The 2024 Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team and individual awards were announced Tuesday, chosen by media members who cover the league.

To no one’s surprise, no BYU players made the first team on offense; BYU senior defensive lineman Tyler Batty was named to the 14-member all-defense team, which wasn’t a surprise considering Batty also made the Athlon Sports and Phil Steele all-Big 12 defense teams.

Also Tuesday, BYU was picked to finish 13th in the expanded, 16-team league in the Big 12 Football Media Preseason Poll. That was also not a surprise — several media members, including yours truly, predicted that the Cougars would be in the bottom two or three.

Simply put, the BYU offense in 2024 will lack superstars and an experienced quarterback, and superstars and solid returning quarterbacks are what drive teams to the top of preseason polls.

“We don’t have a Puka Nacua,” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said at the BYU Media Appreciation Golf Tournament last week, referring to the former Cougar and current Los Angeles Rams star receiver. “But we have solid depth across the board, solid depth at every (offensive) position.”

Roderick said that includes depth at tight end, receiver, running back and quarterback.

“And I feel good about our (offensive) line depth,” he said. “I was a little nervous about it a year ago.”

Quarterback Jake Retzlaff, receiver Kody Epps and offensive lineman Connor Pay also spoke to the Deseret News last week and repeated the same mantra: BYU will rely on continuity, consistency and chemistry in its second season in the Big 12 to combat a perceived lack of Power Four talent.

Is BYU football undervalued?

“Last year, we had so many transfers coming in,” Epps said of the group that produced a 5-7 record. “This year, everybody is acclimated. Everybody knows what the deal is, knows what the standard is. So we are coming together and we are meshing really well.”

Roderick said he is more familiar with this BYU offense than the previous ones, because of the continuity, but also because of some recent NCAA rule changes that allow coaches to spend more time with players in the offseason.

“I just think our players are pretty unsatisfied with how we played last year,” Roderick said. “I see a determined bunch. I see guys that want to put a good product on the field this year and are working really hard.”

Roderick said not making it to a bowl game last year “was a wakeup call” for everybody on the team, specifically offensive players.

“I think it has been a nice reset, for a lot of people,” he said. “So whatever people predict, I don’t think it has a huge impact right now. It is more about us being disappointed with how we played last year. Everybody wants to prove that we are better than that.”

Offense counting on continuity — and improved O line

Of course, it all starts with the offensive line, and in that regard the Cougars just couldn’t get it together sufficiently last year until it was too late. Pay, left guard Weylin Lapuaho, left tackle Caleb Etienne and right tackle Brayden Keim are probable starters, while sophomores Sonny Makasini and Peter Falaniko and freshman Joe Brown are among those pushing for starting spots.

“I think we are in good shape right now. All those guys improved a lot,” Roderick said. “I underestimated last year how long it would take us to play as a unit, because we had a lot of new guys. I feel like even though we are playing with a lot of the same guys we were playing with last year, our execution is going to be a lot better, because just playing together is huge. Especially at O line, it is a big deal.”

The offensive line was one of the strengths of the unit when the Cougars were 11-1 in 2020, 10-3 in 2021 and 8-5 in 2022. But the group regressed in 2023, resulting in the firing of three-year OL coach Darrell Funk and longtime tight ends coach Steve Clark.

The aforementioned Pay said the hiring of TJ Woods is already paying dividends, but in his estimation the offensive line depth as now constituted is “thinner than it has been in years past, especially in terms of game experience.”

Pay said Woods brings “intensity and consistency of coaching” that seemed to be missing last year.

Big 12 cellar dweller? Some BYU coaches, players seething over low expectations; others are not

“That has made it easier for guys to pick things up faster,” he said. “And so I feel pretty good about where we are at. We need to have a really good July, and then we need to have a really good training camp.

“But I am pretty excited about what this group is going to be able to do,” Pay continued. “I want to run the football, a lot, this year. We have yards to make up from last year. So that’s the goal, the motivation.”

Starting quarterback competition still close

Roderick said not much has changed in the starting quarterback competition since spring camp ended and he declared it to be a two-man battle between Retzlaff and sixth-year transfer Gerry Bohanon. He did say that Bohanon’s arm has shown “some really good improvement” and is “getting healthier” with each passing week.

“He is throwing the ball better than he did in the spring,” Roderick said.

Then he mentioned how well Retzlaff played in the spring, committing no turnovers and not backing off his trademark aggressiveness.

“Both have made a lot of progress since spring ball ended, both physically and mentally,” Roderick said. “So I am interested to see how that plays out in fall camp. We are going to go equal reps for an indeterminate amount of time. We will see how it goes.”

Retzlaff said he is getting “super stronger and faster every day” this summer, thanks to the strength staff “taking it to a new level.” He called last year’s finish and failure to make a bowl game unacceptable.

“There has been a fire under our butt since that last game,” Retzlaff said. “Not being able to go to a bowl game was obviously super disappointing. Spring ball had a different level of urgency, and I think that urgency has been carried over into the summer, and it will be into the fall camp. There is no doubt.”

Receivers look ready for a big year


Having worked out with the receivers and tight ends four or five days a week the past few weeks, Retzlaff said this group of pass-catchers is deep and talented. Epps, Darius Lassiter, Chase Roberts, Keelan Marion, JoJo Phillips and Parker Kingston are all in the mix to get reps, while Keanu Hill and incoming freshman Ryner Swanson are emerging as top tight ends.

“There are a lot of veteran guys who are ready to put up some crazy numbers and who are ready to just blast everybody out of the water,” Retzlaff said. “I am super excited for them. I think it is a super deep room.”

BYU coach Kalani Sitake, center, is flanked by offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, left, and defensive coordinator Jay Hill. | Brigham Young University

Roderick said BYU’s receiver play “has been pretty darn good” since receivers coach and passing game coordinator Fesi Sitake has been in Provo.

“Last year, kinda like the O line, I thought the receivers were good players — it just took us a while to truly execute the offense because we had a lot of new faces that were new not only to our offense, but were all new to the conference,” Roderick said. “But I think every single one of those guys is improved, and I think they are all going to play even better this year. I am excited about that group.”

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.