Both BYU and Utah are experiencing sustained success offensively under their current offensive coordinators — Aaron Roderick at BYU and Andy Ludwig at Utah, respectively — and the future looks bright for both programs.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg released his annual top 25 future offense power rankings this week, and both BYU and Utah made the list.
The Cougars came in at No. 14, while the Utes are No. 23.
How are the future offense power rankings formulated?
Rittenberg based his rankings on personnel — who the teams have on the roster now, and the recruits who are committed to play for a team — to help project the top 25 offenses over the next three seasons in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
It’s clear both schools are well-set at the quarterback position. Last month, Rittenberg released his list of future quarterback power rankings, and Utah (No. 14) and BYU (No. 25) both also made that list.
What makes BYU a top-25 offense?
Rittenberg noted that BYU has been among the nation’s top 15 in both points per game (34.8, 14th) and yards per game (471.7, eighth) over the past three seasons.
At quarterback, the Cougars return dual-threat junior Jaren Hall after he passed for 2,583 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in 10 games last season, while also rushing for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Rittenberg also said “BYU has insurance with Jacob Conover, ESPN’s No. 109 overall recruit in the 2019 class.”
Rittenberg believes BYU is in a good spot at wide receiver, with Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney back and younger but promising guys like Keanu Hill, Kody Epps, and two Utah products — Chase Roberts and Cody Hagen — being the future at the position.
“The passing game could be even better in 2022 and beyond with Puka Nacua (805 receiving yards, six touchdowns) and Gunner Romney (594 receiving yards, three touchdowns) both back, along with a promising group of younger wideouts,” Rittenberg wrote.
There are questions at running back and tight end for BYU, Rittenberg noted.
At running back, the Cougars lose Tyler Allgeier — who set the program’s single-season rushing record last year — though BYU brought in Cal transfer Christopher Brooks and the team returns experienced veteran Lopini Katoa, “although BYU needs to build for 2023 and 2024” at the position, Rittenberg said.
At tight end, the Cougars will bring back Isaac Rex and Dallin Holker, who’ve shown promise at times. Their overall production last year could have been better, though.
Up front, though, Rittenberg expects BYU to be set.
“The offensive line will continue to be a strength as the Cougars return two anchors in junior tackle Blake Freeland and junior guard Clark Barrington. BYU also gets experienced guard Joe Tukuafu for a sixth season, and adds Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia, ESPN’s No. 97 overall recruit in the 2021 class,” Rittenberg wrote.
What makes Utah a top-25 offense?
Rittenberg noted that he’s usually leery of putting Utah in the QB or offense rankings, but Ludwig’s consistency and the rise of junior quarterback Cam Rising is changing that.
Rising, the transfer from Texas, was a big reason for the Utes’ resurgence in 2021, as he threw for 2,493 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding 499 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.
“Rising, who ranked sixth nationally in total QBR (84.2) last fall, should lead the offense through 2023. Utah’s addition of quarterback Nate Johnson, a top-100 prospect for 2022, shows the team is making progress on the recruiting trail,” Rittenberg wrote.
At the other skill positions, Rittenberg praised the Utes’ line of succession at running back, even with TJ Pledger leaving early for the NFL draft. All-Pac-12 first-teamer Tavion Thomas returns, Micah Bernard is back and the Utes added talented freshman Jaylon Glover.
Tight end, too, is a strength. Utah brings back three-time All-Pac-12 honoree Brant Kuithe, as well as Dalton Kincaid, and has added some younger players at the position through recruiting.
The big question is at wide receiver. Gone is talented receiver/returner Britain Covey — he left early for a shot in the NFL — though Utah has Devaughn Vele and Solomon Enis back. “But Utah needs a bit more, especially after its tight ends move on to the NFL,” Rittenberg wrote.
The Utes should be solid along the offensive line, Rittenberg believes, even while losing a pair of NFL caliber linemen.
“The offensive line loses center Nick Ford and left tackle Bamidele Olaseni but returns a solid nucleus, led by tackle Braeden Daniels and guard Sataoa Laumea, who both earned All-Pac-12 honors in 2021. Laumea and fellow guard Keaton Bills likely will at least play through 2023,” Rittenberg wrote.