Dick Harmon: BYU coach Anae has hit the ground running — and hit it hard — as the Cougars' new offensive coordinator
One thing we do know about Robert Anae's return to BYU as offensive coordinator is that he's been a moving target.
He hasn't been in the office shuffling papers and scratching his head.
Within the first 30 hours after Bronco Mendenhall rehired Anae from Arizona, he left for Knoxville, Tenn., to attend a convention of college football coaches where he and Mendenhall interviewed potential coaching candidates.
We also know Anae visited one of BYU's top recruits, offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley, in Beaverton, Ore. Kearsley, a 6-foot-4, 298-pound blocker at Aloha High, was considering staying home and attending Oregon State. Kearsley and Anae hit it off and he recommitted when Anae explained what he had in store for the offense — and how he'd teach him to pancake tacklers.
Anae then made a circuit around the state of Utah, visiting with recruits. He also made a push to shore up BYU's offensive line by chasing down junior college talent.
Anae has apparently hit the junior college circuit very hard, visiting Southern California, Northern California and Arizona, where BYU picked up a commitment from Eastern Arizona's Josh Carter, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound athlete who has been on an LDS mission.
Using newly hired offensive assistant Garett Tujague, the former head coach at College of the Canyons Community College, Anae and area recruiter Nick Howell got Moorepark Junior College guard Quincy Awa-Dubose to commit.
The value of Tujague's hire is evident. He's been a guy in the trenches of California's talented depository of community colleges. He knows all the coaches, coordinators and how they all fit. He's become a reference book not too unlike what BYU basketball got when it turned to junior college coaches Steve Cleveland and Dave Rose.
BYU doesn't need to load up with JC players, but with missionary comings and goings and the need for secondary personnel, rebuilding the junior college circuit for recruiting could prove valuable.
On his West Coast swing, Anae certainly hit JC tackle Nick Purcell, a 6-8, 300-pound tackle at Golden West Community College, who is considering the Cougars, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Mississippi and South Florida.
After Anae left Arizona, his old boss, Rich Rodriguez, immediately hired a replacement, which may say a lot of what he thought of Anae, the only holdover he retained from Mike Stoops' coaching staff when he took over at UA.
To replace Anae, Rodriguez hired Jim Michalczik as his offensive line coach. Michalczik had been the offensive coordinator at Cal the past two years, and before that was the Bears' offensive line coach. He also coached the O-line for the NFL's Oakland Raiders.
What is intriguing in Anae's return is wondering how much of Rodriguez' philosophy will he bring with him to BYU.
Rodriguez, you may remember, is the father of the spread option attack deployed by Chip Kelly while at Oregon and even Urban Meyer while at Utah and Florida.
A USA Today college football analyst once said Rodriguez is one of the best offensive minds in the sport and his offense has revolutionized college football.
Rodriguez made this offense famous after its designs at Glenville State, Clemson and West Virginia. For lack of the right personnel at Michigan, it flamed out, but rose again in Tucson this past year when the Wildcats averaged 37 points and 522 yards a game. It also produced the nation's top rusher, Ka'Deem Carey — the first Wildcat to lead the nation in rushing since Art Luppino in 1955.
BYU can't run Rodriguez's exact offense because the Cougars don't possess the breakneck speed demons it takes to, as Chip Kelly explained, "get fast guys the ball in space." It requires 10.6 100-meter-type sprinters in the backfield and slot and receiver spots and a quarterback that is jailbreak elusive and crazy fast.
Explained Rodriguez: "The main philosophy is us getting fast guys the ball in space. Whether you're throwing it to them or handing off to them, you're trying to get the guys the ball in space. The single hardest thing to do on defense is tackle in the open field."
I don't think Anae will implement all of Arizona's offense, but he will take elements of what he's learned and instill it with what BYU personnel can handle. This includes tweaking spread formations, wider stances by O-linemen, quarterbacks in the shotgun, increased use of slot receivers and tight ends and deployment of screens to spread defenses and soften up the middle of the field.
He'll also fine-tune the no-huddle to quicken the pace and keep defenses off balance. He did this at BYU before, but now he'll do it more — like all the time.
When Anae visited with recruit Kearsley in Oregon, Kearsley told KSL on Saturday, "Coach Anae told me 'There's no time for a huddle in football. We're just gonna go.' "
And Anae will design ways to free Jamaal Williams. You might see J.D. Falslev become more involved in dumps, quick hitch passes, downfield flies and posts, counter runs, traps and even the option.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe made a point in an interview on BYU-TV to say Anae will return BYU's offense to its traditional ways. It was unclear if that was style, production or both.
But none of this matters if Anae doesn't do one single thing that will ultimately make the difference in the Cougar offense: make his linemen tough.
That, Anae can do.
Once he gets off planes, out of his car and parks his feet.
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