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PROVO -- The BYU Cougars are only days away from the season kick-off against Ole Miss. The Cougars ended last season on a high note and appeared to be confident and competent during fall camp and game day preparations.

KSL takes a look back and a look ahead as we prep for game day.

What did we learn from camp?

Jake Heaps has left no question that he is in control of the team. He spent the offseason working with his receivers and they have looked sharp in through camp. The offense has weapons.

Cody Hoffman started to come on late last season and has become a crowd favorite, and more importantly has become a favorite of Heaps. Ross Apo fought injuries through camp, but is healthy for the season opener. Apo was recruited by Heaps last season. Both are over 6'3" and have speed. McKay Jacobsen and JD Falslev will round out the starting receiver corps.

The running backs may end up as a better unit than the receivers.

J.J. Di Luigi will make plays. He lead the team in receptions last season and with the coaching staff using him in a variety of positions look for him to be close to the team leaders in total yardage. He may only get 10-15 touches a game but he can make them worth it. Bryan Kariya will be his steady self getting the tough short yards and will be used at spots at fullback.

Both players could be outshined by Josh "Juice" Quezada. He might be the best runner of the group, with a good burst, speed and decent power he has the tools to be the feature back. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and was limited most of the season. Quezada's health may be a question as an early camp concussion has kept him out of most live drills.

If Jordan Pendleton comes back healthy they will have experience two-deep at every linebacker position. Kyle Van Noy, Brandon Ogletree, Jameson Frazier and Austen Jorgensen all have starts and considerable playing time last season.

A player to watch out for is converted track star from Ghana, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah. KSL's Greg Wrubell wrote in Cougar Tracks "Ansah… had a whistle sack recorded. Ansah seems to make at least one such play every day." He is raw, but took first team reps through camp.

What questions are still lingering?

The secondary could have depth or may end up just not being very good. Every position was contested through camp. Last season's leaders are all gone. Andrew Rich led the team with tackles, called most of the defensive assignments and was the emotional leader of the defense. Little big man Brian Logan is gone as is Brandon Bradley, the starting corners for the past two years.

Travis Uale is the lone returning full-time starter. Preston Hadley is a transfer from Snow who will start at the boundary corner, while Corby Eason held on to the job at field corner. Joe Sampson and Jordan Johnson are both newcomers that pushed for the starting role. Daniel Sorensen is expected to be the Kat safety.

The same could all be said for the tight ends. Austin Holt has secured his position, but it wasn't an easy fight. Richard Wilson and Devin Mahina, who now is out with a broken neck, pushed Holt through camp.

The question is whether Holt was better, or just not as bad. With weapons at receiver and running back there might not be enough balls to turn any tight end into a Pitta or Harline type weapon. This group will be successful, however, if they can become a security blanket for Heaps converting on short yardage situations with sure hands and blocking that is good enough.

The last question is what exactly will happen with the fullback situation. Iona Pritchard was the favorite to start and make plays. He is now out with a broken leg and that hurts the Cougars more than most will think. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he was expecting Pritchard to be a "Manase Tonga type player."

Zed Mendenhall will be the main back used. He played in 12 games last. The other option will be Austin Heder. He is a redshirt nominee, but if he plays the coaching staff is looking at him playing both ways and on special teams.

What can BYU expect from Ole Miss?

The Ole Miss Rebels are expected to finish last in the SEC West. However, when the other five teams are all ranked in the top-25 of both preseason polls it's hard to predict them higher. This team isn't a low-end team in the Mountain West. They are going to be a good team and Cougar fans should expect a battle.

Last year in the season opener the Rebels lost to FCS Jacksonville State in double overtime. With a loss like that so recent head coach Houston Nutt will make sure this team is focused to start the season.

The Rebels are a young team. They have five starting seniors and nine total returning starters. Last season they used Jeremiah Masoli as a one year starter. Barry Brunetti will get the start in the season opener, which is in part thanks to an arrest of junior quarterback Randall Mackey. Neither player was running away with the job, but Brunetti has shown some spark since getting the starting nod.

The offensive line is a big group. They average around 310 lbs and both tackles and the center are returning starters. Expect them to throw their weight around and run the ball. Last year, despite going 4-8, ran the ball nearly 170 times more than they passed. BYU was up for a majority of their games and only ran the ball 90 more times. Expect the line to press the Cougars and the Rebels to run a lot.

In the Rebels four wins last season they averaged 311 yards per game on the ground. When they lost they averaged 173. Brandon Bolden is their senior returning running back. He had 14 touchdowns running and had a 6 yard average. He ended last season with 976 yards, but only averaged 13 carries a game. With a new quarterback both of those numbers should go up dramatically.

Bolden also led the team in receptions with 32. The receivers are both first-year starters and won't be relied on too much.

Their defense will move from a 4-2-5 to a traditional 4-3. They only have 3 returning starters on defense and will start multiple freshmen and sophomores.

Their front four is the strength of their defense. They will get back defensive end Kentrell Lockett, a sixth-year senior, who got a medical redshirt last season due to a torn ACL.

What can we expect from BYU against Ole Miss?

BYU will need to attack this young team. If the Rebels gain confidence early at home they could surprise the Cougars. The Rebels play into the Cougars strengths by wanting to run the ball.

On offense All-American candidate Matt Reynolds and the rest of the BYU line should be able to control the line of scrimmage to open running lanes and allow Heaps to find the more experience BYU receivers.

Look for the Cougars to attack quickly to get the Rebels on their heels. Using misdirection like screens and draws will slow down the aggressive front for the Rebels. If the Rebels are slowed down at all the receivers should be able to beat the young secondary of the Rebels.

On defense the Cougars will be able to hide their new secondary thanks to the lack of the Rebels game. The Cougars can stay very basic and let the Rebels run right into their front seven. If Kaveinga is as strong as he has seemed in camp he could disrupt the running game.

If the Rebels get down early coach Mendenhall can open up his blitzes and try to confuse Brunetti. This will be the quickest way to victory.

Notes and stats:

  • This will be BYU's first game as an independent school.
  • This will be the first time that BYU and Ole Miss play. Oxford, Miss. is 1,315 miles away from Provo; this will be the farthest the Cougars have travelled in their road opener since 2000 when they went to Tallahassee to play Florida St. which is 1,679 miles.
  • Mississippi's stadium, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, holds 60,850 seats, which is 2,875 smaller than LaVell Edwards Stadium.
  • Jake Heaps ended camps with 63 completion percent for 656 yards on 68 passes, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
  • Heaps will be the fourth sophomore quarterback to start for BYU since 2000; the others were Brett Engemann in 2000, John Beck in ‘04 and Max Hall in '07.
  • BYU is favored by 2.5 on the road.
  • New receivers coach Ben Cahoon holds the CFL record for receptions in a career with 1,107.


BYU should be able to move the ball against this young Ole Miss defense. The question will be whether the defense can get them the ball back. If the Rebels can establish the running game the game will be low scoring.

The Cougars will get on the board early and force the Rebels to throw more than they are expecting. The experienced receivers will be able to get deep and expect Di Luigi to have a few big gains. The offensive line will keep the pressure away from Heaps and he will have an efficient game.

They will keep the Rebels under 200 yards rushing and force some turnovers. Expect BYU's defense to play behind their line of scrimmage and make Brunetti uncomfortable.

Prediction: BYU 31 Ole Miss 20

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Jarom Moore


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