The BYU Cougars are on the verge of one of the toughest schedules in school history. They will need to have players step up every week if they hope to compete with the likes of Nebraska, Michigan, UCLA, Missouri, Boise State and some of the other tough opponents to face the Cougars.
While the schedule is daunting, the Cougars have enough talent on the roster to have a very successful season.
The is my list of the most important players for BYU to have a big year.
Note: These rankings were adjusted based on the uncertainty of the suspensions that will be handed down from the bowl game.
11. Tanner Mangum, quarterback
Cougar fans hope that the long and impressive BYU career of Mangum doesn’t start in 2015. With the injury history of Tayson Hill, Mangum could be called into action at any moment and there is no time for a learning curve with such big-time opponents. He needs to be ready to go if his number gets called or there could be a lot more disappointment in Cougar country.
10. Trevor Samson, kicker
The kicking game is key to any good season. It could be the difference between a handful of close wins or some heartbreaking losses. Last year, he was solid, but wasn’t asking to make many deep kicks. He made 12 of 14 field goal attempts and missed just one of 63 extra points. For the Cougars to have a big year, he will need to be trusted with making deep kicks and coming through.
9. Michael Davis, corner back
Davis had some great moments during his sophomore campaign after the making the switch from wide receiver and also had plenty of moments where he struggled. He finished the year with 43 tackles and six pass break-ups. With the departure of most of the secondary to graduation, he will need to continue making big plays while limiting the amount of mistakes for the Cougars to show progress.
8. Harvey Langi, linebacker
Langi made a solid transition to the defensive side of the ball in limited action during 2014 and finished with 14 tackles. Much more will be expected of him in 2015 and he needs to produce. He will need to control the defense and be a very sure tackler if the Cougars are going to better.
7. Algernon Brown, running back
The sudden departure of Jamaal Williams was a significant blow to the Cougars hopes, but thanks to Brown, all is not lost. After a season that saw him finish fourth on the team with 324 yards rushing, that number will need to at least triple for opposing defenses not to key on Taysom Hill and for the Cougars to have any success in the ground game.
6. Travis Tuiloma, defensive line
The Cougar defense struggled to get any kind of pressure up front in 2014 and it led to some embarrassing defensive performances. Tuiloma showed flashes of brilliance in the losses to Central Florida and Memphis with five tackles for loss and nine total tackles. He will need to be consistently good if the BYU defensive line is going to be able to hang with some talented offenses on the schedule.
5. Fred Warner, linebacker
Warner showed signs of his enormous talent as a freshman in 2014. He totaled 24 tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception return for touchdown that reminded some of former Cougar legend Kyle Van Noy. 2015 will give him much more opportunities to show his skills and he needs to produce in a big way if the Cougars are to have success against some very tough offenses.
4. Mitch Mathews, wide receiver
Mathews stepped up in 2014 and became the No. 1 wide receiving weapon while catching passes from Christian Stewart and Taysom Hill. He finished with 73 receptions for 922 yards and nine touchdowns. Now that Jordan Leslie is gone, Mathews will need to have an even better senior season for the Cougars aerial attack to make an impact.
3. Tejan Koroma, offensive line
Koroma made a huge impact on the offensive line for the Cougars as a freshman in 2014. He started all 13 games and was a freshman All-American by numerous publications as the anchor on the line. He needs to be as good as a blocker in the run and pass game while cleaning up the penalties that came from being too aggressive for the BYU offense to shine.
2. Bronson Kaufusi, defensive end
The experiment of moving Kaufusi to linebacker in 2014 wasn’t as successful as BYU fans had hoped. Without him up front, the Cougars struggled to get any kind of consistent pressure and they were shredded by opposing quarterbacks Thankfully, he is back where he belongs on the defensive line. He will need to life in the opponents back field if the Cougars expect to have any success on defense.
1. Taysom Hill, quarterback
The season will rest on the repaired legs of Taysom Hill. If he is right and can stay healthy he has the talent to be one of the best dual threat signal callers in the country. His presence on the field makes the BYU offense nearly impossible to stop. If he has another setback or doesn’t regain his form then a winning season will be very difficult to come by.