Provo • To the chagrin of some of their fans, BYU football coaches didn’t turn to the junior college ranks for offensive help in the offseason.
The Cougars didn’t land an accomplished quarterback or receiver, despite lacking offensive firepower and legitimate game-breakers in 2017.
They did get fifth-year graduate transfer Dylan Collie, a former Cougar who played receiver at Hawaii the past few years and is the brother of one of the most prolific receivers in BYU history, Austin Collie.
The younger Collie caught 56 passes for 636 yards for the Warriors last year, numbers that would have made him BYU’s top pass-catcher.
Coach Kalani Sitake and his staff pursued Cal running back Tre Watson, but the Bears’ graduate transfer picked Texas.
“We are going to get some guys back from injuries, and we are confident in the abilities of a lot of the guys we have coming back,” Sitake said, alluding to the return of tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau, who suffered a Lisfranc injury a few days before the 2017 opener and missed the entire season.
That’s roughly what Ty Detmer said before the 2017 season as the offense looked to replace a pair of once-in-a-generation players, Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, promising that no-name players would turn into household names.
That didn’t happen, for a variety of reasons, including the absence of Laulu-Pututau.
“I am 100 percent ready to go,” the redshirt junior said at BYU Football Media Day on June 22. “Fully cleared, ready to make up for lost time.”
Laulu-Pututau caught 27 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in 2016 as a receiver, then put on some extra weight in the summer of 2017 in hopes of switching to tight end. Some believe the added weight contributed to the foot injury.
“I am just focused on what’s ahead,” he said, declining to speculate.
The Cougars will also count on senior running back Squally Canada, redshirt freshman running back Zach “Lopini” Katoa, sophomore tight end Matt Bushman and incoming freshman receiver Gunner Romney for big plays. Canada was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list and said he has been training hard to make his final year in Provo a memorable one.
“I love the scheme that coach Grimes has put in, and how much emphasis he’s going to put on the run game, and how much free rein we’re going to have in the offense as running backs,” Canada said.
The offense will be without two expected contributors, running back Ula Tolutau and tight end Joe Tukuafu. Neither is on the 2018 roster and coaches declined to say why at media day.
“You saw who was out there this spring,” Grimes said. “I am excited about who is on the roster right now.”
The former LSU offensive line coach is surely excited about Romney, the fleet-footed receiver from Arizona who picked BYU over offers from several Pac-12 schools.
“Obviously, it is hard for anyone to watch his tape and say, ‘this guy won’t get the ball,’” Grimes said. “One thing I really like about him is his ability to run after the catch. There are a lot of receivers who do 90 percent of their work before the ball ever touches their hands. And then there are other guys who do 50 percent of their work beyond the time they catch the ball.”
Grimes said Romney is a guy who can take a 5-yard reception and turn it into a 50-yard gain. In other words, they type of playmaker that BYU didn’t have last year.
“What I like about him the most is his mindset,” Grimes said. “He has a real competitive spirit and I will be shocked if he doesn’t come in here and play a significant role this year, just because of what I see from him in terms of his confidence and his desire to compete.”
BYU’s potential offensive stars in 2018
• Running back Squally Canada — Averaged 7.09 yards per carry his final four games in 2017
• Tight end Matt Bushman — Led all freshmen tight ends in the country with 49 catches for 520 yards
• Receiver Dylan Collie — Fifth-year graduate transfer caught 56 passes for 636 yards last year at Hawaii
• Tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau — Completely healthy after missing 2017 with Lisfranc injury