BYU transfer portal analysis: Addressing quarterback needs, concern at receiver and does the program need higher-level transfers in the future?

Plus: Offensive line is getting a facelift and the defense is a work in progress

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Dean Jones (21) runs for the end zone for. Touchdown, after intercepting a Aggie pass, in Football action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah State Aggies, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

The first college football transfer window closed on Wednesday. And regardless of the timing of it — and how much it cluttered the college football calendar for the last two months — its closure gives everyone a collective chance to exhale and take stock of where the roster sits ahead of 2023.

Players cannot enter the portal again until after spring practice. Of course, uncommitted players who are currently in the portal can commit at any time.

But, for the most part, the roster as it stands now will be the roster BYU takes into spring camp. From there, the coaching staff can truly evaluate team needs and position battles before the final transfer cycle runs from May 1 to May 15.

Here are five thoughts on how BYU handled this 45-day window:

Addressing its biggest need

It is no secret BYU’s biggest priority this cycle was to get a transfer quarterback who could come in and start immediately. Preferably, it would have signed two quarterbacks just to be safe.

BYU accomplished both of those goals early by reeling in former USC and Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis and junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff.

Truthfully, the combination of Slovis and Retzlaff is about as good of a fit as BYU could have hoped for as it prepares for the Big 12 — filling needs on multiple levels.

Slovis, the presumed starter, gives BYU the Power Five experience it was looking for in 2023. He is a one-year rental with some risks, sure, but it plugs the hole with a competent starter who can navigate a Power Five schedule.

Retzlaff, the presumed backup, then adds the insurance policy for Slovis in case of an injury or if Slovis struggles. In the meantime, BYU can mold Retzlaff to be the heir apparent for 2024 and give the quarterback room some stability from year-to-year it lacked. Not to mention, with Retzlaff’s multiple years of eligibility, it gives BYU the chance not rush Ryder Burton along — who is viewed more as a project.

Long story short, BYU accomplished two main goals this cycle at quarterback. It got the guy it can feel comfortable starting this year and stabilized the room for years to come.

A problem at receiver

It is probably overstated to say BYU has a problem at receiver. But certainty it would be fair to question whether the position is of some concern after the Cougars didn’t bring in a transfer receiver this cycle.

With Puka Nacua, Gunner Romney and Brayden Cosper all leaving, BYU is without a true No. 1 wide receiver.

There is experience returning. Kody Epps was Jaren Hall’s most-targeted receiver before he got hurt in week eight and never returned. Chase Roberts also had his moments while being in and out of the lineup. Keanu Hill was a steady presence all year.

But all of those players don’t really have the experience of being the top option against Power Five teams. Against Oregon last year — when Nacua and Romney were both out — we saw a glimpse into what it would look like. The receiving numbers were quite pedestrian that afternoon.

Common logic would assume Epps, Roberts and Hill make a leap from last year to 2023. Still, it wouldn’t be out of the question for BYU to pick up an experienced veteran who could at least bridge the gap so BYU isn’t as reliant on them to do so.

So far, BYU hasn’t done that. It will be something to look for in May.

Does the level of transfer need to be picked up?

BYU had some wins in the transfer portal. Slovis is a big name with Power Five experience. Offensive lineman Paul Maile also comes from a Power Five program. Running back Aiden Robbins does too.

But I had this thought as BYU continued to pick up guys this cycle: Does BYU need to pick up the caliber of transfer it is getting? The majority of the players in this cycle come from Group of Five schools.

A number came from Boise State. BYU also pulled from Missouri State, Southern Utah and Utah State. Those players may end up being very good. But heading into the Big 12, does BYU need more Power Five transfers?

Looking around the Big 12, pretty much every school takes some Group of Five transfers. But they also take Power Five guys too. Look at TCU, it got three former Alabama players, an LSU player and an Oklahoma State transfer.

Baylor follows that trend. It picked up players from Mississippi State, Miami, Michigan State and Oklahoma State. That is the norm in the Power Five.

BYU might end up hitting on many of these transfers. But the caliber of transfer coming in is something to monitor going forward, just like it is for high school recruits.

Offensive line needs a facelift

Last year, everyone was talking about how deep the offensive line was — with eight players with Power Five experience and only five starting positions.

Well, now BYU is seeing what the other side of that coin looks like. It has a core of Kingsley Suamataia, Brayden Keim and Connor Pay. After that, there was too much attrition.

Blake Freeland left for the NFL Draft along with Harris LaChance. Joe Tukuafu graduated. Unexpectedly, Clark Barrington and Campbell Barrington ventured off to Baylor. All of a sudden, BYU is looking for two starters and a couple of backups to rotate in.

While there were some internal candidates, the transfer portal was probably going to be the surest way to get some Big 12-ready lineman.

BYU ended up bringing Utah transfer Paul Maile as the headliner to help fill the void. Maile started 12 games at center last year for the Pac-12 champions, but it is unclear where he will play at BYU. Pay started at center last year and comes back.

The Cougars also brought in Ian Fitzgerald from Missouri State and Weylin Lapuaho from Utah State. They have size but we will see if they have the skill.

For now, heading into spring, there is still a question of whether BYU has done enough this cycle to replenish the offensive line. It is a position that many thought would be a surefire strength instead of an unknown heading into the Big 12.

Defensive focused

We knew coming into this cycle that BYU needed to pick up defensive players. For one, the defense was awful last year. But on top of that, that side of the ball had some significant losses.

The secondary lost three significant contributors. The linebacker room lost two NFL guys in Keenan Pili and Payton Wilgar. The defensive line lost several experienced players.

BYU went heavily into the transfer portal to try to pick up slack. It got three defensive lineman, a defensive back but is yet to pick up a linebacker.

This was expected, but it is still hard to make out where exactly this defense stands overall. We know the defense wants to be more aggressive next year, and players like Isaiah Bagnah from Boise State will help that.

But with a new coordinator, staff and scheme, it will probably take a spring camp to really get a firmer answer on where the defense is heading into the May cycle.