Loyal Cougars

Harvey Jackson commitment: What BYU is getting, and how it’s a sign coaches want to make a splash in 2014

What is the impact for BYU?

I fully expect Jackson to step on campus and be better than Dallin Leavitt, Chris Badger, Skye PoVey, and the rest of the safety depth chart behind the expected starters. Counting his redshirt year, he has four years of experience at a upper-level BCS program which came with a good share of on-field playing time.

Beyond that, I expect him to be right there pushing Craig Bills and Rob Daniel for starting roles. Will he supplant players who have already earned the trust of Bronco Mendenhall, trust being so paramount to the #BroncoD system? Time will tell, but he will get playing time and will make the BYU defense better and deeper.

Jackson’s addition is an interesting one, however, and I’m choosing to draw a deeper meaning out of it. If there’s one thing BYU fans weren’t worried about this season on defense, it was the secondary. So what does it mean that coaches wanted to go after Jackson?

Coaches sense 2014 presents a huge opportunity for the program and want to make a splash.

The schedule, the roster makeup, the talent, the schemes: Coaches are going all in on 2014 to make something big happen.

They know they have a stud quarterback and running back combo — the running back is on pace to smash BYU’s all-time rushing record and the quarterback could easily finish in the top five. The talent at cornerback feels unprecedented, at least to the majority of fans. The defense has some questions but should be plenty good.

Coaches knew, and have stated publicly to the point, that having guys like Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams would be a waste if they didn’t surround them with the best talent possible. When it became apparent Devon Blackmon was available and interested, BYU used its best resources (Jamaal and Nicole Williams, Tony Crutchfield) to get Blackmon to Provo. If Blackmon was a BYU out-of-high-school commit, he’d probably be considered the most heralded/talented non-QB skill position player to say yes to BYU.

Coaches knew replacing Cody Hoffman would be extremely difficult, then went and got possibly the only player out there who could live up to such billing in Nick Kurtz. So far, we’ve seen no reason to think Kurtz won’t be a big-time player.

Aside from a speedster like Blackmon — who can play inside or outside — and Kurtz who can be a big-play receiver, coaches knew that wasn’t enough. Taysom Hill needs a playmaker at every point of passing progression. Enter Jordan Leslie, BYU’s first-ever incoming graduate transfer. A seasoned Division-I player, with ample size and speed, will no doubt enhance the Cougar offense.

I expect BYU to have unprecedented speed available in its kick return units. While second graduate transfer Keanu Nelson of Stanford may not fit the speed bill compared to guys like Blackmon, Michael Shelton, and Michael Davis, he’s expected to sure up the punt return game. If all else fails, Nelson is expected to be a sure-handed punt returner while providing more depth to the receiver corp.

Even a move like switching Bronson Kaufusi to outside linebacker is a sign to me that coaches are all in on this season. The Cougar D now has a couple freaks in Kaufusi and Alani Fua bracketing the BYU front seven. Defensive back Trent Trammell described having LeBronson and Fua on the outside like that as being “perfect” for the secondary. “[Kaufusi] and Alani help me a lot because they’re so long, so when they get pressure or when they drop back, [the quarterback has to get it] through [or] over them and they’re throwing it right to me.”

Now we have a third graduate transfer in Harvey Jackson. Coaches already have a shot at putting a lights-out secondary on the field and Jackson is the kind of insurance that seems to be guaranteeing that. Coaches surely don’t want a repeat of last season, a piece-meal unit that, while performing admirably in the circumstances, definitely had weaknesses. The unit nearly lost the game at Houston and kept BYU from coming back against Notre Dame (though the offense shared plenty of blame there — but hey, we’ve fixed the offense as outlined above!). If we have a sad repeat injury from last season, Sam Lee is healthy, Rob Daniel is versatile, and Harvey Jackson is available.

BYU seems equipped to put a high level of talent and skill on the field in its secondary.

Questions remain (oh, we could beat a discussion on the offensive line far into the ground), but I think BYU has accomplished the goal of talent and play-making infusion and have a shot at something special. The addition of Harvey Jackson reinforces it.

Big thanks to Brandon Cavanaugh of HuskerCorner.com for helping with the Q&A.

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  1. Ben Burt

    April 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    You said it, the main think we’re worried about is the offensive line. Thanks for the write-up.

  2. Aaron

    April 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    D-line concerns me most. Peck seems below average, Johnson seems out of shape and Rowley is fresh off a mission.

  3. brandon.jones

    April 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    In Bronco’s interview with the media, Brandon Gurney asked him which positions still had depth concerns (listen here at the 3:45 mark: http://www.ksl.com/podcast/audio/2014_04_04_byu_interviews_BYU_Head_Coach_Bronco_Mendenhall.mp3)
    Bronco replied that he felt the team was one player away at inside linebacker and also at safety. It seems like this transfer solves one of those concerns.

  4. BYU Grounds

    April 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Just think what Harvey can in the 2-4-5 alignment Bronco used a couple of years ago. Harvey is a small linebacker. We can use him against pass happy teams. Also with the extra d linemen this year don’t be surprised to see a 4-2-5 alignment like TCU at times as well.

  5. Wes

    April 17, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the article. Cavanaugh confirmed my one thought upon watching Jackson’s highlights for the first time. They were his best tackles – and they are all diving at legs. I hope the BYU coaches can fix this, because a safety who can’t tackle is a liability, to say the least.

    I’ll agree that the offense is “fixed” when I see massive improvement from the O-line. I wish it weren’t true, but a team is only as good as it’s O-line.

  6. Steve

    April 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Holy cow!!! Let’s start playing! This article pumps me up!

  7. Dan

    April 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I would hope that the coaches would be “all in” every year. I would, however, agree that this season is shaping up to be special.

    I was under the impression that coaches are not allowed to approach players from other teams about transferring. Is it possible that all these D1 transfers are approaching BYU?

    As I see it, these transfers are good players that were not getting the playing time they wanted at their previous college for whatever reason. I think they see BYU as a good fit for a number of reasons.

    First, BYU runs a fast, up-tempo offense that gives players more opportunities to shine. If they are looking to make it to the next level, they see an opportunity to contribute on a good, maybe not great, team and make a little noise for themselves.

    Second, on the defensive side, BYU has turned out some outstanding defenses recently with some players getting opportunities to play in the NFL. Once again, an opportunity to shine on a good team.

    Third, I think they are all aware that every BYU football game is likely to be on TV and, most likely ESPN, giving them an opportunity to show their skills as BYU’s games tend to be at off times, sometimes being the only game on. That has got to be very appealing to someone wanting to get noticed.

    Since most of these transfer do not have a prior affiliation with BYU or the Church, this is the theory that I have come up with. What do you think? Does my theory have merit?

  8. Jared vdH

    April 18, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I believe the transfer rules regarding communication is that you can’t talk someone into deciding to transfer, but once they officially decide to seek a transfer they’re free game for anyone to talk to.

    I think it basically works out that since they’ve graduated, their Letter of Intent and Scholarship agreement are no longer binding, since they’ve now graduated. It’s the reverse part of the “student”-athlete rule.

  9. Jared vdH

    April 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Neglected to mention this also – regarding the coaches “wanting to make a splash”. I think this is actually happening with an eye on the 2015 season. I don’t think BYU’s SOS in 2014 is such that if they went undefeated, they’d get into the playoff, however they’d almost certain end up in the top 10 and in the national conversation.

    But Bronco’s said before that BYU would likely need multiple undefeated seasons to have a legitimate shot. Thus if we can manage a undefeated or one loss 2014, it makes our chances in 2015 much better to get into the playoff if we can also manage to go undefeated.

    • Brett Hein

      April 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Right — I meant to but apparently failed to mention I don’t think the playoff is possible this season. What we used to call “BCS Bowls” are possible though, and that would be a huge step for the program if it happened.

  10. Justin Whiting

    April 18, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Good write up. I don’t think anyone should be too carried away, that we are getting someone that is going to start and hopes to go pro, but the depth and his experience should be nice. However, these late additions have never happened in the past and it seems to me that having a full time recruiter on staff has made a world of difference this year in the people that are coming.

  11. Dod

    April 19, 2014 at 4:44 am

    I love how these sites say he was a ‘four star’ out of high school when 1 site out of 4 had him at 4 and the other 3 had him at 3 stars. But no mention of that, let’s just all ignore that and round up.

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