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Opponent Preview: BYU

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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Kalani Sitake era has officially begun, after BYU beat Arizona last weekend 18-16 in a surprising defensive struggle. The former Utah and Oregon State defensive coordinator  took over the head coaching job in the off season when Bronco Mendenhall headed east for Virginia. The new era brings hope to fans of "the Y" might break a five game losing streak against the Utes.

BYU legend Ty Detmer is the new offensive coordinator under Sitake and he has some weapons to use at his disposal. Taysom Hill has returned for his fifth year and was named the starter on Aug. 23rd, winning the quarterback competition over Tanner Mangum.  Hill provides experience and leadership as a fifth year senior and is more athletic than Mangum. He has great arm strength and runs really well.  Hill's weakness is touch and accuracy which Mangum has. Mangum is not redshirt and could see playing time if the situation calls for it. Last weekend, Hill threw for 202 yards on 21-of-29 passing and 1 touchdown pass. He also only ran 11 times for 37 yards.

The Cougars have arguably the best backfield in the state with the return of Jamaal Williams this season. Williams sat out last season for personal reasons and his absence was noticed. Now back with the team, Williams has an opportunity to break Harvey Unga's career rushing record of 3,455 yards this season with a 1,000 yard season. Williams picked up 162 yards on 27 carries, but didn't get in the end zone against Arizona last week.

Algernon Brown handled the running duties last season to the tune of 709 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. With Williams back, brown is slated to handle fullback duties this season, but is versatile enough to slide back to the tailback position if needed.

At the receiver positon, senior Nick Kurtz is the leading returner having 39 receptions for  578 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. At 6-6 208 lbs. he fits the mold of the typical big bodied BYU receivers.  Mitchell Jeurgens is also back for his senior season after catching 37 passes for 471 yards and two touchdowns a season ago. Joining them is veteran Colby Pearson and a bunch of young talent such as sophomore Moroni Laulu-Pututau, and redshirt freshman Rickey Shumway and Talon Shumway.  Jonah Trinnaman, a junior college transfer from Snow College who was recruited heavily by Utah, has impressed during the fall and should make an impact.

Moving to the defense, former Utah defensive line and Oregon State linebackers coach Ilaisa Tuiaki is the new defensive coordinator and has installed a 4-3 scheme for this year, different from the 3-4 scheme Mendenhall ran. There is a lot of talent returning on the defensive side of the ball and also some position changes as Sitake and Tuiaki try to get the best eleven players on the field.

On the defensive line, Harvey Langi is a new face after playing linebacker last season for the Cougars. The addition of another down lineman on the defense prompted the staff to place Langi at the "stud end" which will take advantage of Langi's pass rushing skills off the edge. Joining Langi as a new defensive end is Sae Tautu, who also played linebacker last season.

Junior Fred Warner will highlight the BYU linebacker group after a productive 2015 season.  Warner does a little bit of everything with the ability to rush the passer, stop the run and drop into coverage. He is a top playmaker on the defense and definitely one to watch. Sophomore Butch Pau'u emerged during the fall at the middle linebacker position. At 6-0 223 lbs., Pau'u is a little undersized, but has inspired confidence from the coaching staff. Francis Bernard, a running back last season has also transitioned to linebacker and brings the same toughness and physicality he brought to the running back position.

In the secondary, senior Michael Davis is the veteran of the group at right corner. At 6-2 190lbs. he has good size for the position and should fit in well with Sitake's aggressive defensive philosophy. The younger Warner brother, Troy, is just a freshman but will see time opposite Davis. Warner also possesses a long frame for a corner at 6-2 196 lbs. The safeties are Micha Hannemann  at strong safety and Kai Nacua at free safety. Nacua is the leader of the defense and led the Cougars with six interceptions last season, including two pick-six's. BYU was able to contain Arizona's offense to just 328 yards, but Nick Wilson got loose a little bit for 138 yards on just 17 carries.

BYU is a talented group and definitely has motivation heading into this game. Not only will they be looking to avenge last season's Las Vegas bowl loss (or win depending on which BYU fan you ask), they also have a five game losing streak against the Utes and have lost seven of the last ten meetings.  They undoubtedly would like to begin a winning streak against Utah and show well for the Big XII, which will surely will be paying close attention to the Cougars opening three games against Pac-12 foes.

Sitake runs a style of defense that is aggressive and relies on turnovers and big plays to turn the momentum. If BYU is able to rattle Williams into missing some of his reads and making poor decisions, they definitely have an opportunity to win. This game should be a dog fight and like last year's game could come down to a final possession. The Cougars have the edge in experience, but at home in Rice-€”Eccles I like Utah's to pull it out.