While all eyes of the college football world are monitoring the current round of conference realignment, the 2022 season is quietly inching closer. Today, we talk about 10 BYU football players that are primed for a breakout season in 2022.
First, let's talk about the definition of a breakout season. It's subjective. A breakout season could be defined as a player that goes from a former backup to a starter. It could also be a returning starter that starts garnering national attention. There’s varying degrees of breakout seasons.
Injuries have plagued George Udo during his first few years at BYU. Udo is one of the best athletes on the roster, and he was listed as the starting “Cinco” linebacker coming out of spring. In this author’s opinion, a hybrid linebacker/safety role will allow Udo to use his athleticism and become a consistent contributor on BYU’s defense.
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Injuries have kept Kody Epps off the field during his first two years at BYU. Epps signed with BYU in the class of 2020 as an All-American out of Mater Dei High School in California. Epps was listed as a backup on the post-Spring depth chart, but expect him to be in the rotation this season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Caden Haws was the second-highest graded defensive lineman last season behind Uriah Leiataua. Haws is expected to take a step forward in 2022 at nose tackle where he is listed as the outright starter.
After returning home from his mission last year, Holker appeared in all 13 games for BYU. In those 13 games, he caught 14 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown.
Holker was listed as a co-starter at tight end coming out of Spring camp. He was listed alongside Isaac Rex who has been recovering from an ankle injury this offseason.
If Rex isn't fully cleared by the opener, Holker will take on a much larger role in BYU's offense. That, combined with a full offseason training to shake off the mission rust, makes him a prime candidate to have a breakout 2022 season.
As a true freshman in 2020, Micah Harper played 377 snaps in BYU's secondary. Harper was going to take on a bigger role in 2021 before he tore his ACL during 2021 Spring camp.
With over a year to get fully healthy and participate in the strength and conditioning program, expect Micah Harper to make a name for himself this season. Before Spring ball, Harper was moved from cornerback to strong safety. Whether he stays at safety or not, Harper's tackling ability combined with his coverage skills will get him on the field.
Over the last few seasons, Tyler Batty has shown flashes of his potential as a pass-rushing defensive end, but injuries and inexperience have caused some inconsistent production. Last season, for example, Batty recorded a sack in the opener against Arizona. He didn't record another sack until the bowl game against UAB where he recorded three sacks.
If BYU's defense is going to improve in 2022, it needs experienced guys like Tyler Batty to more consistently cause disruption. Like the bowl game against UAB, Batty has shown that he can rack up sacks in a hurry when he's at his best. Batty, who has only appeared in 16 games during his BYU career, has already recorded two three-sack games. In the other 14 games, Batty has recorded two total sacks. Batty will have a breakout year in 2022 if he can stay consistent and healthy.
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Christopher Brooks is already a proven college football talent. He ran for over 1,700 yards during his career at Cal. As a senior, Brooks has the potential to take his game to new heights running behind a talented BYU offensive line. Brooks has never eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. He has the potential to break-out in 2022 and run for 1,000 yards or more.
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Few players on the roster have waited longer for their moment in the spotlight than Keanu Hill.
Hill signed with BYU as part of the 2019 class. He used his redshirt season in 2019, then he cracked the rotation in 2020 and appeared in eight games. Last season, Hill played a bigger role in BYU's offense – Hill caught 18 passes for 343 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2021.
Heading into Spring camp, the third starting wide receiver spot was up for grabs. Hill won the job during the Spring and was listed as the third starting wide receiver on the post-Spring depth chart. Hill has shown flashes of potential during his first years in the program, but he has been waiting behind some talented players like Dax Milne, Neil Pau'u and Samson Nacua. With more opportunities as a starter this year, Hill is primed for a breakout season and surpass 600 or even 700 receiving yards.
Jaren Hall's ultra-efficient 2021 campaign was a breakout season, at least at a local level. Hall went from a former backup quarterback to being the clear-cut starter. Hall threw for over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing only 5 interceptions last year. In 2022, Hall has the potential to have a breakout season at a national level if he stays healthy.
Hall is already on the radar of NFL scouts – he has been included in various 2023 NFL Draft projections as a potential first-round pick. The NFL hype and national hype will grow quickly if Hall gets off to a hot start in September.
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Kingsley Suamataia is one of the most physically gifted players on BYU's roster. A former five-star offensive lineman from the class of 2021, Suamataia transferred to BYU from Oregon during his freshman season.
Suamataia was listed as a co-starter at multiple positions coming out of Spring. In this author's opinion, Suamataia will lock down a starting job for BYU's opener at USF, and be viewed as one of BYU's best players by season's end.
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