2010: 7-6 SU/ 8-5 ATS
Returning Starters: 10 off/5 def
Much has been made about BYU leaving the Mountain West Conference to become an Independent and I believe this inaugural season of flying solo has a chance to be special. The Cougars finished 7-6 in 2010 with a New Mexico Bowl victory over UTEP after opening the season with just one win in its first five games. The young Cougars struggled early with freshman quarterback Jake Heaps getting his feet under him against some tough competition. They however finished strong with five wins in six games, and the only loss coming in a fourth quarter collapse against rival Utah, 17-16.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the defense last year which yielded immediate improvements. Thirteen of the Cougs’ 16 interceptions came in their last five games and they finished ranked 32nd nationally in pass efficiency defense. They will add Daniel Sorensen to the secondary this year after missing the past two seasons on a church mission and Romney Fuga will be back from a knee injury to plug the middle of the defensive line.
On offense, Heaps settled in the second half of the season and wound up with a solid 15-9 TD-INT ratio and 2,316 yards. BYU also returns running back JJ Luigi who rushed for 917 yards and eight touchdowns and was also the leading receiver with 45 catches. The offensive line returns four starters, including All-America left tackle Matt Reynolds.
Overall, the Cougars lost only 13 lettermen and return 60. This is an experienced bunch with a coach who has a history of success. Mendenhall is now 56-21 in his career at BYU and with lots of challenges as an independent, I expect this team to be focused. The Cougars start the season as a potential "earner" with two winnable road games at Ole Miss and Texas.