BYU football: Cougars break camp, set lineup for Portland State opener

In this Sept. 5, 2015 photo, BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum (12) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Taysom Hill's third season-ending injury in four years leaves freshman Tanner Mangum to lead BYU through an ambitious schedule that won't ease up any time soon. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Provo • For BYU football fans, a much-anticipated occurrence will happen shortly after 11 a.m. on Monday.

The great Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 should also be memorable.

Just before people all across the country look to the skies in wonderment, coach Kalani Sitake is expected to release a depth chart for the first time since shortly after last March’s spring game. The two-deep release will be done in conjunction with Sitake’s 11:45 a.m. weekly news briefing, the traditional kickoff to game week.

Actually, nothing should be read into the depth chart on offense at all, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer cautioned on Thursday.

Aside from starting quarterback Tanner Mangum, it is still a mystery which skill position players will take the field when the Cougars host Portland State on Saturday (1 p.m., ESPN) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“I don’t know if we have a real depth chart, per se,” Detmer said. “We have some packages that guys will be used in. So if we start with that particular package, they might be the starter. But on a depth chart, if you really pull one together, they might be third or fourth. So, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what those packages need to look like, and what our guys are doing best.”

Still, the depth chart will give Cougar fans a fairly good idea of which players will be used the most often, Detmer allowed.

At tailback, junior Squally Canada and redshirt sophomore Riley Burt should get the most carries, although no single running back is going to come close to getting the number of carries, 234, that Jamaal Williams did in 2016, despite missing three games. Juniors Trey Dye and Kavika Fonua and sophomore KJ Hall will also be utilized, along with freshman Ula Tolutau, when he’s healthy.

“We could start the game with two guys who aren’t even on the two-deep chart at running back,” Detmer said. “We don’t really have a No. 1 [tailback] who we are saying, ‘you are our guy.’ They are all going to play for us.”

Same goes for tight end, a position in which the Cougars are suddenly deep and talented.

“Moroni [Laulu-Pututau] and Matt Bushman have really done a great job,” Detmer said. “Tanner Balderree is experienced, understands it. You will see him in there quite a bit, and then [offensive lineman] JJ Nwigwe, we will mix in to give us some different options there as well.”

It wouldn’t be a surprise if one of the tight ends leads the Cougars in receptions, or emerges as the top playmaker.

That’s because the receivers will also rotate a lot — especially senior Jonah Trinnaman, junior Beau Tanner, sophomores Talon Shumway, Aleva Hifo, Akile Davis and Micah Simon and freshman Neil Pau’u, one of the biggest surprises of training camp.

“With the help of the other receivers, I really improved in the offseason,” said Pau’u, a quarterback in high school until his senior season. “I also got a lot of help from my brother [linebacker Butch Pau’u] and put in the work. It is paying off.”

Detmer said Trinnaman and Tanner are the deep threats and two of the fastest players on the team.

“Both those guys can really go,” Detmer said.

Tanner signed with Kentucky out of high school, but was not an NCAA qualifier and played for Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College in 2013 before a church mission to El Salvador. Some pulled muscles and hamstring issues slowed him last year, but he played in 10 games, making one catch.

“I am really excited to be healthy and have a bigger role this year,” Tanner said. “Myself and a lot of other guys on the team are going to make this offense really exciting. We are going to take the top off a lot of defenses.”

Defensively, the two-deep won’t change much from the spring, with the exception of outside linebacker, where the redshirting (and possibly transferring) Francis Bernard will be replaced in the starting lineup by junior Adam Pulsipher. Sophomore Johnny Tapusoa, junior Morgan Unga and freshman Isaiah Kaufusi could join the two-deep there, or behind the other star outside linebacker, Fred Warner.


Twitter: @drewjay