Jaren Wilkey, BYU
PROVO — As a junior quarterback who had languished on the bench for years, tried playing a different position, and seriously contemplated transferring, Brandon Doman made his first start on the night of legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards' final home game in November, 2000.
Doman led the Cougars to victory, then directed a dramatic win in Edwards' final game the following week, at arch-rival Utah.
The next season, as a senior, Doman led BYU to a 12-2 record under first-year head coach Gary Crowton, who replaced Edwards.
A few years later, after a stint in the National Football League, Doman returned to Provo to become the quarterbacks coach under first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who replaced Crowton.
Last January, Doman was promoted to offensive coordinator.
So it is that as the Cougars prepare for their first season as an independent, Doman once again finds himself in the crosshairs of history.
The Salt Lake City native, and father of five children, has been part of some of the most memorable seasons, and moments, in Provo. No matter what happens this season, because of independence and a contract with ESPN that will provide the program with extensive exposure, it promises to be yet another landmark campaign.
When Doman walked into the BYU Broadcasting Building on July 12 for the school's inaugural national media day, "all of those memories came flooding back to me," he said. "It was almost emotional to me. It was surreal … The football program, and the position we're in (as an independent). I looked at myself, and I'm the dang offensive coordinator, in my first year. I get the chance to be the coordinator. Then I started reminiscing about my football experience. I was the quarterback for LaVell's last game that he coached at the stadium that was named for him that night and I was the quarterback for the last game he coached in. Then I got to be a part of a senior year that was a unique experience. I was quarterback coach in Bronco's first year. And my family has been part of this school for years."
The first-year offensive coordinator is well-aware the challenges that await.
"It seems surreal, but daunting as well," Doman said. "I want us to be great. I want our offense to succeed at a high level. I recognize that it's not just going to happen. We're going to have to coach great football and put a great product out there."
Because of the bold move to independence, and the deal with ESPN, the eyes of the nation will be on the Cougars.
Doman feels the pressure. He knows there will be plenty of scrutiny.
"I turned 34 in December, but six months later, I feel like I'm 44," Doman said. "I certainly feel the expectations and the demands that are there. I place some of those pressures on myself because of who I am. That's why I love sports and why I loved playing quarterback. I believe people rise to the occasion during those times. I'm hoping we'll rise to the occasion."
Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps, who led BYU to victory in five of the Cougars' final six games, is poised for a big season, but he's still learning, Doman said.
"He's going to be a good quarterback this year. He's light years ahead of where he was last year, strictly based on reps, experience, and knowledge. He's much wiser. I believe he'll lead our team better. He'll be able to recognize things better. He'll make better throws. I do foresee Jake being great. I know the expectations that are on his shoulders. He's not there yet. The expectations on his shoulders are that he becomes the best quarterback in college football and he's not there."
The Cougars return almost their entire offense this season and they boast solid depth at nearly every position.
"We don't have a shortage of talent. We have plenty of talent. It's still not where we want to have, and will have," Doman said. "Some positions, we have significant depth and some we don't yet. But the talent is there. Now we've got to coach. That's where I feel the pressure. That's where I felt the pressure when I was named the coordinator. I believe we have hired the right staff offensively to put the right product out there. That's the comforting thing to me right now, that the staff's in place with the right talent. It's a matter of making it happen."
For Doman, it's also a matter of making history once again.
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