Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — The state’s first big blip in the upcoming college football season takes place Wednesday when BYU stages its annual football media day.
It’s a solo stage, unshared by conference affiliates but beefed up by the school's own BYUtv network, BYUtv website, BYU sports information website, campus newspaper website, and KSL and its accompanying website. ESPN, BYU's TV broadcast partner, will also be there. And of course, outside media sources will converge on BYU's campus for the event, too.
The Pac-12, where Utah is a third-year member, will conduct its media day July 26, and the Mountain West Conference and new member Utah State will invite cameras and microphones to Las Vegas from July 22-23.
Unlike conference media days that typically feature the head coach and a couple of players from each team, BYU will have multiple coaches and all kinds of players available. Plus, BYUtv is going live with many portions of featured interviews. This is not only a unique preseason offering, it’s a valuable time for media members to pile up quotes and work angles.
This Cougar football event looks to be the Kyle Van Noy show. The senior linebacker, in absence of top NFL draft pick Ziggy Ansah, will be front and center. You’d imagine offensive coordinator Robert Anae and his entire new staff will also be cornered, as will sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill. Everyone will ask him for the millionth time if his knee is OK, fully recovered, etc.
This BYU team is intriguing. It will take on one of the toughest schedules in school history.
For the first time in memory, not a single member of the offensive staff was around as an assistant coach the year before. Anae and Co. will tweak the traditional BYU offense, fueled by an attempt to play up-tempo and go no-huddle while breaking in a new starting QB and an almost completely revamped offensive line.
In other words, the challenge on offense is daunting.
Defensively, head coach Bronco Mendenhall may ultimately produce a group that is as tough as his third-ranked defense from a season ago. There will be talk of that challenge.
Important bullet items Wednesday surely include the health of senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman after undergoing shoulder surgery; identification of starting offensive linemen, a task that cannot be honestly addressed until mid-August; year two of Jamaal Williams; the health of fellow running back Michael Alisa; and whether Bronson Kaufusi can make the transition from hoops and play like the departed Ansah.
In my opinion, there are a myriad underappreciated offensive and defensive faces on BYU’s roster. Here are two:
- Spencer Hadley, a senior linebacker, is versatile enough to play inside or out. With Van Noy getting the lion’s share of attention, Hadley’s role will loom large outside of laudable stars like safeties Daniel Sorensen, Craig Bills and lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna.
- Ammon Olsen, a sophomore quarterback, is a transfer from SUU. Folks say the backup QB on any team is the most popular guy. As much as I admire the skills and leadership of projected starter Hill, BYU is going nowhere if the Cougars don’t have a well-protected QB in the post John Beck-Max Hall era. It is key to have a great backup that competes, pushes and forces playing time. The strong-armed Olsen is pressing Hill, and the former 5A MVP at Alta is capable.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe met with select media members for a school year-ending Q-and-A session 28 days ago. Questions were plenty. Answers weren't. Some of those items will be revisited.
Here’s a refresher and the odds that the affable and likeable Holmoe will have answers come Wednesday:
- Status of the BYU-Utah series: The series will take a hiatus in 2014 and 2015. Back on May 29, Holmoe couldn’t give an update; there is no schedule for him to sit down and iron out a new contract with Utah AD Chris Hill, but he and Hill have talked. Odds for something new to break by Wednesday: 500 to 1.
- Bowl contract for 2014 and beyond: After this year’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, BYU has no announced bowl pacts. On May 29, Holmoe said talks were underway. Odds for something to break by Wednesday: 8 to 1.
- Mendenhall contract renewal: Negotiations are ongoing and on May 29 Holmoe could only say both parties want it done. Wednesday is the first major media opportunity to make an announcement. The next comes after two-a-days begin and after that the prime “big splash” timing to release something is the week of the opener against Virginia. Odds it breaks Wednesday: 4 to 1. Odds that Holmoe or Mendenhall will discuss any aspect or detail of said contract renewal on Wednesday: 30 to 1.
- A big announcement: Could something really newsworthy be revealed Wednesday? Odds of Mendenhall or Holmoe making a significant announcement of great significance during media day: 5 to 1.
And Mendenhall and Anae are still doing a roll call for the eight offensive line recruits who have never taken a snap in Cougar uniforms but may be critical to the 2013 season.
That, folks, is where the coming season hinges.
And Wednesday everyone will be hard-pressed to talk about this crucial aspect of the football team in any meaningful depth.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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