BYU football: Which Cougars are most crucial for success in 2014? (11 items)

By , Deseret News

Aug. 6, 2014

The BYU Cougars have already started fall camp and are poised to have a monster year.

The Cougars are loaded with returning starters from last season's 8-5 team who are looking to add to already successful careers. There are also some big-time newcomers who are looking to make their respective mark on the program this year.

With the abundance of talent that litters the Cougars' roster in 2014 there are more than a handful of players who need to have big seasons for BYU to find success. This is the list of the best of the best of those players. These are who will carry the load for the Cougars this season as they try to make another step forward to get their name back into the national conversation as one of the best football schools in the country.

Here is a look at the most important players for BYU to have a successful season in 2014.

Defensive stats are from cfbstats.com, offensive stats from Sports-reference.com.

1 of 11. 11. Devin Mahina, senior, tight end:

Mahina hasn't had the career many expected when he came to Provo, Utah, thanks in part to a series of injuries that have allowed him to play in 24 games over four years. Even though he hasn't produced huge numbers (26 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns), he has the skill set to make a huge impact as a senior. He is a solid route runner with good hands who needs to have a good season to give Taysom Hill a security blanket in the passing game and open up space for the talented receiving core.

2 of 11. 10. Jordan Johnson, senior, cornerback:

After an impressive junior season, Johnson missed all of 2013 thanks to a serious knee injury. Although players like Robertson Daniel and Sky PoVey filled in admirably, they couldn't replicate all that Johnson does on the field. He is a great cover corner who can lock down even the best of opposing wide receivers. If Johnson can return to form in 2014, he will be able to free up Craig Bills and Nebraska transfer Harvey Jackson to fly all over the field and make plays.

3 of 11. 9. Bronson Kaufusi, junior, linebacker:

After a couple of impressive seasons on the defensive line for the Cougars, Kaufusi moves to linebacker for BYU, thanks in large part to his great size and speed. In 2013, he was able to get into the opponents' backfield and do damage (four sacks, seven tackles for loss). For BYU to be successful in 2014, he needs to learn the position quickly and make plays on the outside while still getting into the backfield and disrupting the opposing quarterback.

4 of 11. 8. Jordan Leslie, senior, wide receiver:

After three tremendous seasons on the field for UTEP (125 receptions for 2,105 yards and 15 touchdowns in 36 games), Leslie comes to the BYU with hopes of finishing out his college career in a big way. He can be used as both a deep threat and a possession receiver for an offense that is trying to replace one of the best receivers in school history in Cody Hoffman. Leslie already knows what the spotlight feels like and knows how to get it done on the big stage. He will need to produce like he did for the Miners in 2012 (51 catches for 973 yards and six scores) for the Cougars to have a special year.

5 of 11. 7. Manoa Pikula, junior, linebacker:

After a solid showing in 2013 (30 tackles, including four for loss and three sacks), Pikula will be asked to step up and replace the production from the middle linebacker spot that was provided by Uani Unga a season ago. Although those are some pretty big shoes to fill, Pikula definitely has the ability to get it done for the Cougars' defense to thrive once again.

1. Mikeylikesit
Davis, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

I hate lists, just write the article please

2. RockOn
Spanish Fork, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

I like lists. But notice that of the 10, Williams, Johnson and Pikula are AWOL at practice either as irrelevent for the first game, for being cleared to play with the first team, or sitting for academic issues. Tough with 30% of the important guys aren't playing with the first team.

3. worf
Mcallen, TX,
Aug. 6, 2014

I love lists, and articles.

Do carry on!

4. Vegasbob
North Las Vegas, NV,
Aug. 6, 2014

Anyone else see that Taysom made the Heisman Watch top 10 list by Athlon Sports.

5. Who am I sir?
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Aug. 6, 2014

My vote: Tom Holmoe. Scheduling two challenging games almost assures a 10 win season.