Both signing periods have come and gone, players can’t enter the transfer portal until it opens for 15 days on May 1, and spring football camp for BYU begins in about two weeks.

In other words, the Cougars’ roster for the 2024 football season is taking shape.

Sure, there will be a few additions in May and June, as there were last year when BYU added transfers such as offensive lineman Caleb Etienne, receivers Darius Lassiter and Keelan Marion and linebacker Harrison Taggart.

But for the most part, we have a pretty good idea which personnel BYU coaches will have to work with as they go about building a team they hope can improve upon last season’s 5-7 finish and get the Cougars back to a bowl game.

Now seems like a good time to make some projections regarding BYU’s depth chart in 2024, a depth chart that will be stocked with veterans and not have nearly as many newcomers as it did last year.

BYU coaches have worked harder to retain and develop their own players than they have to find new ones out of the transfer portal, head coach Kalani Sitake said during signing day last week. 

They only lost a couple scholarship players to the portal, and none from the offense.

As a result, BYU is ranked No. 49 (of 134 FBS teams) in total returning production by ESPN’s Bill Connelly. The Cougars are 46th on offense and 54th on defense, in terms of getting guys back who made significant impacts in 2023.

The analyst says the Cougars return 68% of their offensive production from 2023 and 63% of their defensive production.

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Notable losses on offense are quarterback Kedon Slovis, offensive linemen Kingsley Suamataia and Paul Maile, tight end Isaac Rex and running back Aidan Robbins. Notable losses on defense are defensive linemen Atunaisa Mahe and Jackson Cravens, linebackers Max Tooley and AJ Vongphachanh and cornerbacks Eddie Heckard and Kamden Garrett. 

Punter Ryan Rehkow and punt returner Hobbs Nyberg have also moved on.

Slovis, Suamataia and Rehkow on Tuesday received invites to the 2024 NFL scouting combine, which will take place in Indianapolis Feb. 6 through March 4.

Notable returnees among guys who at least considered moving on but decided to return are linebacker Ben Bywater, defensive ends Tyler Batty and Isaiah Bagnah, offensive lineman Caleb Etienne and receivers Darius Lassiter and Keanu Hill, who has been moved to tight end.

Here’s a position-by-position glance at what BYU’s 2024 offensive depth chart could look like when the Cougars break preseason training camp in mid-August and begin preparations for the opener against Southern Illinois on Aug. 31.

Our projections for the defensive and special teams depth charts will be published next week.

Quarterback

Much has already been written and said about BYU’s quarterback situation in 2024, especially after junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff started the final four games of the 2023 season and played well in stretches but failed to deliver a victory.

Had Retzlaff played consistently above average and taken care of the football more effectively, he would have been the unquestioned QB1 this season. But he didn’t. Then the Cougars took former Baylor and USF QB Gerry Bohanon and former Western Michigan QB Treyson Bourguet (a preferred walk-on) out of the transfer portal, creating an ultra-crowded QBs room. 

“I don’t know right now who is going to be the starting quarterback,” Sitake said. “I have no idea who that is going to be right now.”

Ryder Burton, Cade Fennegan and Nick Billoups are also available. Reps will be precious in spring camp, and it will be a surprise if the Cougars emerge from March with a clear-cut starter. The QB competition will surely pick up in August.

Running back

The Cougars have brought in transfer portal running backs such as Ty’Son Williams, Chris Brooks, Deion Smith and Aidan Robbins the past few years, with mostly positive results. It doesn’t appear that they will take that approach this season, even though Robbins left early for the NFL draft.

Perhaps they will if a big-time running back jumps in the portal in May.

Rising sophomore LJ Martin will open the year as RB1, but past years have shown that BYU will need two or three capable backs as injuries take their toll. Converted receiver Miles Davis is back, after briefly entering the transfer portal last December. Hinckley Ropati seemed to be a rising star at the end of the 2022 season, but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in fall camp last August. 

When healthy, Ropati can be a key contributor.

Wide receiver

BYU is loaded at the receiver position, so coaches didn’t need to bring in help from the transfer portal, as they did last year in getting Lassiter and Marion to Provo.

Competition in spring and fall camp will be fierce, as Lassiter and Marion battle with fellow returnees Kody Epps, Chase Roberts, Parker Kingston and JoJo Phillips for playing time.

History shows that all six, and perhaps more, will be needed. Roberts and Marion were the only receivers who appeared in every game in 2023, as Lassiter, Epps and Kingston were slowed by injuries and Phillips didn’t get on the field until later in the season.

Roberts finished as the statistical leader, catching 42 passes for 573 yards and five touchdowns.

Tight end: Keanu Hill was another of those oft-injured receivers in 2023, but in December, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick announced that Hill is being moved to tight end so he doesn’t have to fight as much to keep off weight. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hill was already one of the most physical pass-catchers on the team, and should move seamlessly into TE, much as Moroni Laulu-Pututau did years ago.

With the departure of Rex (34 catches, 422 yards, three touchdowns) to the NFL draft — he deserved an NFL scouting combine invite, but didn’t get one — the TE1 spot is totally up for grabs.

Along with Hill, candidates include redshirt freshman Jackson Bowers, true freshman Ryner Swanson (already enrolled at BYU) and a couple of guys who saw limited action last year: Ethan Erickson, Ray Paulo and Mata’ava Ta’ase.

Offensive line

After this unit underperformed in 2023, three-year OL coach Darrell Funk was fired and TJ Woods was brought in to replace him, after Woods’ Georgia Southern team played in its bowl game.

Four guys who played a lot last year — center Connor Pay, guard/tackle Caleb Etienne, guard Weylin Lapuaho and tackle Brayden Keim — are back and should form the nucleus of this group in 2024.

Funk didn’t leave the cupboard bare, but there’s work to do to get the OL to play up to BYU, and Big 12, standards this season. 

Among those who should push for that fifth starting spot are redshirt freshman Jake Griffin, recent returned missionary Joe Brown and veterans such as Peter Falaniko, Tyler Little, Trevin Ostler, Kaden Chidester, Jake Eichorn and Sonny Makasini.

If the Cougars have any scholarship openings left, they should consider adding an experienced O lineman from the transfer portal, as they did last year when they brought in Utah’s Paul Maile and USU’s Lapuaho.


BYU’s projected 2024 offensive depth chart

Quarterback

  • Jake Retzlaff — 6-1, 205, Sr.
  • Gerry Bohanon — 6-3, 226, Sr. or Ryder Burton — 6-2, 200, Fr.

Running back

  • LJ Martin — 6-2, 205, Soph.
  • Miles Davis — 6-0, 210, Jr. or Hinckley Ropati — 5-9, 215, Sr.

Wide receiver

  • Kody Epps — 5-11, 187, R-Jr.
  • Chase Roberts — 6-4, 205, R-Jr.
  • Darius Lassiter — 6-3, 205, Sr. or Keelan Marion — 6-0, 200, Jr. or Parker Kingston — 5-11, 180, Soph.

Tight end

  • Jackson Bowers — 6-5, 245, R-Fr.
  • Keanu Hill — 6-4, 215, Sr. or Ryner Swanson — 6-4, 235, Fr. or Ethan Erickson — 6-5, 240, Jr.

Left tackle

  • Brayden Keim — 6-9, 310, Sr.

Left guard

  • Weylin Lapuaho — 6-4, 310, Jr.

Center

  • Connor Pay — 6-5, 312, Sr.

Right guard

  • Caleb Etienne — 6-8, 330, Sr.

Right tackle

  • Jake Griffin — 6-5, 285, R-Fr.

Possible offensive line backups: Peter Falaniko, Tyler Little, Trevin Ostler, Kaden Chidester, Jake Eichorn, Sonny Makasini, Joe Brown.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake watches from the sideline as BYU and Oklahoma play at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, Nov. 18, 2023.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake watches from the sideline as BYU and Oklahoma play at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News