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

When an offense returns almost every offensive lineman, a veteran QB, experienced receivers and tight ends who have made big plays, it does bring high expectations. Will BYU’s offense be more explosive in 2022? There are some telltale signs suggesting that just might be the case as spring practice concluded last week.

Here are some stories that offer clarity on trends and expectations for Kalani Sitake’s football players in 2022:

  • What BYU’s players say about spring football (Jay Drew)
  • Best offensive line in the country (Dick Harmon)
  • Miles Davis makes his return (Jay Drew)
  • Offense is ahead of defense (Jay Drew)
  • McChessney is ready to help (Jay Drew)

Cougar Insider predictions

Here is this week’s question: What are two things that stand out from spring practice that should make a difference in the fall? (Jay Drew is on vacation this week so Dave McCann is filling in.)

Dave McCann:

  1. Rhythm reps: The work that was done between quarterback Jaren Hall and his stable of healthy receivers will show up this fall in the form of the long bombs. Prior to spring practice, Puka Nacua told me that “rhythm reps” were going to be very important. Puka didn’t announce his transfer to BYU until after the 2021 spring practice started and he was home with his foot in a boot after surgery. He was sidelined with a hamstring injury in fall camp and didn’t start making an impact on the field until the third game of the season against Arizona State. He missed what he calls “rhythm reps” with Hall and they had to figure each other out on the fly during the games last fall. As a result, BYU’s long bombs were often underthrown or overthrown. Nacua told me as practice ended that he is confident that has been rectified during spring drills. He now has a full understanding of how far Hall can throw and Jaren has a better feel for how fast Nacua (and Gunner Romney) can get down the field. Those “rhythm reps” will translate into more deep passes and a higher percentage of completion.
  2. Chris Brooks: If you didn’t know Brooks was a newcomer from Cal, you would think he has been at BYU his entire career. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound transfer running back has done his part to blend into the new surroundings, on the field and off. His skillset and adaptation to the playbook has created an expectation that he will fill the shoes left by Tyler Allgeier, or at least bring his own and run wild in those. The massive offensive line will have a lot to say about his success, but Brooks has been impressive with his ability to run, catch out of the backfield and talk “happy smack” right alongside his teammates.

At last week’s alumni game, he told BYUtv, “I think it’s awesome. It’s a great community. As a transfer, it’s eye-opening. To see the culture here and the lifestyle, it’s just great.”

Brooks’ success in the fall could go a long way toward other “portal” athletes looking at BYU as a place to play, thrive, and win when the Cougars join the Big 12 in July 2023.

Dick Harmon: 

  1. During BYU’s 11- and 10-win seasons, the Cougars were basically a very young team with a lot of new pieces on both offense and defense. In talking to assistant head coach Ed Lamb, he believes the maturity of the team shown in spring practices will go a long way to prepare the Cougars to meet Arkansas, Oregon, Baylor and the likes of Notre Dame. What he meant by this is the older players took a lot of time to help teach and orient younger players who have come in off missions, off transfers or arrived just out of high school. You see this with Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili helping young linebackers and O-linemen Harris LaChance and Blake Freeland giving guidance to Oregon transfer Kingsley SuamataiaLopini Katoa helping Brooks at RB. It goes on and on.
  2. A second thing is Hall’s timing with his receivers. We’ve gone over this and McCann mentioned it, but this is huge. Hall is on the cusp of doing some exciting and explosive things this fall because he’s spent so much time in spring hooking up with his targets. It will continue throughout the summer in player-directed practices. By the time August comes around and fall camp begins, it will be significantly advanced from what we saw in the 2021 opener in Las Vegas against Arizona and that run of wins against Utah and ASU.

I’ll predict Aaron Roderick’s offense, behind a mammoth and deep offensive line, will play a lot of Baylor ball — smash mouth. But it will also be capable of striking deep with Nacua, Romney and Dallin Holker. The timing and experience of this group have allowed Roderick to add some twists and tweaks that will be fun to see come September.

Cougar tales

Call it the alumni game that captured a fan base. When Sitake decided to extend an invitation to former BYU players to return and play in an exhibition game, it turned out far better than one could have imagined. It ignited former players in a cocoon of brotherhood, solidified a source of recruiting testimony and gave some 7,500 fans and a worldwide BYUtv audience something to relate to. No, it didn’t exactly replace an actual spring game with current players, but it struck a chord and produced emotions. Here is some of our coverage:

From the archives

Related
How BYU sees NIL deals working for recruits
Could BYU and Utah football both be involved in upset games this season?

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers

“Wins over:

“Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Virginia, Washington State, UCLA, UCF, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Michigan State, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Houston, etc!

“Thank you little brothers from down south for putting the state of Utah on the college football map! You’ve earned your Eagle feathers! — And you didn’t need P5 athletes and money to do this!!”

— Worf

“The coaches and players sound optimistic about where the program is at the end of spring camp and compared to where they were last year at this same time. I hope that same mindset continues over the summer and into the fall when the Cougars will be tested. 2011 was Utah’s initial season in the Pac-12 when they finished 8-5. The next two years they had identical records: 5-7. I expect the Cougars to have some growing pains moving into the new conference next year; but I think the coaching staff understands the challenge and will use it to improve the overall quality of the players and the program.”

— CougarSenior

Up next

April 6 | TBA | Women’s golf | Silverado Showdown | @Napa, California

April 7 | 6 p.m. | Baseball | vs. Santa Clara | @Provo

April 8 | 6 p.m. | Baseball | vs. Santa Clara | @Provo

April 8 | 5 p.m. | Softball | vs. LMU | @Provo

April 8 | 7 p.m. | Softball | vs. LMU | @Provo

April 9 | 1 p.m. | Softball | vs. LMU | @Provo

April 9 | noon | Baseball | vs. Santa Clara | @Provo

April 11-13 | Men’s golf | Western Intercollegiate | @Santa Cruz, California

April 8 | TBA | Track and field | Sun Angel Classic | @Tempe, Arizona

April 8 | TBA | Track and field | vs. Aggie Invite | @Logan

April 7-8 | TBA | Track and field | McDonnel Invite | Fayetteville, Arkansas