking order appears to be Mike Hague and O’Neill Chambers, and then Robbie Buckner.
Buckner did make an interception late in spring camp, but a disproportionate amount of plays seemed to go to Hague and Chambers.
5. Can the defensive line and outside linebackers restock?
BYU appears to be just as deep and nearly as talented at these two spots as they were a year ago. The new outside linebackers don’t have the same amount of experience as the players they are replacing, but they look competent in every way.
Greg Wrubell projects the two deep defensive line, at this point, to be: Ian Dulan, Romeny Fuga, Eathyn Manumaleuna, and Ezekiel Ansah, Russell Tialavea, Mike Muehlmann. At outside linebacker it is: Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley, and Kevan Bills/Ezekiel Ansah and Alani Fua.
6. Will the Juice be loose?
Running back Joshua "Juice" Quezada showed well this spring. In the first week, he had some impressive runs. His opportunities were reduced to almost zero the last few weeks once the injuries piled up and BYU was forced to focus on throwing the ball. Quezada doesn’t seem to have suffered any mental trauma from his disappointing sophomore year, and physically he is back to normal.
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