Hop in your Hot Tub Time Machine and go back to early November. Find me a BYU fan in early November who looked at the state of the BYU roster and said, "Man, this team is ready to compete for Big 12 Championships."
If you can find one who genuinely believed that, I want to introduce them to my uncle who happens to be the Prince of Nigeria.
It's simple, really. BYU's defensive scheme and roster struggled to keep up with the likes of ECU and Liberty. The Cougars needed an overhaul to get ready to compete against TCU (they're in the playoff, in case you haven't heard) and Oklahoma State.
The defensive scheme was an easy fix - fire coaches and hire new ones. Fans wanted that and were prepared for that. When Jay Hill was announced as the new defensive coordinator of BYU, it was celebrated far and wide as a home run hire. Hill's defenses are aggressive. Hill wants to get after the quarterback and he wants to force interceptions in the secondary. He runs the kind of defense that BYU fans have longed for over the last half-decade.
Thee second part appears to be harder for BYU fans grasp, but it's an unfortunate truth: The roster is not equipped to run Hill's scheme for 12 games. They need an upgrade.
That means hard conversations with players.
That means hard decisions from players.
That means hard days of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on Twitter and message boards.
The roster needs an overhaul and the transfer portal is the way that overhaul has to happen. In order to have room for the guys who can run what Hill wants to run, BYU has to clear through the guys who can't.
Nathaniel Gillis, Korbyn Green? Thank you for your year at BYU. Best of luck in your future endeavors, but Hill needs guys who are ready for physical man coverage next year, he can't really wait for development.
It isn't that Gillis and Green aren't good players, it's that they aren't the players that Hill would have recruited to implement his defense. Best of luck to them in their future, they'll find success.
Hill would have loved to have Logan Fano and Tate Romney on his roster, there is no doubt about that. But, if a player has to learn a new scheme from a new coaching staff anyways, some like to re-evaluate their options. It sucks. Those are both good players. But it happens.
Hill is working on getting his roster ready for Big 12 competition. That process is going to require some pain, it's just the nature of the process. Think of any sort of organizational restructure at your office, it's not easy. Layoffs happen, roles are re-assigned, some people just don't want to go through and find new opportunities. Transition is not an easy process.
But it's important to remember... this is exactly what fans (rightly) wanted when they said they wanted Ilaisa Tuiaki and Ed Lamb fired. This is part of the same process.
Okay, but the offense didn't have that kind of coaching turnover, so what about that?
The offense is tougher to swallow, particularly among the offensive line. BYU lost the Barrington brothers, a pair of fan-favorites who had great success (if you read that like Borat, I salute you, but it was completely inadvertent). Talin Togiai also hit the portal. So, obviously, BYU needs to fire the offensive line coach.
Let's break this down a little bit before we officially dole out any pink slips.
Those are his PFF grades for the year. 123 total snaps and a solid, but unspectacular grade. The downward trend as a pass blocker and inconsistency as a run blocker is particularly concerning.
For context, here is a look at Joe Tukuafu's grades.
Similar inconsistency in the run game, but consistently very, very good in pass protection. It's a similar story for Harris LaChance.
So, Barrington didn't play as well as we all thought he would. Is that Darrell Funk's fault? There is certainly an argument to be made that it is. The counterargument would be that the same Darrell Funk got more consistency from players with less talent (Tukuafu and LaChance), so maybe Campbell just isn't as good as thought?
Either way, it's a loss for BYU's future. There is no sense in trying to data-splain our way into thinking that it's not.
When he announced he's transferring, I had no less than 10 people reach out and say, "I thought he was on defense?"
So, with all due respect, let's move on.
This one is interesting. Clark has played very well. In fact, Clark has played so well that everyone expected him to go to the NFL. Nobody expected him to come back to BYU for a sixth year. There isn't a single fan or coach who had him penciled in as a starter next season. He was leaving and BYU was holding the door open for him, ready to celebrate as he walked out of it.
But, in true Michael Scott fashion, Clark decided to skip out the back door a day early. Instead of going to the NFL, he's going to hit the transfer portal.
Could he be working on a master's degree?
Could he want one more year with his brother in Waco?
Could he have some guaranteed NIL money that will result in more than a non-guaranteed NFL contract?
Could he hate Darrell Funk and want to play for anyone else?
All of those are options, but all of those ignore the underlying truth that he wasn't in the plans for next year anyways. Nobody expected him to play at BYU. Nobody.
Darrell Funk has his work cut out for him. He produced an offensive line unit that was top 20 in yards per carry this year (despite not having any real stability at the running back position from week to week). He was top 15 in sacks allowed this year. PFF put the BYU rushing unit in the top 15 as a rush blocking unit and at the very top in terms of pass blocking. But, despite all of that, Funk has become Public Enemy #1 amongst the fanbase because a few transfers left and he missed on a recruit or two that everyone wanted.
Nevermind the results. Nevermind the recruits he has signed. Good luck, Funk. You're fighting for your job now.
Can he improve? Of course he can. It's stupid for anyone to suggest that he can't. But if what he's done over the last two years at BYU is fireable then holy shit I don't want to work at BYU ever.
The rest of the offensive players who transferred are more easily explained.
Jacob Conover? Yeah, we all saw that coming when Aaron Roderick wouldn't let him throw. He transferred to play for his high school coach. Best of luck.
Terence Fall? Best of luck to our guy.
Dallin Holker? I mean, who can argue with transferring to a powerhouse like Colorado State?
Nobody likes layoffs at work, but sometimes, layoffs are the right decisions and the company is better for it. Sometimes layoffs are signs of terrible management and an impending bankruptcy too.
I don't see bankruptcy in BYU's future. I see a brighter future than I've ever seen. So, I can only conclude that these are the crappy layoffs that nobody likes but that BYU will be better for it.
In the name of wanting more power over their careers, players have made themselves more replaceable than ever.
Many of you reading this are smarter analytical brains than me (don't get cocky, that's not really an accomplishment). But let me dabble in some sabermetrics for a minute.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) - WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).
It's a baseball term, mostly, but it's principle is applied across all sports. For example, let's look at Tyreek Hill..
Hill wanted to get paid. The Kansas City Chiefs didn't want to pay him what he wanted to get paid. So, they traded (arguably) the NFL's best wide receiver. Hill got paid, so that's great for him. And the Miami Dolphins are having a great year, so that's good too.
The Chiefs? They are 11-3 and currently lead the league in total offense and passing offense.
They traded one of the best wide receivers the sport has to offer and replaced him with cast offs like Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scalding and didn't skip a beat.
Now, this isn't some kind of argument that BYU should call Jonah Hill and start finding ways to replace Jason Giambi.
BYU needs all the talent that they can get. We're firmly about horses over jockeys here. But, the emergence of the transfer portal has made talent much more replaceable than it was a few years ago. The mindset shift is going to be an adjustment for fans, but hear me out...
BYU loses Logan Fano to the transfer portal. That sucks. Everyone wants him to be at BYU.
If BYU adds Isaiah Bagnah from Boise State, is 2023 BYU better or worse than they were with Fano?
I know you were tempted to say "but Fano has four years!" and you are right about that. But, in the transfer portal era, rosters are much more year-to-year than they were before. They are managed much more like an NFL roster or an MLB roster. If you can get a guy for four years, that's awesome. But, gone are the days of being able to count on a guy for four years.
So, in 2023, who does more for BYU, Fano or Bagnah? At worst, it's a reasonable argument.
Before the transfer portal, losing a guy like Fano hurt for years because the only way to replace him was to identify a high school kid who could do what he does, recruit him for the next year or two, hope he signs with your school and then hope he develops quickly enough to get on the field ASAP. Those losses hurt in a big way before the transfer portal.
But today? You can replace production pretty darn quickly.
It's an interesting dynamic that players have created for themselves. They all wanted more freedom and ability to come and go as they please - a worthy and justifiable desire. But, an unintended consequence might be that they've turned themselves into numbers just like every professional player is.
Freddie Freeman was an Atlanta Braves legend who led the team to a World Series.
In a matter of a few days and over a few dollars, the Braves traded for a replacement first basemen who isn't quite as good as Freeman, but he was cheaper and allowed for the Braves to go extend their stud third basemen in Austin Riley to a long-term deal.
Freddie MFing Freeman was replaceable by the Braves.
Tyreek MFing Hill was replaceable by the Chiefs.
There isn't anyone on BYU's roster that isn't replaceable anymore. Or on Utah's roster. Or on Alabama's roster. Or on anyone's roster.
This is the new era of college football and it's time to start judging and grading rosters differently than we have in the past, because rosters are being managed differently than they have been in the past.