Last May, we published a list of 10 players that were primed for a breakout 2020 season. That list, which was based on observations during the abbreviated spring practices last season, featured players like Zach Wilson, Isaac Rex, Keenan Pili, and Troy Warner.
Spring practices were completely closed due to COVID-19 this year. Therefore, instead of using practice observations to curate our list, we will use Pro Football Focus' advanced stats to predict five breakout stars on the defensive side of the football. Without further ado, let's dive in.
Honorable Mention: George Udo
Defensive Back | #7 | SO | 6-1 | 210 lbs. | Antioch, California
Udo was one of the five highest-graded players on BYU's 2020 defense before he suffered a season-ending injury that kept him out of the bowl game. If not for said injury, Udo would be higher on this list. Udo's status for the 2021 season is unknown, but I would be surprised if he played during the early parts of the 2021 season.
Udo has been one of the best athletes on the team since he arrived in 2019. However, he was relatively new to the game of football when he signed with BYU. Udo's experience and knowledge started to catch up to his physical abilities last season, and the results were impressive.
Udo played 227 snaps last season. In 60% of those snaps (135), he played in coverage. He played in run coverage 34% (78) of the time, and he was tasked with pressuring the quarterback the remaining 6% (14) of his snaps. During those 14 pass rush snaps, Udo had three sacks and one QB pressure.
Udo was the only player on BYU's defense whose coverage grade, pass rush grade, and run defense grade ranked in the top five on the team.
5. Malik Moore
Defensive Back | #12 | JR | 6-1 | 186 lbs. | San Diego, California
Malik Moore battled injuries last season and only played in 95 total snaps. BYU has a need at safety, and Moore is one of a few players on the roster with experience at safety. Given the opportunity to move into a prominent role on the defense and his top-10 grade last season, Moore has an opportunity to put together a breakout 2021 campaign.
4. Seleti Fevaleaki
Defensive Line | #44 | FR | 6-3 | 270 lbs. | Corona, California
Seleti Fevaleaki was recruited by Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki when they coached at the University of Utah. Then they recruited Fevaleaki when they moved to Oregon State. In the end, Fevaleaki followed Sitake and Tuiaki to BYU. Fevaleaki signed with BYU as part of the 2017 recruiting class. Thanks to a mission, a redshirt season, and a free season of eligibility due to COVID-19, Fevaleaki is listed as a freshman on BYU's 2021 roster.
The defensive line was the most senior position group last season, and Fevaleaki only played in 100 snaps as a result. He made the most of those 100 snaps last season - Fevaleaki was the highest-graded player on BYU's defense by Pro Football Focus.
3. Drew Jensen
Linebacker | #46 | SO | 6-2 | 215 lbs. | Salt Lake City, Utah
Coming off a loss against Coastal Carolina, BYU trailed the San Diego State Aztecs 14-7 in the second quarter. The Aztecs had scored 14 unanswered, and they were knocking on the door for another touchdown. Then Drew Jensen intercepted a Jordon Brookshire pass and turned the game around. You can watch that play below, beginning at the 3:45 mark:
Drew Jensen played in 117 snaps last season, and he received the third-highest grade on BYU's defense. Jensen exceled in pass coverage - he allowed a reception percentage of 58% with a long of only 8 yards. In total, he allowed 37 receiving yards on 12 targets defended. BYU needs to replace Isaiah Kaufusi, a three-year starter who just signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Jensen was Kaufusi's backup last season, and he seems like a natural fit to slide into the starting 'Rover' linebacker position.
2. Chaz Ah You
Linebacker/Defensive Back | #3 | JR | 6-2 | 206 lbs. | Saratoga Springs, Utah
Chaz Ah You was one of BYU's best playmakers on defense in 2019. During that season, he had 40 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 1 forced then recovered fumble. Ah You's 2020 campaign was cut short when he suffered a season-ending injury against Navy.
Ah You's sophomore season was productive, but I expect him to take a step forward in 2021. BYU has a need at safety after losing Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson to graduation. Ah You will fill one of those roles and be one of the most important players on BYU's defense in 2021. Ah You's ceiling is as high as any player on BYU's defense.
1. Tyler Batty
Defensive Line | #92 | FR | 6-5 | 261 lbs. | Payson, Utah
Tyler Batty could be one of BYU's most important players on defense over the next three or four years. Batty battled injuries last season after winning the starting job at defensive end - he played in just 96 snaps last season. Batty received a top-five grade on the the defense by Pro Football Focus in 2020.
Batty only played in 58 pass-rushing snaps, that ranked #11 on the team. In those 58 snaps, Batty created 12 total pressures including 4 sacks and 3 QB hits. Batty's 4 sacks led the team last season.
You probably noticed that our site looks a little different. It is currently under construction and the commenting capability is turned off. While we work on some exciting updates to improve your experience, you can ask us questions through one of our social media channels:
Facebook - @BYUSportsIllustrated
Instagram - @BYU_SI