Countdown to Camp No. 50-11: Evaluating the 50 individuals who will most impact the 2021 BYU football season | BYU Football

No. 11: D’Angelo Mandell, junior defensive back

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BYU sophomore defensive back D’Angelo Mandell celebrates after making a stop during the Cougar football game against Liberty at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019.

While there is no doubt that Mandell’s experience (34 games played, 36 total tackles) will benefit the BYU defense tremendously in 2021, his biggest contribution might by with his leadership and attitude. Mandell is the epitome of a high-energy, confident defender. No, he won’t always be perfect — but he will always believe that he is capable of making big plays and will convey that to his teammates. When facing good opponents, a team has to have key players who won’t get down when things get tough, who can rally everyone around them. Look for Mandell to be vocal and bring a lot of intensity.

No. 12: Baylor Romney, sophomore quarterback

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2021 BYU football spring camp

BYU junior quarterback Baylor Romney (left) and freshman quarterback Jacob Conover throw the football during spring camp in Provo on Thursday, March 4, 2021.

Dozens of articles have been written and dozens more will be written about the BYU quarterback situation as the Cougars replace Zach Wilson, so most observers know quite a bit about Romney. After his first appearance in a disappointing loss to South Florida in 2019, he propelled BYU to a trio of wins including an upset of then-No. 14-ranked Boise State. His trademark is his steady play, as shown in his 65% career completion rate (78-of-120, 1,008 yards, eight TDs, three picks). He is very capable of winning the starting job or once again coming in has an experienced backup and guiding the team to victory.

No. 13: Lorenzo Fauatea, junior defensive lineman

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BYU football vs. USC

BYU sophomore defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea (55) celebrates a big play during the 30-27 Cougar overtime win over USC in Provo On Sept. 14, 2019.

Cougar supporters have to hope that “Zo” (Fauatea) can finally stay healthy and play to his potential. There have been plenty of bumps in the road for the talented athlete from Hunter High, as evidenced by the fact that he was only able to play in four games in 2020 and in nine games in 2019. He has tallied 38 total tackles, 6 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks in his four years in Provo but this could be the year he becomes a much bigger force on the BYU defensive line.

No. 14: Jake Oldroyd, sophomore kicker

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BYU football vs. Texas State 22

BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd kicks an extra point during the Cougar game against Texas State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

It could be argued that a kicker shouldn’t be quite this high on the list just because they play relatively few snaps in a game. On the other hand, it could be argued that the 2020 Lou Groza Award finalist should be higher on the list because he was so impressive last fall. Oldroyd bounced back from some struggles in 2019 with a stellar campaign, making 60-of-62 extra points and all 13 of his field goal attempts (including multiple makes from 50-plus yards out). His performance means BYU can expect to get points when it is just about anywhere inside the opponent’s 40-yard line, which can be a huge boost on the scoreboard.

No. 15: Isaac Rex, freshman tight end

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BYU football vs. UCF in 2020 Boca Raton Bowl

BYU freshman tight end Isaac Rex celebrates scoring a touchdown during the 49-23 Cougar win over UCF in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

If you want to get a grin out of Rex, just ask him about his post-TD dancing. While he might still be refining those moves, he certainly got plenty of practice getting in the end zone last year. In his first year of significant action, nearly a third of his total receptions resulted in touchdowns (37 catches for 429 yards with 12 touchdowns). Opposing defenses will be trying to keep tabs on him but he finds ways to make plays and that will be tough to stop in this Cougar offense.

No. 16: Max Tooley, sophomore linebacker

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BYU Toledo Football 36

Brigham Young linebacker Max Tooley (31) in action against the Toledo during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

As part of the BYU linebacker rotation for the last two years, Tooley has been on the field quite a bit and his numbers from 2019 and 2020 indicate his productivity: 92 total tackles, five tackles for a loss, two interceptions, three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. He has shown that the physical tools are there for him to be a huge problem for opposing offenses. If his game understanding and ability to make the right decision quicker continue to develop, the sky is the limit for what his impact could be for the Cougars this fall.

No. 17: Darrell Funk, offensive line coach

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2021 BYU football Media Day

BYU offensive line coach Darrell Funk talks to reporters at Cougar football Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Everyone who truly loves football knows that the engine for an offense is the guys in the trenches. BYU had a great foundation put in place by former offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and his offensive line coaches, but now the responsibility of maintaining and even elevating the performance of the unit rests on Funk’s shoulders. This is a coach who understands pressure to get results and will do all he can to make sure the Cougar performance at the point of attack doesn’t miss a beat.

No. 18: Malik Moore, junior defensive back

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BYU Football vs. New Mexico State 01

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi (53) and defensive back Malik Moore (12) celebrate Moore’s interception during a game between Brigham Young University and New Mexico State University held Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

A crucial part of the success of the BYU defense is the performance of the defensive backfield, particularly because there are so many opponents who want to throw the ball and get it out fast. This is why Moore, who only played in five games in 2020, needs to be a breakout performer. The Cougars had a number of veterans depart from the secondary but Moore has 30 games under his belt (23 total tackles, two interceptions, one pass breakup) and his knowledge of the game and the BYU defensive scheme will be invaluable if he can stay on the field.

No. 19: Neil Pau’u, junior wide receiver

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BYU football vs. San Diego State

BYU junior wide receiver Neil Pau’u runs the ball upfield during the 28-14 Cougar win over San Diego State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020.

With the addition of Samson and Puka Nacua and the success of Gunner Romney, Pau’u may get a little lost in the shuffle in the BYU wide receiving corps. But this is an athlete who had 45 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns last fall, one who has proven he is willing to take the punishment going across the middle or make plays near the goal line. Not only that, he is a veteran both physically and mentally who will be a big part of the team leadership that will define the 2021 season.

No. 20: Tyler Batty, freshman defensive lineman

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BYU football vs. UTSA 3

BYU defensive lineman Tyler Batty (92) pursues the play during the 27-20 Cougar win over UTSA at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Few players showed glimpses of what they can become than Batty, who played in just four games in 2020 but tallied 13 total tackles. Four of those were sacks, which led the team, but he also had three quarterback hurries. Now there is a hope that the former Payson High star will be an even bigger presence as his career evolves on the BYU defensive line. If he can continue to make plays in the backfield, it will definitely make a difference for the Cougar defense.

No. 21: Ed Lamb, assistant head coach/safeties coach

Jul 29, 2021

2021 BYU football Media Day

BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb talks to reporters at Cougar football Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building in Provo on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

The duties of a head football coach at BYU involve a lot more than just teaching athletes the game. The demands of organization and representing the program are intense, which is why have a competent assistant head coach makes a big difference. Lamb has quietly be a huge asset to Kalani Sitake in that role as well as in working with various aspects of the Cougar defense. His demeanor and knowledge of the what the team is working to accomplish always impacts how well the team does on the field.

No. 22: Samson Nacua, senior wide receiver

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football Samson Nacua Media Day.JPG

BYU wide receiver Samson Nacua answer questions during BYU Football Media Day at the Broadcasting Building on Thursday, June 17, 2021. Nacua transferred from the University of Utah to play with his younger brother, Puka, who transferred from the University of Washington.

Almost six years after completing a stellar career at Timpview and leaving Provo to head 40 miles north, Nacua has returned. In 45 games at Utah, Nacua tallied 82 receptions for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has shown he can be a consistent performer already and his combination of athletic ability and game savviness should be big as he joins the BYU offense. If he can find his niche and learn the offense, he will add a lot to the Cougar attack.

No. 23: Ryan Rehkow, freshman punter

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football vs. Texas State 37

BYU punter Ryan Rehkow runs the ball up field during the Cougar game against Texas State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

In the five previous years, the BYU football team averaged almost 60 punts per season. Freshman Ryan Rehkow arrives for the 2020 season — and that number gets cut in half. Rehkow only punted 28 times in 12 games, averaging 45.1 yards per punt with 16 of those landing inside the 20-yard line and only one touchback. He would’ve been in the Top 15 in the country if he had had enough punts to qualify. While Cougar fans hope Rehkow continues to rarely get on the field, they also know he can play big role in helping BYU win the field position battle.

No. 24: Jacob Conover, freshman quarterback

Jul 29, 2021

2021 BYU football spring camp

BYU freshman quarterback Jacob Conover looks to make a pass during spring camp in Provo on Thursday, March 4, 2021.

Just how good is Conover? Most BYU fans really don’t know. He was highly-touted coming out of high school — but there is a big difference between high school and college. He ran the Cougar scout team last fall and learned BYU’s offensive system well enough to be in the mix to get the starting job. It certainly won’t be an easy feat to pass either Jaren Hall or Baylor Romney on the depth chart but if he does it (or if injuries result in him getting on the field), his accuracy and decision-making could shape BYU’s season.

No. 25: Kedon Slovis, USC sophomore quarterback

Jul 29, 2021

Week 10: Pac-12 begins in first monster schedule of season

FILE – In this Nov. 23, 2019 file photo, Southern California head coach Clay Helton, left, smiles at quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) after a 52-35 win over UCLA in an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles. BOth Helton and now-sophomore Slovis will return in November. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The Trojans had a solid 5-1 record in 2020 but Slovis wasn’t pleased with his performance. An elbow injury in 2019 resulted in less confidence, something he hopes he has overcome heading into 2021. If he can rebound like BYU’s Zach Wilson did, he could be setting up for a huge season. If he can lead the Trojans to a big year and the Cougars can do well, it could set up a big-time, high-stakes showdown in Los Angeles to end the season.

No. 26: Keenan Ellis, junior defensive back

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football scrimmages as part of spring camp 7

BYU defensive back Keenan Ellis (left) breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Micah Simon during the scrimmage portion of practice on March 23, 2018.

After playing in 12 games as a freshman in 2018, Ellis has been limited and hopes 2021 is the year he can show just what he is capable of. He had 13 total tackles and three pass breakups in eight games in 2020 and should be in position to make more plays this year. If he can prove he is a dependable performer in the secondary, that will allow BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki to have a lot more options with what he does with the players in front of him.

No. 27: Blake Freeland, sophomore offensive lineman

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football vs. Boise State

BYU freshman offensive lineman Blake Freeland (center) high-fives fans as he heads toward the stadium before the 28-25 Cougar win over Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

Astute BYU football fans remember exactly when they were introduced to Freeland: Oct. 19, 2019. The Cougars were preparing to face undefeated, highly-ranked Boise State with an offensive line that had been decimated by injuries. Freeland stepped in and did a superlative job, helping BYU get the 28-25 upset. Nearly two years later, Freeland has played in 18 games and is in position to make a big difference on a Cougar offensive line that lost a trio of starters from last season.

No. 28: George Udo, sophomore defensive back

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football vs. Western Kentucky 15

BYU linebacker George Udo (7) and safety Troy Warner (4) celebrate after making a big play during the 41-10 Cougar win over Western Kentucky at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct.

If you are looking for a darkhorse candidate to become a defensive star for BYU, Udo might be the guy. He tallied 25 total tackles with three sacks, one quarterback hurry and a pass breakup in 2020, but his biggest highlight was a play that didn’t officially count on the stat sheet. He came up with an interception on a two-point conversion at Houston that started the Cougar rally. Even more impressive was how he played the game, improving during the season and setting himself up for more opportunities this fall. 

No. 29: Kyle Whittingham, Utah head coach

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football vs. Utah 26

Brigham Young University head coach Kalani Sitake and University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham embrace one another after the Utes defeated the Cougars on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. The game began on Thursday, but due to a lightning delay it ended on Friday. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

No former BYU star player has caused more frustration for Cougar fans than Whittingham, who has always seemed to find a way to defeat BYU over the last decade. This year is an intriguing one in the traditional rivalry matchup as Utah comes in with pretty high expectations but also with a lot to prove after going 3-2 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Expect Whittingham to have his Utes ready to play and give the Cougars all they can handle in September before presenting the same challenge to the Pac-12.

No. 30: Lopini Katoa, junior running back

Jul 29, 2021

BYU football vs. UCF in 2020 Boca Raton Bowl

BYU junior running back Lopini Katoa makes a diving catch during the 49-23 Cougar win over UCF in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

Few players have been as consistently productive as Katoa, who has been remarkably steady in three seasons as a Cougar. He has tallied 1,225 career rushing yards on 245 carries, while also gaining 695 receiving yards on 67 receptions with 22 total touchdowns. His skill set works well in tandem with Tyler Allgeier and gives BYU a dynamic, experienced backfield combo.

No. 31: Earl Tuioti-Mariner, junior defensive lineman

Jul 23, 2021

Earl Tuioti-Mariner

BYU defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner poses for a photo at Photo Day on Aug. 7, 2019.

Tuioti-Mariner is another case study of an athlete with ability who has had to fight through adversity. He officially only has three total tackles in his career as a Cougar (all coming in 2019) but he is a guy who has frequently been named as a possible difference-maker up front. Now it is his time. If he can stay healthy and perform at the level he is capable of, he will definitely be a key figure in BYU’s defensive line rotation.

No. 32: Puka Nacua, sophomore wide receiver

Jul 23, 2021

BYU football Puka Nacua Media Day.JPG

BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua answers questions during BYU Football Media Day at the Broadcasting Building on Thursday, June 17, 2021. Nacua transferred from the University of Washington to play with his brother, Samson, who transferred from the University of Utah.

No one who followed high school football in Utah has any doubts about the type of talent Nacua has. He was brilliant at Orem, perhaps one of the most unstoppable players in Utah prep football history. His college career at Washington didn’t quite play out the same way. While he showed flashes of brilliance (tallying 16 receptions for 319 yards and three TDs in 11 games), he also dealt with injuries and other challenges. Now he gets a fresh start close to home.

No. 33: Uriah Leiataua, senior defensive lineman

Jul 23, 2021

BYU football at Utah State

BYU junior defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua tries to block a pass during the 42-14 Cougar win at Utah State on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2019.

Just like Kapisi, Leiataua seized a chance to return and get another season wearing his blue-and-white BYU uniform. It’s been a tough road for the senior as his career has been stymied by injuries. He has had to work to be able to play and this year was no exception. On a unit that lost all three starters, however, he also has a chance to show more of what he can do on the field in addition to being a great team leader.

No. 34: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia head coach

Jul 23, 2021

BYU takes on rival Utah at Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl 42

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches from the side line on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

One of the most fascinating off-field moments BYU football will have in 2021 is how will Mendenhall be treated when he returns to Provo nearly six years after stepping down as the Cougar head coach. Mendenhall amassed a 99-43 record in 11 years at BYU but chose to leave to take over at Virginia, taking a lot of the Cougar coaches with him. While he has had modest success overall, the Cavaliers certainly haven’t become an ACC powerhouse yet. It will be great to have a little reunion, but the game should be intriguing as well.

No. 35: Harris LaChance, sophomore offensive lineman

Jul 23, 2021

Harris LaChance

BYU offensive lineman Harris LaChance gets ready to block during fall camp in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. 

Sophomores are often looked at as up-and-coming athletes who are still reaching their potential. LaChance, however, doesn’t really fit that mold. He has already played in 28 games in his BYU career, which definitely puts him as a veteran. With the Cougars losing some key pieces in the trenches, LaChance has to step up and be even better. If he can be solid in pass protection and continue to run block well, it will be a great foundation for the BYU offense to build on.

No. 36: Britton Hogan, sophomore long snapper

Jul 23, 2021

Britton Hogan

BYU long snapper Britton Hogan walks onto the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium for the scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.

One of the most underrated position in football is the job done by the long snapper. Fans just expect them to be perfect. When there is a mix-up, either in communication or execution, the results can be devastating. That’s why BYU needs Hogan to continue to be really good. If he is, that will enable the Cougar kicker and punters to be at their best as well. Freshman Austin Riggs could also be called on, if necessary.

No. 37: Jared Kapisi, senior defensive back

Jul 23, 2021

BYU football vs. Texas State 33

BYU safety Jared Kapisi (43) intercepts a pass during the Cougar game against Texas State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.

After the success of 2020, most the BYU players who were seniors elected to move on with many heading to the NFL. Kapisi, along with a couple of others, chose to return. While the senior has seen limited action in his career (nine total tackles, one interception, two pass breakups), 2021 is his chance to shape the course of the defense. Some of that will be on the field but even more important will be his knowledge and leadership.

No. 38: Jeff Grimes, Baylor offensive coordinator

Jul 23, 2021

BYU Football media day 21

Grimes speaks with a reporter as part of the break out sessions on Tueday, June 18, 2019, in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Michael Schnell, special to the Daily Herald).

For the last few years, Grimes has been a lot higher on this list. Now, however, he has taken his coaching acumen back home to Texas just in time for the Bears to host the Cougars. Grimes certainly knows the majority of the BYU players on both sides of the ball but will that make that much difference in mid-October? It’s hard to say for sure. The bigger question is whether Grimes can help Baylor once again be a force in the Big 12 conference.

No. 39: Dallin Holker, sophomore tight end

Jul 23, 2021

BYU Football vs. New Mexico State 10

Brigham Young Cougars tight end Dallin Holker (32) completes a catch before being downed by New Mexico State Aggies defensive back Ron LaForce (23) during a game between Brigham Young University and New Mexico State University held Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

While Holker may not have gotten the change to shine in the brilliant offense of 2020, he has already established himself as a playmaker. He had 19 catches for 235 yards and a touchdown playing opposite Matt Bushman in 2018. Holker is just back from his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so it may take a little while for him to get to full strength. When he does, though, it’s going to be big for the Cougar offense.

No. 40: Josh Wilson, freshman linebacker

Jul 23, 2021

2020 BYU football fall camp

BYU freshman linebacker Josh Wilson competes during fall camp in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.

Although he has had to deal with the moniker of being “Zach Wilson’s younger brother,” Josh Wilson expects to emerge as a playmaker in his own right. His numbers in 2020 weren’t eye-catching (five total tackles in eight games) but he likely will get more opportunities this fall. If he can show the instincts that made him a force at Corner Canyon High, he could end up as surprising people with the impact he has on the Cougar defense.

No. 41: Clark Barrington, sophomore offensive lineman

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football vs. Boise State

BYU football players celebrate with offensive lineman Clark Barrington (56) after a touchdown during the 28-25 Cougar win over Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

Since the offensive line is so vital to the success of a football team, that is the unit that is featured at this spot as well. While Barrington may not have gotten the same attention as former Cougar lineman like Brady Christensen and Tristen Hoge, he has been a steady, impactful presence for BYU in 20 games in the last two seasons. His understanding of the offensive scheme and strength will be key for the Cougars in 2021.

No. 42: Herm Edwards, Arizona State head coach

Jul 19, 2021

ASU, Fresno St on the ascent heading into Las Vegas Bowl

FILE – In this Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, file photo, Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards gestures during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Boulder, Colo. Arizona State plays Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Few football programs in the country are dealing with the combination of expectations and turmoil like the Sun Devils are. While on the one hand some prognosticators believe ASU could win the PAC-12 title, Edwards has to try to navigate the distraction (and possible consequences) of alleged violations of restrictions put in place during COVID-19. It may be one of the tougher challenges the long-time veteran will have faced in his career, which could result in a team that is really good or on that really struggles.

No. 43: Payton Wilgar, sophomore linebacker

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football at Coastal Carolina 9

BYU linebacker Payton Wilgar makes a tackle during the 22-17 Cougar loss to Coastal Carolina at Brooks Stadium in Conway, S.C. on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.

It would be easy to argue that Wilgar deserves to be higher on this list, since he had 57 total tackles with five tackles for a loss, five quarterback hurries and four pass breakups in 2020. BYU will definitely need the sophomore from Dixie High to continue to be a playmaker both in stopping the run and the pass but he can still elevate his game. Although a lot of Cougar defenders have experienced, Wilgar is someone who could emerge as an even bigger performer for the defense.

No. 44: Hobbs Nyberg, freshman punt returner

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football starts 2021 spring camp

BYU sophomore wide receiver Hobbs Nyberg catches a pass during the first day of 2021 spring camp at the indoor practice facility in Provo on Monday, March 1, 2021.

There are few plays in football that are such enormous momentum-changers as when a team muffs a punt. Instead of a defense getting off the field and the offense having a chance to score, the defense has to come back out — usually having surrendered huge chunk of yards. That’s why Nyberg’s performance this fall will be enormous for the Cougars. He may of just had 10 official punt returns for 58 yards in 2020 but he also had no fumbles. That’s a stat all BYU supporters want to see stay at zero this year.

No. 45: Fesi Sitake, wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football vs. Boise State 7

BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson (11) talks to wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake after the 21-16 Cougar loss at Boise State on Nov. 3, 2018.

It’s impossible to miss how well BYU wide receivers have performed under Sitake’s guidance, culminating in Dax Milne having an incredible season and getting selected late in the 2021 NFL Draft. This year Sitake may have as deep and experienced a unit as he has ever had, which will be beneficial since he is also taking on the role of passing game coordinator. He will certainly have a big say in what happens when the Cougars take to the air this fall.

No. 46: Khalil Shakir, Boise State senior wide receiver

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football at Boise State 10

BYU cornerback Micah Harper (1) tries to defend a pass intended for Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir during the Cougar game against Boise State at Albertsons Stadium in Boise on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

The Broncos may have a new head coach but any team that has a receiver of the caliber of Shakir is going to be dangerous. While BYU’s offense was able to pound BSU in 2020, Shakir still found a way to get free for a couple of scores. He is a guy who opposing defenses have to be aware of at all times and if Boise State is going to return to the national stage this fall, he will be a big part of the Bronco success.

No. 47: Masen Wake, sophomore fullback/tight end

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football at Houston

BYU tight end Masen Wake shows the words “Rest in heaven, Mom” under his jersey after scoring a touchdown during the game against Houston at TDECU Stadium in Houston on Friday, October 16, 2020.

While Wake got a lot of attention early in 2020 for both his hurdling ability and honoring his late mother by putting the words “Rest in heaven, Mom” on the shirt under his jersey in the Cougar win at Houston, he was a steady contributor when he was on the field. He finished last year with eight receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown but was also a key blocker for the potent BYU offense. He’s a guy who will do the little things that help the team be successful.

No. 48: Caleb Christensen, freshman defensive back/kick returner

Jul 19, 2021

2021 BYU football spring camp

BYU freshman defensive back Caleb Christensen (center) fights off blockers during spring camp in Provo on Monday, March 8, 2021.

The role of the kickoff returner has evolved in recent years with rule changes bringing the fair-catch option into play. While it’s not likely that Christensen will be breaking off big returns, he still needs to be smart around the goal line and help provide the Cougar offense with good field position. He should also play a key role in the BYU defensive secondary.

No. 49: Nick Rolovich, Washington State head coach

Jul 19, 2021

BYU vs. Hawaii 06

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors head coach Nick Rolovich walks back toward the sidelines after a timeout during Brigham Young University’s homecoming game against the University of Hawaii held Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

In a PAC-12 season that was severely crippled by league reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rolovich never really got a chance to get the Washington State offense to the level he wanted. This is another Cougar team, however, that has a variety of weapons and should be really dangerous offensively. It’s certainly not going to be an easy victory when BYU travels to Pullman on Oct. 23, but if Rolovich can elevate the WSU profile and the blue-uniformed Cougars can still win, that would be another attention-getting statement.

No. 50: Connor Pay, freshman offensive lineman

Jul 19, 2021

BYU football at Navy

BYU offensive linemen Connor Pay and Blake Freeland talk during the BYU football game at Navy in Annapolis, Maryland, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020.

The countdown kicks off with a young lineman who hasn’t seen a ton of action (played in eight games in 2020) but stepped in at a key moment in the bowl game against UCF and played so well that no one noticed the difference. Don’t be surprised if the 6-foot-5, 300-pound former Lone Peak star becomes a big contributor on the Cougar interior and helps the BYU offense continue to roll. 

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