The first depth chart of the 2022 season is officially out.
Yes, it’s only June, but the summer depth chart gives an early window into the coaching staff’s thinking going into fall camp, where August practices will be more a crash course in getting prepared for Week 1 and less about players asserting themselves for individual spots.
So, while it may be early, it is a telling indicator.
Here are five observations from the first data point of the year.
1. Primary questions in the secondary
At one point this spring, BYU had several experienced players along with two committed transfers in Vanderbilt’s Gabe Juedy-Lally and junior college product Roman Rashada.
BYU has known since March that Rashada had backed out of coming to Provo. But on the most recent depth chart, there was another hit. Defensive back Isaiah Herron is no longer with the team. Head coach Kalani Sitake indicated Herron medically retired, meaning 34 games of experience are leaving with him.
Not ideal for a group that is already being questioned for giving up too many big plays in 2021.
So far, BYU will rely heavily on cornerbacks Kaleb Hayes and D’Angelo Mandell. At safety, Malik Moore is the Cougars’ best option by a wide margin.
Juedy-Lally is listed as the second string behind Hayes, and will likely see a lot of time. Recent junior college transfer Mory Bamba will also be an early favorite to spell Hayes and Mandell. But after that, there are guys like Caleb Christensen, Evan Johnson and Zion Allen, who combined have less experience than Herron. As of right now, BYU lists Korbyn Green in the mix. He is a true freshman who just committed in February.
This secondary has a lot of questions to answer, and this first depth chart didn’t exactly answer many.
2. Tyler Allgeier’s replacement
All spring, we heard the same thing coming out of camp. Cal transfer Chris Brooks came in and immediately made an impression.
And now, BYU is giving him the reigns to the running back room in his last college season. Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Brooks earned the right to open the year as the clear-cut starter. This is even earlier than Tyler Allgeier earned the starting spot last season.
Brooks edged out Lopini Katoa and Jackson McChesney for the starting spot. Notably, McChesney is currently sharing third-string duties with Miles Davis and Hinckley Ropati. But that will likely get ironed out in summer camp.
Brooks is a similar back to Allgeier, a downhill runner who makes one cut and goes. Allgeier set BYU’s single-season rushing touchdown record last year with 23 touchdowns and 1,602 yards.
3. Embracing positionless linemen
Offensive line coach Darrell Funk has talked about his guys playing multiple spots on the offensive line — something that might be easier to say in the spring than do in the fall.
Yet, the first depth chart looks like Funk is doubling down on that commitment.
Three linemen are on the depth chart at multiple spots. Campbell Barrington is listed as an option at left tackle and right guard. Kingsley Suamataia is on the depth chart of left and right tackle. And Joe Tukuafu is a potential starter at center and right guard.
Perhaps the only embellishment in spring ball was that Suamataia could potentially play every position on the line except center. For now, he will focus on two spots.
But other than that, Funk is sticking with the idea he will rotate guys at multiple spots to optimize the amount of experience and talent on the line this year. Eight guys have started games in the past, with only five starting positions.
The most surprising part of the depth chart may be how the center position is still up for grabs. BYU lost four-year starter James Empey, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys after the draft.
Most expect Connor Pay to earn the spot in his absence. But, for now, Pay is listed as a potential starter along with Tukuafu, with no separation between them. Funk and Tukuafu have both said it would be ideal if they could settle on starters before the summer. However, that apparently isn’t going to happen for this group.
4. Tyler Batty, it’s up to you
Tyler Batty has heard it before. The defense needs more sacks. There was a lack of pressure on the quarterback last year as BYU finished with the 74th-ranked defense in the country in 2021.
Early returns on the depth chart look like it will be Batty’s job to change that. He is the clear-cut starter on the outside edge and defensive end.
Gabe Summers, Caden Haws and Earl Tuioti-Mariner will also help out on the inside.
Defensive line coach Preston Hadley says he is comfortable playing six guys on the line this year. Fisher Jackson is a potential sleeper to be a contributor.
But don’t be fooled, this is Batty’s job to get it done.
5. Finally, we have an answer
The third wide receiver position was Keanu Hill’s to lose. It just took a while for him to actually lock it up.
Either way, Hill is now the third starter in the position group after Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua. Hill edged out Kody Epps and Chase Roberts for the third spot.
Hill has taken more of a leadership role within the program this spring, but Roderick indicated it was his work last season that earned him the job.
Hill took over several times after the injuries to Romney and Nacua. He also went through spells last season of barely stepping onto the field. This will be his first shot at real playing time as he heads into his third year in the program.