Experience at several key positions will help BYU’s transition to new offensive and defensive schemes under first-year coach Kalani Sitake. The Cougars return a total of 12 starters on both sides of the ball. Joining these familiar faces are a smattering of talented newcomers who promise to make an instant impact in 2016.
Many incoming freshmen and JUCO transfers stand to benefit from Kalani Sitake’s philosophy of finding the best 11 players to put on the field. Sitake has experimented moving multiple players from one position to another to uncover the best fits for each position group.
“When you have that ability to be flexible with some of the guys on your eleven, you can get the best eleven all around,” Sitake said. “You don’t want to get in trouble though with a guy who is a jack-of-all trades and master of none. We want to make sure that our guys are comfortable in each position and that they can thrive in it.”
Sitake’s search to play the best 11 players has opened the door for a few BYU newcomers to make an instant impact. Here are some who are expected to make a name for themselves in 2016:
If Warner, a true freshman, can mirror the disruptive energy his older brother Fred brings to the defense, he could become a force to be reckoned with at left cornerback. Warner has already impressed BYU coaches in fall camp with his relentless motor and his knack for reading the ball and making the right plays.
He came to Provo as a four-star prospect out of Mission Hills High in San Marcos, California. Warner earned heavy recruiting attention, drawing offers from USC, Notre Dame, Utah, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, California, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Washington State before choosing BYU.
Warner’s goal is to live up to the recruiting hype and make an immediate splash like his older brother, Fred Warner, has done in Provo. He sees his brother as an ideal role model for him on and off the football field.
“He’s made plays,” Warner said. “He’s lived in the moment. Right now I’m just trying to focus on being me and doing my thing just like he did.”
Canada begins his first full season in the BYU backfield this fall. Technically, the Washington State transfer made his debut in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl. It’s a moment Canada would love to forget. His only carry resulted in a fumble that set up Utah’s final touchdown in a first-quarter barrage that sealed a 35–28 victory for the Utes.
In Canada’s first full season, the sophomore back is expected to be the primary backup behind senior Jamaal Williams. During his high school career, Canada showcased an explosive side. He totaled 3,367 yards and 37 touchdowns during that time — averaging 8.8 yards per carry as a senior.
His teammates are confident his running abilities will translate well to BYU’s offense this season.
“Squally is feisty,” Williams said. “When he gets on the field, you can see it. He might even be feistier than me.”
“Squally is feisty. When he gets on the field, you can see it. He might even be feistier than me.” —Jamaal Williams, BYU running back
Tanielu will definitely factor into BYU’s plans as Sitake works establish a deeper defensive line with the switch to a 4–3 alignment. The junior was a four-star prospect coming out of Snow College and was recruited by Oklahoma State, Texas, Penn State, Utah, Boise State, Oregon State, Kansas, Louisville, Missouri and Houston before joining the Cougars.
Tanielu was a disruptive force up front with the Badgers. During his sophomore season, he totaled 36 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery in 11 games. He has been limited on reps in fall camp while dealing with an elbow injury, but has made a good impression when he’s been out on the field.
BYU graduated two of its top three receivers from last season. It opens the door for Trinnaman, a Snow College transfer, to step in and claim a big role in the offense. The four star recruit showed off some impressive playmaking abilities for the Badgers last season, totaling 803 yards and eight touchdowns on 47 receptions. Trinnaman averaged 17.1 yards per reception as a sophomore.
The former American Fork standout has enough speed to give BYU some advantages in the open field. He should compliment senior Nick Kurtz nicely as a downfield threat. Trinnaman’s contributions could be even more critical if Kurtz still isn’t ready to go by the season opener after suffering a foot fracture for the second time in three years in June.
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer wants tight ends to play a central role in the BYU again and Marshall is already making a serious push to be one of the top two players in the tight end rotation. Marshall came to the Cougars after redshirting a year at Georgia Tech and then spending a year at Snow College following his LDS mission.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound tight end committed to BYU over the summer. Marshall impressed coaches with his production and work ethic in fall camp. Detmer said Marshall and junior Tanner Balderree are the top two tight ends coming out of camp and both will be used in the offense, depending on the situation.
“They both bring different things to the table.,” Detmer said. “Tanner is obviously experienced and played some at that position last year. You’ll see both of them though at different times in the game.”