Although BYU football could still make a bowl game this year, would it be better for the Cougars to accept this season as a building year and give younger players more playing time?
In the NBA, often times a star player will sit out the final few games of the season if their team is really struggling. There are two main reasons for this: To prevent any major injuries and to give younger less experienced players playing time to be more prepared for the next season.
Currently, the Cougars are 1-4 and may very likely be 1-6 in two weeks. Could BYU football win out from there? Absolutely. But to what avail? A bowl game that doesn’t matter much?
BYU football is not going to save this season. So why not prepare for the future?
Look ahead to 2019
2018 should be a better season for the Cougars, however it probably will not be a year that the Cougars will find themselves finishing in the Top 25. With Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona, Boise State and Washington all on the road, BYU probably will not win more than two or three of those games regardless of improving in the offseason.
In 2019, the Cougars will have a chance to redeem themselves. BYU’s opponents include USC, Washington, Utah Boise State at home and Tennessee and a good San Diego State team on the road. BYU Football will once again face a season with as much hype if not more than this year.
By 2019, Kalani Sitake will be in his fourth season as BYU’s head coach. He will have his first real season with his recruits being the starters.
Now, I am not saying to completely throw in the towel until 2019. Obviously BYU football should do the best that they can between now and then to win games and be bowl eligible. What I am saying however, is that if the Cougars take things one game at a time and play only the best players until then, 2019 will likely be a difficult and long season as well.
Quarterbacks: Tanner Mangum is a junior. Next year will be his senior year. Beau Hoge is a sophomore, Kody Wilstead is a redshirt freshman as well as Joe Critchlow. I believe that the Cougars should play one of these three from here on out. Kody Wilstead appears to be the future quarterback for the Cougars. Beau Hoge still has two years, however, I am not too confident in him being able to lead the Cougars to a great season, even two years from now. Hoge just kind of has a Christian Stewart feel to him. Very hard working and pretty good, but not elite.
Running backs: Squally Canada also is a junior. Although he is already getting less carries than before, the handoffs should go primarily to Ula Tolutau and Austin Kafentzis.
Receivers: The receiving core is fine how they currently are. Beau Tanner and Jonah Trinnaman are the only juniors or seniors currently getting a lot of game time.
Offensive Line: Overall, the offensive line is fine. Maybe substituting players like Austin Chambers and Kieffer Longson and other freshmen who are not redshirting would be good for the future.
Defensive Line: The defensive line is being dominated by juniors and seniors, outside of Khyiris Tonga, who is still trying to get in shape. Rotating younger guys into the game can be huge in helping the Cougars in the future.
Linebackers: This is difficult. Up to this point, the linebackers have been the highlight of the Cougars. I believe that some of these players have real NFL potential so they should continue to play. Fred Warner, Adam Pulsipher and Butch Pau’u have played extremely well. For this group, I would wait until next year when Warner is gone. After that, rotating a younger linebacker to go with Pulsipher and Pau’u will give some experience for the 2019 season.
Secondary: Michah Hannemann, Tanner Jacobson, Marvin Hifo and Zayne Anderson are the only juniors or seniors to get a lot of game time this season. Rotating Chaz Ah You and Austin Lee more could be beneficial.
Again, don’t give up, just prepare
I want to reiterate, BYU football shouldn’t just punt on the next 24 months. However, the reality is, the Cougars are not going to turn any heads nationally this season, and probably not next season.
The best opportunity is in 2019.
If the Cougars have a quarterback who has a year and half of starting (whether it is Critchlow, Wilstead or Hoge), two running backs with lots of experience (Toloutau and Kafenzis), an experienced receiving core (Pau’u, Shumway and Simon) and offensive line (Shoaf, Chambers and Bushman) imagine how explosive the Cougars could be when they open up the 2019 season.
Just the thought of that gives me great flashbacks to 2009.