Last season, the starters for BYU Football were really good, but when they went down there was a noticeable talent gap with the replacements.
The starters for every team are going to naturally be better than the backups. That is how sports work. In an ideal world though, if a starter goes down the talent gap between the first string and second string players would be almost unnoticeable.
In 2018 BYU Football was not in that ideal world.
When Matt Hadley went down against Utah, the Cougar’s running game became non existent. What Corbin Kaufusi did against the Utes was incredible, but the reality is, it is pretty sad when the talent gap is so large that a Kaufusi needing three surgeries is more effective than a healthy back up player.
This showed to be true though because in the fourth quarter, during Utah’s comeback, there were at times up to three players who ended the season with less than three tackles on the field. They were there because the starters were either injured or too fatigued to keep playing.
That is what needs to change. Backups should be in the game more than a few plays so that the top players can actually finish out the game. Watch any NBA game and you will see that there are backups in so that the starters can be ready to finish out the game. But they can only be in the game if they are good enough to play, and evidently that was not the case with BYU last season.
Last season, BYU ranked 63rd in the nation in defensive scoring in the second half but 20th in the first half. Offensively, the Cougars were 90th in the nation in scoring in the fourth quarter compared to 8th in the third quarter. The reason? Nobody knows for sure, but not having depth probably had a big part of that.
Teams that don’t have the ability to substitute on a regular basis are left with three tough situations:
- They have to play more early in the game wearing them out during the 4th quarter.
- Tendencies are picked up by the defense/offense when they are covering the same player the entire game.
- Injuries are more likely to occur due to fatigue, constant contact, and the amount of time on the field.
Last season, only eight true receivers caught a pass all year. Of those, only three had more than 20 receptions and three out the top six overall receivers were RB’s or TE’s. Compare that to 2015 when the Cougars had 13 true receivers catch a pass with six catching more than 20 balls. The top six receivers were actually receivers.
Granted some of that can be blamed on the game plan and scheme of Jeff Grimes which is fine, however, there should be no offense that is so bad on depth that three out the top six receivers on the team aren’t even WR’s.
On the defensive side of the ball, Zayne Anderson, yes the one who was injured for nine out of thirteen games, was seventh overall on the team in tackles (37). Why is the seventh leading tackler a player who didn’t even play 65% of the season? Again, to give perspective, in 2015, 37 tackles would have finished tenth on the team.
This pattern can be followed across the team in just about every position outside of quarterback, the RG/LG’s and the kicking game.
Again, having a good set of starters is key to winning, but there will be injuries and fatigue is a real thing. And when that happens, there needs to be depth so that there aren’t players with less than three tackles on the entire season playing on defense during the regualar season finale despite them being the second or third string players.
With so many key players out like Zach Wilson, Matt Bushman and MLP, Spring Football should be a great opportunity to help these other players develop and make it so they can be put in during the game and not be a burden.