USC has come out to a 2-0 start. But the Trojans have yet to face adversity on the road. Here are three BYU players whose performances may swing the game.
Senior running back Ty’Son Williams has taken his time before stepping out in the big time. Though his previous rushing high in a season was 471 in 2017, Williams has been chewing up opposing defenses in 2019. Only through two games, he is at a third of his career watermark, having rushed for 137 yards in his first two games against Utah and Tennessee.
Williams has gained 5.7 yards per rush and three touchdowns. But it’s questionable if he will be able to do serious damage against USC’s defensive front. USC bottle up Stanford runningback Cameron Scarlett to 82 yards on 4.8 yards per carry. These numbers are alright, but Stanford’s offensive line, even sans Walker Little, is much more talented than BYU’s. And to my eye, Scarlett is a better college runningback than Williams.
What’s curious is that Scarlett was able to slash the Trojan defense in the first quarter, leading to USC’s 17-3 deficit early. If Williams can lead the BYU rushing attack to similar ends against USC, the Cougars will be satisfied with the opportunity to play ahead and rely on the defense.
In addition to his impressive production against talented teams in Utah and Tennessee, Williams will be expected to carry a heavy workload against USC. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has only completed 220 yards per game and he looked overwhelmed against Utah. Yes, his poor performance occurred in inclimate weather and he did bounce back with a solid turnover free outing against Tennessee. But USC’s defensive backs are stout across the board.
When an aerial attack fails, BYU will rely on Williams to be what Scarlett was for Stanford in the first quarter.
BYU RB Ty'Son Williams damn near juked #13 off the field pic.twitter.com/6oGKZTUQRw— #BOOMIN (@ftbeard_17) August 30, 2019
It will be up to the Trojans to play like they did in quarters two through four.
There is a theme developing here, and it is that this Utah team is lead by upperclassmen with experience. Zayne Anderson is a linebacker safety hybrid in the mold of ex Wolverine Jabrill Peppers. Last season, he played linebacker to fill the team’s needs. Before that, his natural position was at safety. But its easy to see why Anderson fit as a linebacker as well. At 6’ 2” and 222 pounds, Anderson is about the same size as USC’s middle linebacker, John Houston.
BYU will employ Anderson’s versatility and have him play everywhere on the defense. BYU does not have another player who can blitz, cover, and run stop at his level. During his last full season, Anderson caused two interceptions and three forced fumbles. And this will be USC’s first time seeing a player of that ilk. Slovis will have to recognize Anderson’s assignment, which will be difficult because of his versatility.
Slovis will have the unenviable task of playing mind games with Anderson. The true freshman will have to diagnose the senior in coverage, and keep the USC offense humming and turnover free. Don’t be surprised if the turnover battle is decided by the mind games of number nine against number twenty-three.
Another reason to monitor Anderson is that Graham Harrell’s air raid offense has yet to face a do-it-all player on this level. Part of USC’s rushing success so far this season has been predicated on the offense’s ability to spread teams out. But how will Harrell react to a player equally capable of run support and pass defense? It will be fascinating to see whether USC deals with Anderson schematically or through mano a mano recognition. It will almost certainly be a combination of both.
But the results will be telling. Both about breakout star Kedon Slovis and OC Graham Harrell.
Chaz Ah You
And this rounds out who BYU is as a team: a group of gritty defenders who will rely on the run. I have already iterated my feelings about QB Zach Wilson. If Wilson cannot be effective through the air, BYU’s game plan will rely of a slashing rushing offense and a stifling defense. Any chance of limiting the Trojans in the box will come down to linebacker Chaz Ah You.
So far, Ah You is the only BYU player with a sack. And one of the reasons that Kedon Slovis was able to so thoroughly pick Stanford apart was his protection and time in the pocket. BYU’s best hope of disrupting that is Ah You. And Ah You is also one of BYU’s best run stoppers as well. In fact, this BYU linebacking unit may be the toughest that USC has faced yet.