College Football: BYU Cougars Select Team Captains

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College Football: BYU Cougars Select Team Captains
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The BYU football team has named its captains, a decision made by team voting rather than by head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Two offensive and two defensive players were chosen (via Salt Lake Tribune).

The captains for this season are senior receivers Skyler Ridley and J.D. Falslev, senior safety Daniel Sorensen and senior linebacker Uani Unga.

The absence of big names like linebacker Kyle Van Noy and receiver Cody Hoffman may be surprising, but the team vote seems to reflect the value the program places on unheralded recruits who work their way into major roles for the team.

Three of the four captains elected were former walk-ons to the program, with only Sorensen having arrived on scholarship.

Ridley was one of the big surprises of the offseason, beating out Ross Apo for the No. 2 two wide receiver spot. His road to that accomplishment has been anything but easy. He first arrived at BYU as a walk-on in 2007. Despite continually working for a spot on the team, he saw little success and nearly quit in 2012.

Praise from defensive coaches Kelly Poppinga and Nick Howell at practice made him change his mind, and last season Ridley saw a bit of playing time for the Cougars. After seizing a starting spot this offseason, Ridley was put on scholarship by Mendenhall. His perseverance was further rewarded by his teammates with his selection as captain.

Falslev's selection doesn't really come as much of a surprise. While he was a former walk-on, he has been a major part of BYU's gameplan for a few seasons now.

In addition to being the main slot receiver, Falslev is also the team's longtime punt and kick returner. Although diminutive in stature, the 5'7", 175-pound receiver is one of the toughest players on the team, and he regularly goes across the middle to make a reception before hanging on in the face of violent hits from opposing linebackers.

His willingness to sacrifice for the team is exactly the characteristic a captain should have.

Sorensen has been the latest flag-bearer in a long line of hard-nosed, aggressive BYU safeties that includes Andrew Rich and Scott Johnson.

From his KAT-back position (a hybrid safety position initially created by Mendenhall when he was New Mexico's defensive coordinator in order to fully utilize Brian Urlacher's talents and called the LOBO-back at the time), Sorensen has finished in the top-three in tackles on the team each of the past two seasons.

Opposing offenses who try to avoid Van Noy by going over the top quickly feel the full wrath of Sorensen, and that strategy has been used less and less.

Unga is perhaps the greatest example of a player whose sacrifices have paid off. He was enjoying a career as a scholarship player at Oregon State and fit nicely into their plans. However, his wife needed to move back to Utah due to family circumstances, and he sacrificed his perfect situation for the good of his family, walking on to BYU's team after the move.

In limited action last season, Unga was impressive. That has carried over to this season, where he will be filling the inside linebacker spot left by former captain Brandon Ogletree.

Hopefully the leadership of Ridley, Flaslev, Sorensen and Unga will be able to lead the Cougars to great heights this season.

 

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