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This past week, Mark Pope signed a top-50 basketball recruit, a 6-foot-8 prospect who signed with Kansas before heading to Gonzaga. This breakthrough for the program was huge news because of Marcus Adams’ athleticism, shooting ability and, hopefully, the beginning of a trend for Pope and BYU’s NIL abilities after losing Ques Glover to Kansas State.

Adams signed with Kansas before transferring to Gonzaga, but he never enrolled with the Zags. He is hopeful of obtaining a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible for this coming season since he did not officially enroll at Gonzaga.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: Where do you expect the traditional “biggest improvement” from Game 1 to Game 2 as BYU prepares to host Southern Utah on Saturday — and give your prediction.

Jay Drew: As Kalani Sitake repeatedly said after Saturday’s 14-0 win over Sam Houston, there’s a lot of room for improvement in all three phases of the game for the Cougars. Which unit needs to make the most improvement? The offensive line, in my opinion.

Hyped up throughout spring and preseason training camp, the O line was not good in the opener. From costly penalties to the inability to establish a rushing attack until late in the third quarter, the big guys up front did not resemble a Power Five offensive line. They did protect QB Kedon Slovis reasonably well.

This group has too much experience, and is too talented, to not make strides in Week 2 against SUU, a team similar in talent to SHU. Maybe mixing in so many new faces — Weylin Lapuaho, Paul Maile and Caleb Etienne — is going to be more difficult than anyone expected.

I also expect considerable improvement from the receivers, especially if Keanu Hill and Kody Epps can return. Prediction: BYU 27, SUU 14.

Dick Harmon: Just like most coaching staffs, when you play a couple of expected winnable games to start a season, you hide plays and formations so a team like Arkansas can’t dissect game film and more fully prepare for you. This is how BYU last defeated Utah, breaking out a few surprises. The trouble with that is that you signal to players that the game is a gimmie because they know what’s in the playbook. When you hold back from running all of it, it can lead to a lack of emotional and mental focus. We saw that in the win over Sam Houston, especially with the offensive line and receivers, many of whom were new to the program.

Embarrassment and “long faces” were the result among offensive players after that win. Fans let them know from the stands they’d glided through that game and were both weak and out of it. I’d expect a big improvement on the offense this week. Oh, they can still hide stuff, but they’ll play harder and with more purpose. 

This offensive line simply stunk it up last Saturday, just went through the motions. They got pushed around. BYU fans did not pay elevated ticket prices to see their big linemen get pushed around. They’re better than that, aren’t they? Prove it come Saturday. SUU played Arizona State tough. I believe Darrell Funk will use the threat of playing time to energize competition this week and elevate play. You’ll see better blocking, a more aggressive attitude and better execution and discipline. Usually, team maturity is able to overcome games like this, but it seems to be a cultural thing in the program to play down to the competition while getting up for teams like Michigan State, Tennessee, ASU and USC. Prediction: BYU 31, SUU 10.

Cougar tales

Here is some of our coverage of BYU’s shutout victory over Sam Houston State in the opener.

  • Coaches say “fixable things” after first game (Jay Drew)
  • Former players react to game (Brandon Judd)
  • Why Sam Houston win less than satisfying (Jay Drew)
  • Where did explosiveness go with offense?  (Jay Drew)
  • Robinson, Rehkow, Jay Hill’s D steal show (Dick Harmon)

In women’s soccer, Jennifer Rockwood’s squad defeated No. 1 UCLA in Provo last week. In this piece, Dave McCann explains why it is such a big deal.

From the archives

Related
The U.S. women’s national soccer team is coming to Utah. What will the team look like?
Kalani Sitake is walking where LaVell Edwards dreamed to go

From the X-verse

Extra points

Fanaylst

Comments from Deseret News readers: 

I would not say we know “BYU has nothing to worry about.” But, there are a lot of logical reasons to believe they can clean up their messes.

• Slovis inaccuracy: Analysts say a large number of freshman WRs and newcomers ran wrong obviously wrong routes while the camera was on the QB. Epps and Hill were projected starters who know the system who didn’t play Saturday. The WRs can fix these issues or if Epps and Hill play, it may resolve it.

• Slovis clock management. Same problem as above. WRs confused where to line up. Fixable.

• We heard for the last month that SH had legitimate NFL prospects who redshirted from their FCS championship team in order to play in their first FBS season. Nearly all are on the defense. Akeem “Meatball” Smith is as good as advertised. Credit to their whole defense, though.

• The spread was about three TDs. Most analysts said BYU would win, but was unlikely to cover the spread before the game started. BYU won by two TDs. That said, their miscues probably left points off the board.

The good:

• BYU gave up zero sacks.

• Zero turnovers from the offense.

• Defense picked up three turnovers.

• They got only one sack. But for the first time in years (even against FCS teams), they got TFLs and lots of pressure in the backfield in general. The QB was uncomfortable most of the night. Third-down stops, etc.

If the offense fixes the problems, BYU can still be good (maybe not great, but good). If the problems persist this week, I may change my opinion.

Rightnow333

I didn’t hear (Aaron) Roderick mention the play of the OL. Last year, the OL underwhelmed even though we had great talent. This year, the line seems full of talent again but it didn’t impose its will on Saturday in the run game. The group did fine in pass protection but the run game was horrible first half. Trevor Matich gave the line a scathing review for its performance on Saturday. The OL last year had a reputation for being soft and it is happening again in 2023. Too many linemen are not finishing plays and not finding someone to block. You see them turning and watching the play instead of finding a way to contribute. This is a coaching issue. Jeff Grimes was great at getting his players to play hard and work as a unit. Darrell Funk has been an OL coach for 27 years but so far, I’m not a big fan. He has basically stuck for no more than one to three years wherever he coached. Brady Hoke liked him when he coached San Diego State and then brought him to Michigan when he was hired head coach there. Once Hoke underperformed at Michigan, Funk was let go the very next year by Jim Harbaugh and he hasn’t stuck around for more than a year with any other team before landing at BYU in 2021. He seems like a nice guy but if he can’t get the OL to play up to its potential, then BYU needs to hire someone who can.

— Bluefan

Up Next

Sept. 7 | 11:30 a.m. | Women’s volleyball | @ Towson
Sept. 7 | 8:30 p.m. | Women’s volleyball | @ Cal-Irvine
Sept. 8 | TBA | Cross-country, Autumn Classic | Provo
Sept. 8 | 8 p.m. | Women’s volleyball | @Washington State
Sept. 9 | 1 p.m. | Football | SUU | Provo

BYU soccer players celebrate during Cougars’ victory over No. 1-ranked UCLA at South Field in Provo last Saturday night. | BYU Photo