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BYU football will be a tough out in 2022

A more experienced team should be improved for Kalani Sitake next season

BYU coach Kalani Sitake waves to fans as heads for the  locker room during game against UAB in the Independence Bowl.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake waves to fans as heads for the locker room during game against UAB in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

The 2021 season for BYU football was planned as a rebuilding year after losing five stars to the NFL, yet the Cougars won 10 games, went 5-0 against the Pac-12, and won six games against Power Five competition, which included that blowout of Virginia.

If that is a rebuilding year, what is in store for the 2022 season with Jaren Hall expected to return to lead the Cougars? We shall see.

In this piece by Jay Drew, he breaks down just how much the Cougars overachieved in 2021 when expectations were lower than a 10-win season by a majority of the experts. Here is Jay’s projection for 2022: BYU football will be better.

Cougar Insider’s predictions

Here is the question of the week: With Tyler Allgeier announcing he will put in for the NFL draft, how is BYU set with its running game next season, after it was a big part of 2021’s success?

Jay Drew: I’m not going to say that Tyler Allgeier was a generational player for the BYU football program, but he was close. Right up there with Jamaal Williams, Harvey Unga and Jamal Willis, in my book.

He will be very difficult to replace. One of the underrated aspects of his game was his durability. He’s one of the few Cougars who did not miss a single game due to injury last season.

The Cougars should be OK at running back next season. Just OK. Nothing spectacular.

Lopini Katoa is coming back for a final season, while Jackson McChesney, Hinckley Ropati and Miles Davis will battle for carries, too. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if BYU coaches are scouring the transfer portal for a big-time back, someone like a Ty’Son Williams. Not only can they sell potential newcomers on what Allgeier was able to do as a one-time walk-on, but they can also point to a pretty good offensive line that will lose only one keg cog — center James Empey. (Note: On Wednesday, the Cougars received a pair of running back commitments via the transfer portal).

Dick Harmon: It is pretty remarkable that Tyler did not miss games and his durability was impressive. Even banged up, he ran hard. It will be hard for BYU to replace his strength, power, yards after contact, breakaway speed and linebacker mentality of hit-before-getting-hit. The strengths of the replacement candidates are more like specialists in certain areas. McChesney has sprinter breakaway speed, Davis is a great athlete with some agility, Ropati is a strongman who is thick, can take a hit and has good size to gobble up yards in short down situations. Katoa has nice speed and is a very good receiver out of the backfield and his acceleration is impressive.

But unless BYU finds a portal back who is an every-down player, it will be hard to replace what Allgeier brought to the offense. The big plus in this situation is that this staff went out and found Allgeier, a walk-on, who turned him into not only a converted linebacker but one of the most dangerous runners in 2021 in the country. Maybe they can do it again.

Cougar tales

COVID-19 outbreaks wiped out the first week of WCC basketball competition as we ushered in the new year. In the meantime, not only did Allgeier announce he will put his name in for the NFL but quarterback Baylor Romney announced he was stepping away from football. It is unknown if Romney will find a new home through the transfer portal or if he is done.

Hunter Erickson and Gideon George came off the bench with impressive performances in the last preconference win over Westminster.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Pair of 4-star rush ends enrolled at BYU (@rtmccombs)

Records of Big 12 additions (@UCFSportsInfo)

Taysom Hill’s remarkable streak (@ShaneJohnson91)

Extra points

Kyle Van Noy among Utah collegians doing part for NFL playoffs (Deseret News)

Dominating performances in BYU Olympic Sports (Daily Herald)

Seven RMs battling for Stanford football (Daily Universe)

Top sports stories of 2021 in Utah (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers

There is sure a lot of nonsense smack-talk about who is the best team in the state of Utah this year. Most of it is ridiculous and pretty childish-sounding. I’m a Wyoming fan, but I still watch, follow, read and root for Utah State and BYU because I lived near Logan and Provo for much of my life and grew up following those teams. To be clear, I have never been a Utah fan. Like many who have posted, if one is a fan of the three (Utah State, BYU or Utah), then they may naturally not be a fan and may even be antagonistic about the other two.

But the nonsense talk about the best team in the state this year is just plain crazy: That distinction goes to BYU, followed by USU, and then Utah.

1. BYU beat Utah and Utah State head to head. All three have nearly identical records. Utah State and Utah have no wins against common opponents that BYU did not beat. BYU has bad losses to Boise State and UAB.

2. Utah State has wins over San Diego State and Oregon State, who both bested Utah. Utah State has bad losses to Boise State and Wyoming.

3. Utah has the losses to Oregon State and San Diego State — the latter who USU blew off the field.

Now, all three teams can say “we were playing without our quarterback,” or “we weren’t motivated,” or “we had emotional concerns,” or “we had injuries,” etc. All of that is probably true, but the schedule doesn’t lie, nor do the wins and the losses. By the end of the season were teams playing at different levels? Yes, no doubt about it. But to argue about who ruled your state in football this year when it is so obvious is nonsense.

Now, where do the WYOMING COWBOYS fit into these rankings? No. 4 despite blowing USU off the field. The head-to-head matchups in the MWC do not lie either. It’s obvious.

— WYOming-Blue-White

Aside from the stinky ending, I think BYU exceeded expectations in a big way. I was really impressed by Hall, and the defense was much better than anticipated until injuries took their toll. When I think back a few years to those losing seasons when there was almost zero excitement around the program, and compare them to now, it’s clear that BYU in on an upturn.

— SparklyBriefs

Up next

Jan. 6 | 5 p.m. | Men’s volleyball | vs. Penn State | @Provo

Jan. 6 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Pacific | @Provo

Jan. 6 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. San Francisco | @San Francisco

Jan. 7-8 | TBA | Swimming | Utah Invitational | @Salt Lake City

Jan. 8 | TBA | Softball | vs. Hawaii | @Honolulu

Jan. 8 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Pacific | @Provo