Brigham Young University finished 10-3 in its first season as an Independent in 2011. That pushed Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s record to 66-24 through seven seasons at the helm. This season, the Cougars help kickoff the college football season tonight with a late game against Washington State and their new Head Coach Mike Leach. Here’s a look at BYU’s top draft eligible players. Underclassmen are designated with an asterisk…
Cody Hoffman* WR 6’4 215 – Hoffman wasn’t highly regarded out of high school and he wound up redshirting in his first year at BYU. As a freshman, Hoffman started 10 games and finished the season with 42 catches for 527 yards and seven touchdowns. Hoffman’s coming out party was in the New Mexico Bowl that season when he caught eight passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, after a slow start, Hoffman surpassed 100 yards in a game five times. He finished the year with 61 grabs for 943 yards and 10 TDs. Once again Hoffman came up huge in the team’s bowl game win. This time, Hoffman hauled in eight passes for 122 yards and three more touchdowns. Hoffman has excellent size and uses his body to get between the ball and the defender. He has terrific hands and gets them out in front of his body when he’s making the catch. Hoffman isn’t known for his speed but he has shown ability to get open down the field. There will be questions about the level of competition he faces, but he looks very polished running routes and he demonstrates good body control while the ball is in the air. Hoffman runs well after the catch and his size makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. His solid blocking and kick return ability adds even more to his value. Hoffman has two years of eligibility remaining so he may opt to return to BYU in 2013. But given his size and impressive skill set, he may decide to leave school early if he can determine that he’ll be chosen within the first two days of the draft.
Kyle Van Noy* OLB 6’3 235 – A four star recruit who played receiver and linebacker in high school, Van Noy redshirted in his first year in Provo. As a freshman he played in every game and started two, collecting 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and scoring a touchdown on a fumble return. As a sophomore, Van Noy started eight of 13 games and racked up 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three interceptions and a blocked punt. Van Noy is a terrific athlete who has added significant bulk since arriving at BYU. He has the size and strength to shed blockers, the speed to rush the passer, and the agility and awareness to be used effectively in pass coverage. Van Noy has intriguing ability and has been a fast riser to this point; but he has two years of eligibility remaining, so this will probably not be his last season for the Cougars.
Riley Nelson QB 6’0 199 – Nelson played quarterback and defensive back in high school, and originally committed to Utah State way back in 2006. He actually even saw some game action as a true freshman. But while on a subsequent Mormon mission, Nelson’s family learned that a scholarship had opened up at BYU. Amid some controversy, Nelson decided to leave Utah State and transfer to Brigham Young. The circumstances surrounding this move prompted the NCAA to institute the “Riley Nelson Rule” – a piece of legislation that basically tells schools to refrain from contacting any student athletes while they are on religious missions. In the end, Nelson arrived at BYU in 2009 and saw limited action as a backup. In 2010 he started the first three games before a shoulder injury wrecked his season. He was granted a medical redshirt and regained his starting job five games into the 2011 season. The Cougars went 6-1 in Nelson’s seven starts, as he threw three touchdown passes five separate times during that stretch. He will enter his senior season as the unquestioned, full time starter. As interesting as Nelson’s story is however, he lacks the size or requisite arm strength necessary to succeed as a pro quarterback. He shows good leadership skills and determination, but he doesn’t have the skill set to get much attention from the scouting community. Nelson is a tough player, who should lead BYU to a respectable season; but his pro potential appears to exist only at the tryout level.
Also keep an eye on: Ross Apo, WR, 6’3″, 206 Braden Hansen G 6’6 307, Uona Kavelinga ILB 5’11 233, Brandon Ogletree ILB 5’11 228, Braden Brown OT 6’6 300