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Five True Freshmen to Watch for BYU in 2013

21 May 2013 Brett Richins

Y HexBronco Mendenhall has had a number of true freshmen make an impact on his team during his tenure as the head football coach at BYU.

Current players like Daniel Sorensen, Craig Bills, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Jamaal Williams, Mike Alisa and Spencer Hadley all made significant contributions as true freshmen in recent years.

Despite the lowering of the mission age by the LDS Church–allowing prospective missionaries to leave at 18 instead of waiting until 19–and a large number of junior college transfers set to enter the program this fall, there are still a handful of true freshmen who could have an impact on Mendenhall’s program this coming season.

Because of a lack of depth on the offensive and defensive lines as well as in the secondary, some fresh faces could be counted on as the Cougars get set to face what could be their toughest schedule ever.

Here’s a look at the true frosh players who could see the field and make a difference in 2013.

Future BYU OL Brayden Kearsley.

Future BYU OL Brayden Kearsley.

OL Brayden Kearsley

The Cougar coaches are expecting Kearsley to come into the program and break into the two-deep on the offensive line.

It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that BYU’s highest rated prospect in the 2013 recruiting class could see significant playing time this season.

Despite playing much of his career at tackle at Aloha High in Oregon, Brayden is slated to play on the inside of the BYU line–at either guard or center. He has reported that offensive coordinator Robert Anae plans to employ his talents at center during his BYU career.

The 6-4, 300-pound freshman-to-be was recruited by a large number of BCS programs and was offered scholarships by Arkansas, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State and UCLA, to name just a few.  If he plays center as expected, he will compete against Terry Alletto, Manaaki Vaitai and JUCO transfer Edward Fusi for playing time. Houston Reynolds began the 2012 as the starter at center, but it’s looking more and more like the oft-injured Reynolds may call it quits after sustaining a torn Achilles tendon last year.

BYU nose tackle Tuni Kanuch.

BYU nose tackle Tuni Kanuch.

NT Tuni Kanuch

The coaches would love for Kanuch to prove himself capable of handling the starting job at nose tackle, thereby allowing Manumaleuna to move back over to defensive end.

Tuni is the future at the position, but the question is whether or not the future is now.

He returned home from his mission to San Diego in time to participate in spring practice this March, but he was unable to win the starting job at the nose. However, another few months in the program should help him to get in better shape and increase his size and strength.

As its stands now, the former Bingham High star is listed No. 2 on the depth chart in the middle of Mendenhall’s defensive line. He is likely to play a significant role this year on the defense and could be the most productive of the true freshmen if he works himself into becoming a starter.

Future BYU DL JonRyheem Peoples.

Future BYU DL JonRyheem Peoples.

DL JonRyheem Peoples

Standing 6-foot-6, and now tipping the scales at 330-pounds, Peoples is an athletic freak who actually returned kicks last season for Rigby High School in Idaho.

He followed up his performance on the gridiron by helping to lead his team to the state basketball championship this winter, and then won the state championship in the shot put this spring with a throw of 55 feet.

He also recently tweeted out that he benches 370-pounds, squats 530-pounds and runs a 4.9 40-yard dash.

In college he could play either on offense or defense, but it seems the Cougar staff likes his potential on the defensive side of the ball, where he could play defensive end or nose tackle. His height, combined with his athleticism, may dictate that he ends up at DE in Mendenhall’s defense.

With the Cougars losing starters Ziggy Ansah, Romney Fuga and Russell Tialavea from last season’s defensive line, the door could be open for Peoples to make a significant contribution in 2013, especially as the season develops.

Future BYU Safety Dallin Leavitt.

Future BYU safety Dallin Leavitt.

S Dallin Leavitt

The son of former BYU linebacker Jared Leavitt, Dallin plans to play in 2013 and then leave for his mission after the season.

He was rated as one of the best safeties prospects in the Northwest during his playing career at Central Catholic in Portland, Oregon, and his play should remind BYU fans of Sorensen and Bills when they were true freshmen.

He will come to Provo expecting to make a contribution during his first season as a Cougar.

“I’m going to try to start from day one,” Leavitt told The Oregonian the day he signed his national letter of intent. “If you don’t walk in with that mindset, you’re going to get rolled. I’m not saying I’m the best or even close, but why walk into a program if you’re not trying to start.”

Dallin was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Oregon and is known for playing the game with passion. “Football is what I love the most, and when I’m on the field, I’m not taking no for an answer.”

His presence in the program this year will add welcomed depth in the BYU secondary. He could also end up being an outstanding contributor on special teams.

Future BYU wide receiver Michael Davis.

Future BYU wide receiver Michael Davis.

WR Michael Davis

Davis comes to BYU as a somewhat raw wide receiver–but he has speed to burn.

This spring he ran a blistering 10.59 in the 100 meters at the Pacific League finals in Arcadia, California. He also ran the 200 meters in 21.39 just last week. Based on those numbers, Davis will be one of the fastest players in BYU history.

The speedster also has good size, checking in at 6-2, 180 pounds.

However, he didn’t pick up football until he entered high school and still has some things to learn about route running and getting through jams at the line of scrimmage.

As a junior and senior he amassed 1,266 receiving yards on 85 receptions and scored 10 touchdowns. He also returned three kickoffs for scores as well.

Though he may need some seasoning before seeing a lot of time at wide receiver, he could see the field as a true freshman in the capacity of a kick returner. With his outstanding speed, he will be a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball.

Michael has indicated that he hopes to be a two-sport player at BYU, participating in both football and track and field.

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