BYU football has visions of a big future on their 2018 holiday wishlist
Children of all ages spend the days leading up to Christmas anxiously waiting to see what might be hidden by the shiny paper and brightly-colored ribbons.
While the BYU football team might not get to rip the wrapping off of its potential on Dec. 25, it very much understands that feeling of anticipation.
The Cougars have seen a glimpse of what might be in the future during the 2018 season as they have relied heavily on talented, but inexperienced, underclassmen.
At times they have been good, other times they have struggled.
But this holiday season is a time for hope — a time to imagine.
Here is a look at the few of the things the BYU football team would definitely have on its wishlist this year:
Another big step forward for quarterback Zach Wilson
The Cougar freshman looked brilliant in the big win over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and had impressive moments against solid competition like Boise State and Utah.
The ceiling for this talented gunslinger appears to be pretty high, but he needs to turn that potential into reality. He needs to be consistent and reliable, which will come as he continues to learn how to read defenses and make the right decisions.
If this wish is granted, Wilson could earn a spot in the pantheon of great BYU QBs before his career in Provo is done.
Continued growth from the offensive coaching staff
While the BYU offensive coaching staff that was assembled at the end of the 2017 season was experienced, there were still going to be some growing pains as they gelled together and got acclimated to their new roles.
There were times when the Cougar game plan came together well (Wisconsin, Western Michigan, the first half against Utah) and others where things fell apart.
If this group of coaches makes a big freshman year-to-sophomore year jump, the BYU offense should be that much better in 2019.
The envisioned tight end group at full strength
Once again, BYU had its tight end unit decimated by injuries. Early on in the year, the Cougars saw the potential of having Moroni Laulu-Pututau, Matt Bushman and Dallin Holker together on the field plus a solid supporting cast behind them.
If BYU can get Hank Tuipolutu and maybe even Joe Tukuafu to be in the mix, as well as growth from some of those other guys, then the Cougar coaches will have a lot of exciting options with what could be done by that group.
Consistent, high-level performances at home
What happened to BYU’s dominance in Provo? One of the team goals was to play well at LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2018, but the three most disappointing losses of the year (Cal, Utah State and Northern Illinois) all came at the home of the Cougars.
That needs to change and change quickly.
BYU generally gets good-to-great support from fans in the area, putting more than 50,000 people in the stadium for all but the worst games. They could be in for a treat in 2019 if the Cougars can protect their house against opponents like Utah, Washington, USC and Boise State.
The BYU offensive line reaching its full potential
Of the 12 players listed on the Cougar depth chart as part of the Cougar O-line group, only two (Austin Hoyt and Ului Lapuaho) were seniors.
With all of the other players being underclassmen (two juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen), the optimism for the future of the BYU front line has to be pretty high.
To be really good, those guys need to improve in all areas, including technique, strength, cohesion and consistency — but this could be a special group for the Cougars.
An extra dose of enthusiasm to do things the BYU way
Look, it’s not easy for athletes to do everything BYU asks them to do. Some struggle to the point of either deciding to move on or facing consequences for not following the rules.
Some stumble and return strong, like Sione Takitaki, while others have to find their own path.
Since it requires discipline, fortitude and determination to be a Cougar at all, let alone a football player, a little extra boost would always be welcome.
An increase in defensive swagger The best Cougar defenses know they are good and go out determined to prove it. BYU had guys like Sione Takitaki, Corbin Kaufusi and Michael Shelton who brought that mentality to the team this year.
But there are a lot of young Cougar players who spent quite a bit of time on the field. That means if they can play with that confidence, BYU could be that much better.
Some stocking stuffers: A long and healthy NFL career for Corbin Kaufusi
A robust pass rush that gives opposing QBs nightmares
A consistent, healthy running back
A sense of accomplishment of problems fixed for head coach Kalani Sitake
A solid situation for guys who haven’t found the right spot yet
Merry Christmas, everyone!