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CFF Targets - New Big 12 member producing a HIGH-END VOLUME PIG in 2023?
BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston joined the B12 this season. This article features a potential CFF monster in one of their WR rooms.
Put that coffee down, coffee’s for closers only
- Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glenn Ross
In the real estate sales office depicted in Glengarry Glen Ross, each of the four employees has their own strengths and weaknesses, just like each college football (CFB) program making the move up to the Big 12 for the 2023 season.
The BYU Cougars, like Shelley Levene (played by Jack Lemmon), are a seasoned team with a lot of experience and a proven track record. They have shown that they can succeed against top-level opponents and have earned their place at the table. However, they will need to continue to perform at their best and step up their game even further in the Big 12. "Put that coffee down, coffee's for closers only" is a fitting line for the BYU program, as they will need to bring not just their ‘A’ game, but their ‘B’, and ‘C’ games as well (Always Be Closing) to prove that they belong in the big leagues of CFB.
The Cincinnati Bearcats, like Al Pacino’s character Ricky Roma, are a team with a lot of confidence and swagger. They have been the most successful of the four recently, with a trip to the College Football Playoff and a consistent record of winning seasons. They have proven that they can compete with the best of the best, and they will look to carry that success into the Big 12.
The Houston Cougars, like George Aaronow (played by Alan Arkin), are a team that is consistently solid. They’re sort of the forgotten team of the four.
The UCF Knights, in this case represented by the Dave Moss character (played by Ed Harris), are the new kids on the block in CFB. They have had a few moments in the spotlight, including an undefeated season in 2017, and they have shown a lot of potential for future success. They occasionally get loud and claim to have a national championship from the 2017 season, until Alec Baldwin (Nick Saban) shows up and knocks them down.
The exchange usually goes something like this (for some reason always occurring in a room filled with SEC coaches):
(Saban) You see this natty?
(Saban) That trophy cost more than your NIL budget. I made $10.7 million last year. How much you make?
You see, pal, that's who I am. And you're nothing. Beat UF? I don't give a shit. Fertile recruiting area? Fuck you — go home and play with your boosters!! (yells in Jimbo Fisher’s direction)
You wanna work here? Close!! (to former OC Bill O’Brien’s direction as he’s shown the door) You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can't take this — how can you take the abuse you’re going to get in the P5?!
If you don't like it — leave. I can go out there tonight with the NIL budget you got, sign half-a-dozen five stars in Florida! Tonight! In two hours! Can you? (he barks at Hugh Freeze) Can you? (now Brian Kelly) Go and do likewise! A-I-D-A!! Get mad! You sons of bitches! Get mad!!
(BYU coach chimes in) The players are weak.
(Saban) The players are weak? Fucking players are weak? You're weak. I've been in this business twenty six years.
(UCF head coach Gus Malzahn) Oh yea? What’s your name?
(Saban) FUCK YOU, that's my name!! You know why, Gus? 'Cause your starting QB couldn’t hack it at a mid-level SEC program — I finished last cycle with the highest rated recruiting class (again barking in Jimbo’s direction).
That's my name!! And your name is ‘you're wanting’. And you can't play in the man's game. You can't close them. (at a near whisper to UCF) And you go home and tell your wife — USF, your troubles. Because only one thing counts in this life! (Saban’s spit is going everywhere)
Find volume pigs. draft them. Demolish the competition.
< end conversation >
That’s usually enough to shut everyone — including UCF — down.
Saban then puts his diamond encrusted championship rings back on, and walks into Kevin Spacey’s (SEC commissioner Greg Sankey’s) office in an ethereal fashion; of which UGA head coach Kirby Smart (wearing a visor and a t-shirt reading ‘ABC’) is sitting on the phone (probably with an elite defensive recruit on the other line).
Now, on to the topic at hand. As mentioned above, the BYU Cougers will be playing in the Big 12 this upcoming season. That means the level of competition they face will be higher — which should be considered when assessing their players for CFF; however, I think there is at least one player in this WR room worth a look.
As always, let’s begin with the infrastructure in place.
Coaching & System
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has been the bossman of the Cougers since 2016. Prior to that he bounced around on the defensive staffs of Oregon State and Utah. Given that he is a defensive coach, I don’t think his track record at WR is highly relevant. But I have provided a year-by-year summary of his leading receivers before 2021:
2016: Nick Kurtz (923 yards)
2017: Matt Bushman (520 yards)
2018: Matt Bushman (511 yards)
2019: Matt Bushman (688 yards)
2020: Dax Milne (1,188 yards)
Sitake’s OC, Aaron Roderick joined the BYU staff as the pass-game coordinator and QBs coach in 2018. In 2021, he was promoted to OC.
In the two seasons that Roderick has been calling plays, his WR1 — Puke Nacua (6’1, 205), averaged in 1-ppr formats 14.5 and 21 fantasy points per game (FPG) in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Nacua played in only 9 games in 2022, but still managed to catch 48 passes (72 targets) for 625 yards and 5 TDs, while also rushing 25(!!) times for 209 yards and 5 TDs. Nacua played on the boundary in this offence.
If you’re not rock hard at the sight of that dual usage then go back and watch Baldwin’s ABC speech linked above right this instant.
Nacua now moves on, and I — planning to be a closer this CFF offseason — am all about attention, interest, decision and action for a system that dual-used its WR1 like this.
Also, as an FYI, the WR2 from 2022 — Kody Epps (5’11, 185), recently announced his entry to the portal.1 Epps could aways come back, of course, but I am going to assume at the time of writing this article that he will be fired — I mean, sent home with a pair of steak knives — wait, sorry, what I really mean is I think he’ll be with another program next season.
Epps averaged 15.1 FPG in 2022, catching 39 passes (53 targets) for 459 yards and 6 TDs in 8 games.
So, that’s a lot of production vacating this roster, and with an OC who clearly believes in being a closer, there is a massive opportunity here for a new volume pig to emerge.
WR Chase Roberts - 6’4, 210
Roberts averaged 7.4 FPG in 2022, catching 22 passes (43 targets) for 357 yards and 3 TDs in 11 games. Roberts did not play at all in his freshman season in 2021.
Something that caught my eye this offseason — and it’s a very good sign for CFF as far as I’m concerned — is that Roberts is changing his number from that goofy #27 he used to wear to a much more professional and sleek looking #2. Once upon a time I had a little known three-star WR from down in the Bayou who torched CFB in 2019 wearing the same number. I think his name was something like… Justin… Jef— Jefferson? I haven’t heard much from him lately so who know’s what he’s up to, but the point is — #2 is a CFF stud number.
I also found it encouraging while writing this profile that Roberts’ biggest game last season came against P5 opponent Baylor. He was targeted a whopping 15 times, of which he caught 8 passes for 122 yards and 1 TD in that game.
He also went three games without catching a pass. I suppose that’s inevitable with players like Nacua receiving and running the rock often, as well as Epps, ahead of you on the depth chart.
What interests me about Roberts is two things:
He was productive as WR3/4 last season behind two players who are now gone
He inherits a potentially usage-heavy system and has a good shot at WR1
There are of course, concerns also, which I will get into later. Still, Roberts has the potential to be a breakout WR in 2023, and some even believe he will be a stud at the next level.
Here’s former BYU QB Jaren Hall’s burner on Roberts’ potential:
It appears that Roberts and new BYU QB Slovis are meshing early also:
These are all good signs at this point in the offseason.
WR Keanu Hill - 6’4, 215
What is it with BYU and these mammoth-sized receivers? Hill has been with the program since 2019, and averaged 10.6 FPG in 2022 (his best season so far). He caught 36 passes (53 targets) for 572 yards and 7 TDs in 13 games.
From a statistics standpoint, Hill almost looks more promising than Roberts. His numbers are good for WR3 on the team
The question isn’t whether he or Roberts will be involved in this offence, I think it’s pretty squarely between those two to be the leading receivers. The real question is which of them will win the WR1 role? What tangible and logical processes can we reference to differentiate between the two and project for 2023?
This is where Roberts’ elite new number comes in… kidding, of course.
Hill also has an elite number with #1, so we can’t use that.
Outside of football, I like that Hill is dedicating himself to a good cause (I see this as a good omen for CFF):
My inclination is to lean towards Roberts as WR1, as he is younger and (sort of) broke out already last season. Hill is entering his fifth season of CFB.
The BYU programs is taking a big step in competition this season. While this was previously an independent program that played a lot of P5 opponents in the past, it will be an adjustment for the Cougs in 2023. On the flip side, one way to look at this from a positive is that they could be trailing in a lot of games — leading to increases pass volume.
New QB Slovis is taking over for Jaren Hall. Slovis broke out early in his career back in 2019 with USC, including a monster performance of over 500 yards passing as a true freshman. He was highly touted in CFF and CFB in general going into 2020, however, he never lived up to expectations. He’s since bounced around from USC to Pittsburgh and now to BYU. Without knowing how effective he can be, it’s hard to declare either of BYU’s WRs as locks for 20+ FPG.
Both Roberts and Hill may end up being good but not great in CFF, if they dilute the target share between them. That would be the ultimate nightmare scenario for CFF managers; both players would have their moments but neither would be a consistently strong asset.
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