Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
PROVO — Robert Anae, taskmaster and media teaser.
Quarterbacks may have completed long and short passes and running backs got in some good catches and runs in BYU’s spring football game Saturday, but Cougar offensive coordinator Anae refused to cut his players any quarter. They could do much better.
A mercenary rehired by Bronco Mendenhall to bring toughness and fast-play to the Cougar offense, Anae had out his whip on the sidelines and his game face on when he talked to the media after the Blue-White affair.
“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of playing fast and playing hard. So, whatever you write in your goofy columns, write that, we’ve got a long way to go to the point where I’m satisfied with how fast we play and how hard we play,” said Anae.
But coach, Ammon Olsen, Christian Stewart and Tanner Mangum looked pretty good throwing passes. Mangum went 8 for 8 and the offense scored 30.
Doesn’t matter. Anae expects more. The only praise he would offer is that the offense protected the football and had only one turnover.
That he didn’t have QB Taysom Hill or receiver Cody Hoffman or other key players on the field didn’t matter in his assessment that things were too slow.
“You have to put this into perspective,” said Anae. n“The defense was resting their studs, so don’t blow this out of proportion. It wasn’t that great and it wasn’t that bad.”
And that is true.
You can’t judge a football team by a staged, heavily managed, carefully orchestrated spring game where key players are protected. “When our defense straps it on, it is on. Write that in your column,” said Anae.
But as more than 12,000 fans gathered in LaVell Edwards Stadium, the crowd did get a first glimpse at what Anae is trying to do with BYU’s offense in the post-Riley Nelson era. He expects quick hikes and players giving it up 110 percent mentally and physically.
Interesting enough, BYU’s offense, the main focus of spring drills with an entire new staff, did operate fast. I put a stopwatch on the first four possessions of the game. After officials placed the ball down for play, Cougar centers hiked the ball as quick as four seconds. Sometimes it took as long as 12, but the average was about 8 seconds.
I asked Anae if he had a goal to reach in how fast he wanted a play run. “A lot faster than we did today.”
A series with Snow College transfer QB Christian Stewart had plays that went off in 4.8, 4.0, 5.7, 7.5, 9.1, 9.4, 7.0, 5.4, 6.0, 5.4 and 12.7 seconds after the ball was down.
Not quick enough. In Anae’s world, people were not ready, set or doing it fast enough.
Much of this is on the offensive line. Some may be on receivers and backs getting set. And although BYU’s makeshift offensive line looked manageable against BYU’s stud-less defense, a BYU defensive coach said one must remember the Cougars will bring in eight linemen between now and fall camp.
“A lot of work to do,” said Anae. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
Outside linebacker coach Kelly Poppinga said the Blue-White game doesn’t define who BYU is. The team had never been in a stadium, game-like atmosphere through 12 sessions this spring, and there were issues that cropped up just because of the setting.
Poppinga, who looks at the offense from a defensive perspective every day on film and the practice field, says he has seen big strides in Anae’s goals this spring.
“They are doing an incredible job just by culture and mindset,” said Poppinga.
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