BYU lost some big pieces of their team last year after Preston Hadley, Ezekiel Ansah and Brandon Ogletree, among others, played their final year of eligibility away. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff have the task of replacing those players, and the result will be new faces in starting roles.
After taking a look at the post-spring depth chart, and considering fall performances and injuries, there will likely be plenty of first-time starters when August 31st rolls around. Here's a rundown of who they are, and what role they will play, along with other information.
Here's an introduction to six of the new Cougar starters.
Weigth: 308 lbs
Position: Defensive tackle
Player replacing: Russel Tialavea/Eathyn Manumaleuna
Since Eathyn Manumaleuna moved to defensive end to fill the gap left there, Marques Johnson stepped into the void at tackle. A 6'2", 308-pound transfer from El Camino College, Johnson will work to strengthen a line that lost Ezekiel Ansah, Russel Tialavea and Romney Fuga. Despite that all three of those players are no longer here, Johnson is this year's only starter on the line that wasn't in the program last year.
Despite receiving little college interest out of high school, the two-star lineman chose El Camino. After receiving offers from BYU, Washington State and Indiana, he finally settled on becoming a Cougar. We will see him spend most of his time at defensive tackle, and Johnson will play a huge role as a run-stopper.
Weight: 198 lbs
Player Replacing: Jordan Johson
Another transfer that will work on the defensive side of the ball, Robertson Daniel came from De Anza Junior College in Cupertino, California. A speedy defensive back, the 6'1" player will try to step up after Jordan Johnson tore his ACL. If Daniel can succeed at adding the quickness and agility needed at field corner, it could take away lots of worry from Cougar fans.
Texas Tech, San Jose State and Arizona all had offers available for Daniel, but after failing to complete a mid-year transfer, only Idaho and UNLV kept their scholarships intact. BYU came around later and stole the JUCO prospect, and we should see a lot at field corner from him.
Weight: 198 lbs
Position: Defensive back
Player replacing: Preston Hadley/Mike Hague
Another cornerback, Dallin Leavitt, will be Daniel's partner in the secondary. Starting at boundary corner, a position expected to be filled by Mike Hague, took a huge shot after Hague's knee injury. Leavitt should be a solid piece if he can learn the system and become comfortable in a college setting. The true freshman has not played a down outside of high school football, and it will be a big transition for him.
Leavitt's recruitment boiled down to a battle between Oregon and BYU, with the Cougars finally luring him to Provo.
Weight: 190 lbs
Player replacing: Riley Stephenson
After outstanding punter Riley Stephenson stepped off the field for the final time last December, his replacement became one of the biggest needs for BYU. Scott Arellano may or may not match Stephenson's prowess, but only time will tell. If the offense sputters as much as it did last year, he could play a huge role on this team.
Player replacing: Brandon Ogletree
Uani 'Unga saw limited playing time last season at both inside linebacker spots, behind Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga. The 6'1" linebacker has not yet played a huge role at BYU, but will surely see the field a lot during 2013. At "Mike" linebacker, he will play a big role in stopping the running game, but will also provide leadership to the defense.
With an older brother at Oregon State, 'Unga played two seasons in Corvallis, before transferring to BYU. He sat out the 2011 season, and is entering his final year.
Weight: 220 lbs
Player replacing: Uona Kaveinga
Despite entering his fifth year as a Cougar, Tyler Beck has seen the field less than any other starter in BYU's 10th-ranked linebacker corps. He will finally get his chance to shine in a starting role this year, and with Spencer Hadley and Kyle Van Noy flanking him, Beck has quite the setup.
He was recruited by Arizona, Nebraska, Oregon, Portland State, UCLA and Utah, but chose BYU after an LDS mission. Beck will likely be "the other guy" for much of the year when it comes to the linebackers, but that could quickly change.