Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 130 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 129 BY RYAN TICE Injuries derailed a promising start for BYU last fall and a four-game losing streak sent the Cougars to their third-straight 8-5 campaign. The squad was 4-0 and ranked 18th nation- ally when starting quarterback Taysom Hill broke his leg in the second quarter against Utah State. BYU dropped that contest and lost its next three games before righting the ship with four consecutive victories. The season ended with a 55-48 overtime loss to Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl that will be remembered for a postgame brawl. However, injuries weren't limited to Hill, who showed major improvements in his junior campaign. Hill increased his completion percent- age from 53.9 to 66.7 while continuing to be an effective runner — he rushed for at least 72 yards and a touchdown in every full game he played. Hill finished with 975 yards passing and seven touchdowns with three interceptions, while he rushed for 542 yards and eight scores. In 2013, he threw for 2,938 yards and 19 touchdowns, while he compiled 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Senior running back Jamaal Williams, who is just 929 yards shy of becoming the school's all-time leading rusher, also had his season come to an early close with a knee injury. He paced the Cougars with 518 rushing yards despite being limited to seven games. He has rushed for 2,526 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career, while also hauling in 53 passes for 487 yards and a score. Redshirt junior Algernon Brown also re- turns after he totaled 463 yards from scrim- mage with a receiving touchdown. The Cougars don't lack for options out wide, either. Fifth-year senior Mitch Mathews (6-6, 215 pounds) led the team with 922 yards and nine touchdowns on 73 catches last fall. Redshirt junior Mitchell Juergens returns after he logged 424 yards and four touchdowns, while fifth-year senior Terenn Houk provides another towering tar- get at 6-5 and 223 pounds. He hauled in 21 passes for 241 yards and two scores last fall. The receiving corps will also have 6-6 redshirt junior Nick Kurtz, a highly touted junior college transfer who earned a start- ing nod before a foot injury ended his 2014 campaign. Freshman All-American center Tejan Ko- roma should anchor the front line, which returns four starters from last year. Fifth-year senior Ryker Mathews, who has started at left tackle since his freshman year and owns 22 career starts, also returns but has been plagued by injuries. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall is re- taking control of the defense after one year away, and the unit will be led by its front seven. Five of BYU's six returning starters are among that group, led by senior Bronson Kaufusi, who has successfully played out- side linebacker and defensive end. Finding the right spot for last year's top pass rusher (seven sacks among 11.5 tackles for loss) will be key. Redshirt junior nose tackle Travis Tuiloma will anchor the front; the two-gap plugger tallied six tackles for loss last year. Senior defensive ends Remington Peck and Graham Rowley combine for 32 career starts. A few linebackers missed spring practice, but should be good to go in the fall. Top returning tackler Manoa Pikula started eight times last year and notched 49 stops with an interception. Cornerbacks Michael Davis, a junior, and Jordan Preator, a sophomore, combined for 15 passes broken up and 13 starts last year, and they are the most experienced returners in the secondary. Junior Kai Nacua was the third safety and tied for the team lead with two interceptions last season, but is now the top player on the back line. A new punter must emerge, but the Cou- gars are well stocked on special teams. Se- nior kicker Trevor Samson was 12 of 14 last year, including a season-long 45-yarder in overtime of the bowl game. If Mendenhall's renewed focus on defense can help a unit short on returning starters and in much need of improvement — it ranked 112th nationally in pass defense (269.7 yards per game) — BYU has a shot to improve from eight wins. Notes BYU will be tested early in the season; the Cougars open at Nebraska, host Boise State and then go on the road in con- secutive weeks to UCLA and Michigan; those first three op- ponents went 31-9 last year … Senior Taysom Hill is one of 14 FBS quarterbacks to reach 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in or before his junior season; others include Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Johnny Manziel (TexasA&M), Tim Tebow (Florida) and Robert GriffinIII (Baylor). ❑ Health, Powerful Offense Could Lead To Breakthrough For Cougars BYU • SEPT. 26 • GAME 4 2015 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2014 Result Sept. 5 at Nebraska — Sept. 12 Boise State L, 55-30 Sept. 19 at UCLA — Sept. 26 at Michigan — Oct. 2 Connecticut W, 35-10 Oct. 10 East Carolina — Oct. 16 Cincinnati — Oct. 24 Wagner — Nov. 6 at San Jose State — Nov. 14 vs. Missouri* — Nov. 21 Fresno State — Nov. 28 at Utah State L, 35-20 * at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: BYU leads 1-0 First Meeting: BYU 24, U-M 17 (Dec. 21, 1984, at Holiday Bowl in San Diego) Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall, 90-39 at BYU and overall (11th year) Off./Def. Systems: Multiple/3-4 2014 In Review: 8-5 overall Final 2014 Ranking: Unranked Returning Starters: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense) Last Bowl Appearance: 2014 (Miami Beach, vs. Memphis, L 55-48 2OT) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Taysom Hill (975 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT) Rushing: Jamaal Williams (518 yards, 4 TD) Receiving: Mitch Mathews (922 yards, 9 TD) Tackles: Manoa Pikula (49) Sacks: Bronson Kaufusi (7) Interceptions: Kai Nacua (2) PLAYERS TO WATCH O f f e n s e : M i t c h M a t h e w s , 5th-Sr., WR — Has posted the ma- jority of his 98 career receptions, which have gained 1,346 yards and 13 touchdowns, over the past two seasons … Averaged 12.6 yards on his 73 receptions and scored nine touchdowns in 2014. Defense: Bronson Kaufusi, Sr., LB/DE — The 6-7, 265-pounder has also played basketball at BYU … Played outside linebacker and led the team with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss despite missing two games last year … Expected to return to defensive end. Quarterback Taysom Hill threw for 2,938 yards and rushed for 1,344 yards in 2013, but he suffered a broken leg last year. PHOTO BY MARK PHILBRICK/BYU PHOTO

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