Top 20 players for the 2007 season to be a success
By Mitch Section: Football
Posted on Sat Jul 14, 2007 at 02:25:46 PM EDT

Hey we are alive here at Provo Pride.  With fall camp quickly approaching we are gonna get things back to daily posting for the upcoming season.  So keep on reading the site for updates as the season comes closer.

Today I'm taking a look at the Top 20 players/positions who are most crucial for BYU to "Raise The Bar" in the 2007 campaign.  The list goes in reverse order from #20 to #1 who is our vote for the most important Cougar this season.

#20 J.J. DiLuigi, Running Back

DiLuigi is a wildcard on this list because of his versatility and his big play capabilities.  DiLuigi as all die-hard Cougar fans know led Canyon High School to a CIF state championship last season over #1 ranked De La Salle.  DiLuigi did break his foot back in May due to a freak accident involving a newspaper, he should be ready to go for Fall Camp though.  He is a true freshman but for the past few years BYU has always had one or two newcomers make a big splash in the season.  DiLuigi is definitely going to be that man this season.

#19 Ian Dulan, Defensive Line

Ended last season early due to a knee injury.  Dulan is a very talented D-lineman.  He started in his first ever collegiate game last season against Arizona at the age of 17.  Expected to be the starter at Left End this season.  This will be the last chance Cougar fans see this talented player for awhile after 2007 he is going on a mission.

#18 Matt Allen, Wide Receiver

Allen has quitely evolved over his Cougar career into a solid receiver.  This season Allen will need to improve upon his 2006 numbers (27 rec., 420 yards) with him being one of Max Hall's top targets.  Allen has great hands and catches everything in sight.

#17 Quinn Gooch, Safety

One of the hardest hitters on the team this season.  Gooch is nothing flashy but simply gets the job done and he will knock a few heads while he is doing it.  Gooch has been getting some attention from pre-season magazines as a All-MWC performer.  Gooch is the headliner of a Senior laiden Safety group (Gooch, Dustin Gabriel, David Tafuna, Corby Hodgkiss).

#16 Ray Feinga, Offensive Guard

Voted by Lindy's magazine as the best NFL prospect in the Mountain West Conference.  Feinga is one of the premier Offensive Lineman in the conference and is still only a Junior.  Feinga and Travis Bright are one of the best Guard combos in the nation.

#15 Tight End

As of now it looks to be Return Missionary Dennis Pitta who looks to have the edge to get the nod at TE over Vic So'oto who had an off-the-field issue involving the ever popular topic with Ute fans, waterbaloons.  This group is inexperienced but still very talented.  BYU has always produced great TE's.  Andrew George is another player to watch who is very similar to the recently departed legend Jonny Harline in his style of play.  A tall, thin, player who catches everything.  Pitta, So'oto, and George by season's end don't be surprised if one of these players is a All-MWC player.

#14 Jan Jorgensen, Defensive End

Jorgensen was a Freshman All-American last season.  Started in all 13 games last season.  Jorgensen is only a Sophomore and is already one of the best players on BYU's defense.

#13 Michael Reed, Wide Receiver

It's time for Reed to finally break out and become the big play receiver he was touted as coming out of Baytown, TX as the Texas 5A Receiver of the Year.  Reed had some outstanding catches last season against TCU, and Wyoming.  Reed has a great size and good speed.  750+ yards isn't too far of a reach for Reed this season.

#12 Russell Tialavea, Defensive Tackle

Tialavea is a great player at DT.  There isn't much proven depth behind him so its important that he stays healthy the entire season.  He will have to carry the load in the interior of that line this season, and he has all the talent to do so.

#11 David Nixon, Outside Linebacker

Rumors have been floating around as of late if Nixon might have to redshirt due to a hernia injury.  I personally feel he is gonna be ready to go come September 1st against Arizona.  If the coaches need to sit him out during most of fall camp then that will be the case.  We already know what Nixon is capable of.  Nixon and Kehl are highly underrated as a OLB tandem, people are underestimating BYU's LB core as a whole as well.

#10 Sete Aulai, Center

The consensus player on this year's squad to be a Pre-Season 1st Team All-MWC player this season.  Aulai in the course of one year went from battling it out with Tom Sorenson in fall camp for the starting job, to struggling mightily in the first three games of the season with Shotgun snaps, being suspended against Utah State, then after the USU game having little problems at all, and now a player on the Rimington Trophy watch list.  Pretty impressive to say the least.  Aulai is a great Center, has the perfect build.

#9 Manase Tonga, Running Back

Cougar fans are still concerned if Tonga might be suspended for the Arizona game due to the recent arrest back on July 3rd going through a stop light.  Tonga is the projected starter at Running Back right now he is very talented and has a nice mix of strength along with speed through the middle.  If Tonga isn't going to be able to play against Arizona it will shake up the RB unit quite a bit.  Time will tell.

#8 Field Cornerback

The cornerback positon on the opposite side of Ben Criddle is still a question mark.  Currently Kayle Buchannon is the starter but with his track record how long will that last until he is injured?  If healthy, Buchannon is very talented with great speed.  Brandon Howard made great strides during spring practices could make a push for the starting job.  Then there is Brandon Bradley who Cougar fans are just begging to see play, heck we are begging to see him practice.  Bradley is a big, quick corner in the build of a Brian Gray.  Also Andre Saulsberry, and incoming Freshman G Pittman and Brannon Brooks should battle for the spot.

#7 Austin Collie, Wide Reciever

One of the more anticipated RMs in memory.  Collie was simply amazing in 2004 earning Freshman All-American honors for his spectactular play.  Collie is a big 6'4 WR who has deep-threat type of speed.  Expect Max Hall to be airing it out deep to Collie on occasion.  When Collie arrived to Provo it looked as though it was going to take awhile for him to recover, he looked overweight and out of shape.  But now all indications point to him being 100% for Fall Camp and the season opener.  He is going to be one of the best WRs in the conference this season.

#6 Bryan Kehl, Outside Linebacker

The outspoken Linebacker, isn't shy about saying this team is determined to "Raise The Bar."  Made an emotional speech during one of the team meetings a few months back saying he felt like the Arizona loss was on his shoulders and he was determined to help lead this team to a great and successful 2007 season, powerful stuff to say the least.  Kehl has a great NFL build and should be a NFL prospect after this season gets through.  People are over-looking him now but everyone will be very familiar with Kehl once the season gets done.

#5 Deep Snapper

Like Bronco does, I'm putting a strong emphasis on this position.  Last season the fiasco in fall camp with Matt Johnson not getting eligible forced BYU to find a walk-on in Jayson Clark who turned out to be very good.  This season the starter right now is walk-on John Pace out of Yorba Linda, CA.  Behind him is Brett Denney who has the genes on his side, his brother John Denney (current Miami Dolphin) was a deep snapper at BYU as well.  This position is still a major question mark though, fall camp will be a good indicator of how much progress has been made.

#4 Ben Criddle, Cornerback

Expected to be 100% healthy after recovering from a foot injury that was suffered at the always pleasant field turf up on the hill, Ben Criddle is BYU's top cornerback this season without a question.  Last season, was only a walk-on but made big plays and had many hard hits (video below).  Criddle is now on scholarship and is gonna have to elevate his game as well.  His determination and overall work ethic is outstanding he is the definition of a Bronco Mendehall player.

#3 Mitch Payne, Kicker/Punter

We all know who he is brother is, now it's time for the younger bro to have his time in the spotlight.  There are some serious question marks with Mitch though.  He showed a lack of accuracy in the Blue/White Spring game back in April, he has exceptional strength kicking the ball but needs to improve on the accuracy.  Special Teams can cost ball games so this definitely needs to be improved.  Bronco and staff went out on the recruiting trail and picked up C.J. Santiago out of Orange Coast JC.  Santiago is going to be a walk-on this season then in the Winter receive a scholarship.  He will be a nice reserve if Payne is struggling.

#2 Max Hall, Quarterback

It has been quite a long time since Max Hall was behind Center in an actual football game, all the way back in 2003 to be exact, at Mountain View High in Mesa, Arizona.  Hall hasn't played a down of D-1 football but that doesn't matter at the school that is known for its legendary "Quarterback Factory."  Alot of this season's success lies on his shoulders.  He has the talented Offensive Line in front of him and the receivers he just has to display that accuracy that is so well known in this offense and he should shine.  Now don't get me wrong I'm sure there will be struggles along the way, we just need to be patient but I think success will happen very quickly for Hall.

#1 Fui Vakapuna, Running Back

Here is our #1 player for BYU to "Raise the Bar" in 2007.  Fui has all the talent in the world to be a great Running Back at BYU there is question marks though around him.  Can he stay healthy?  Can he be the every-down back?  It's important for Fui to elevate his game this season with the RB unit being very unproven, Fui needs to stay healthy and become a more polished running back.  From seeing a video on YouTube he looked has really hit the weight room hard.  If I was an opposing Linebacker I sure wouldn't want to mess with Fui.  If he stays Fui is going to have an outstanding season.

So what do you guys think of the list?  Is there someone you think should have been on there that I missed or a player that was rated too low.  Tell me what you think in the comments section.



Top 20 list

Excellent review, both in the ordering and the player comments.

I might quibble about DiLuigi because his playing time at RB may be decided largely by who is healthy ahead of him on the depth chart, but he can also make an immediate impact as a returner.

Kelly Poppinga has to step up to fill some of the gap that Cameron Jensen is leaving

Some other darkhorse candidates for players who could step up:

Harvey Unga, RB
Bryce Mahuika, HR
Matt Bauman/Chris Bolden/Shawn Doman, LB
Mosese Foketi, DT
RJ Willing, OL
Any walkon or scout team member from last year(besides Max Hall) who fills a spot in the rotation.

by cougarbandit on Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 03:03:53 PM EDT