Dick Harmon: Holliday hire brings Cougs interesting personality

Published: Saturday, March 9 2013 4:30 p.m. MST

Guy Holliday, recievers coach, on the first day of BYU football's spring camp Monday, March 4, 2013, in Provo

Tom Smart, Deseret News, Tom Smart, Deseret News

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Guy Holliday is an interesting hire as a receivers coach at BYU.

His Cougar ties are practically nil. He’s not connected by politics or the local culture; he’s not a former BYU player and he didn’t get the job because he’s related to somebody, had a lobby campaign in the media or had a connection to boosters.

Holliday was hired for two basic purposes, to uphold the goals and ideals of the school and program and to push BYU receivers beyond the limits of their talent.

This past week, we got a first glimpse at Holliday in action. He was intense, vocal and demanding. He was also passionate, as if the rise and fall of his entire day rested on how every minute ticked away on the field.

Holliday, a good BYU hire? It looks that way.

Along the way, Bronco Mendenhall might benefit from other aspects of this new guy.

I think of other BYU receivers coaches over the years, men such as Norm Chow, the late Mike Borich, Todd Bradford, Patrick Higgins and Ben Cahoon. All but Higgins had solid ties to Utah or BYU. Each guy brought a different talent and perspective to the table.

But none had the broad coaching experience of Holliday in terms of geography, competition and dealing with that specific position.

This new guy has a career that stretches from the Ivy League and powerful SEC to the WAC. He has had extensive experience at predominately black colleges and universities. Holliday has put 21 players in the NFL, reportedly 20 who were wide receivers. To my knowledge, no receivers coach at BYU has ever done that during their careers before or after BYU. Chow would come close, if you considered all the players he coached, but not as a specific receivers coach, which was his job in the late 70s and early 80s with the Cougars.

But high on my list with Holliday is the potential he could give BYU as a recruiter in Texas. This is a frontier the Cougars have pretty much brushed over the past decade since that disaster that was Gary Crowton’s class of 2004.

Mendenhall needs to send more recruiters to Texas and get Lone Star athletes to come to his summer camps and appear on his white board.

In the hire of Holliday, it helps that he spent four years as the recruiting coordinator at UTEP under Mike Price. He should know the fields of speed in Houston, the plains of San Antonio, Waco and Austin, and the Dallas metroplex.

Holliday is a likable guy. He’s BYU’s answer to the defection of Aaron Roderick, who accepted the position, then changed his mind this past winter.

I asked Holliday to explain his philosophy, the pillars of what he tries to do as a coach and why he got into the profession, which can make nomads of good men.

“I think (what) I probably love the most is the camaraderie between coaches and players,” he said. “You don’t get that in corporate America and when I stopped playing, I missed those relationships. That’s why I got into coaching.”

His building blocks?

Effort. “There is no excuse for not giving great effort. Effort is something you should not have to coach. You control the things you can control and that is effort and elimination of mental errors,” he said.

Second, is elevating talent. “You eliminate mental mistakes and get effort and the rest is making a player the best that his athletic ability allows. It doesn’t matter how good the athlete is, if you have a great one and you don’t push him enough for him to be great then you have failed him, no matter how good he is. If you have a good one who isn’t quite as athletic as another, then it is your job to make him the best he can be.”

Third, is honesty. “You have to be honest with young people. I think it is important to be honest with players. There is no other way.”

Finally comes trust. “Players have to be able to trust you and you need to trust them.”

Holliday said he took the BYU job because he has become very familiar over the years with its success and he’s followed its stars like Steve Young and Ty Detmer.

Then he said something that might be filed in the recruiter folder as a non-BYU guy and outsider coming to Provo.

“I really embrace the core values of the university and the program. I admire that and it comes down to simply asking to do what is right. Some people are anti-honor code, but I think the honor code is just asking people to do what is right and I don’t think that is a religious thing or something we should see as a negative. I just think in today’s society, we just have to get young people to do what is right.”

Holliday says he came to join Mendenhall and Robert Anae because the offense will be up-tempo and throw the ball. “I know those things and I’ve had success doing them and that appealed to me.”

Mendenhall has five new offensive coaches roaming around the practice field this spring. Holliday is one of them, but may be the most intriguing. A man who lost his father early to the Vietnam War, he is part Samoan and very familiar with the African American culture as a player and coach. He’s had experiences as a professional that BYU specifically needs and must have.

“I like it,” he said of his first weeks in Provo.

“I’m having a good time. I love football.”

And in the end, that may be his best qualification.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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