Dick Harmon: BYU's acid test arrives Aug. 31, but Robert Anae's 'go fast, go hard' offense shows promise

Published: Monday, Aug. 19 2013 5:55 p.m. MDT

Robert Anae talks to the offensive players after the BYU Blue and White football game at BYU in Provo on Saturday, March 30, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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PROVO — This is the Robert Anae ticker.

It's been eight months since his January hire, six months since the start of spring practices, three weeks into fall camp and 13 days before the 2013 season opener.

How successful has Anae’s return to BYU as offensive coordinator been so far? And how do you measure that when the Cougars have yet to open the season on the road against Virginia?

Well, you have to look at what he sold as his vision, grade how he’s implemented it and gauge progress in both tangible and intangible ways.

First, the idea.

Anae sold head coach Bronco Mendenhall on a vision of having a "go fast, go hard" offense, tailored after his experience at Arizona. Many questioned if he had the personnel to do it. He responded to that by saying that the most important things in pulling the offense off were the effort, hard work and increased tempo of his players. If they bought in, Anae argued, he could pull it off.

Today, to a man, BYU offensive players are sold on the product. They embraced it in spring, kept it rolling in summer, and came to fall camp ready to implement it. Frankly, it opened a lot of eyes of players and staff members, especially the head coach. It seems to have piqued the interest of recruits, as shown in the signing of Oregon offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley and the summer commitment of four-star JC recruit Nick Kurtz, a 6-foot-6 speedy receiver from Grossmont (Calif.) Community College.

Second, the progress.

We don’t have a game to weigh BYU's progress, only eyewitness accounts, testimony of players from closed practices, explanations from coaches and 11-on-11 statistics.

What we’ve learned is Anae’s offense, as designed, has stressed out BYU’s defense. It has pushed what was in 2012 the nation’s No. 3 defense to exhaustion. It has also forced Mendenhall to rethink every aspect of daily practice to protect secondary players who have been impacted by depth issues and injuries. Mendenhall has made the squad take more respites for regeneration.

Monday, Mendenhall had officials at practice and noticed that the refs actually slowed down BYU’s offense. He told reporters he might have to do some politicking with officials, citing how former Oregon coach Chip Kelly got 17 of them fired in his tenure as Ducks coach. Pace is that important.

Anae said he’s done putting in new stuff. Now, he says, is time to polish and perfect. “We’ve taken more steps forward than backwards,” he said of his offensive line.

The biggest tick upward might be that O-line. Given that they were a pretty banged up, sorry unit a year ago, it was huge that Anae recruited and signed eight linemen last February. Now he has fodder — more clay to mold, more bodies, more competition and more choices. The second biggest takeaway is how good and deep the receiver corps appears, led by senior Cody Hoffman. To coin that PGA commercial phrase, "These guys are good."

I asked new receiver coach Guy Holliday if the offense is working the way the staff thought it would when coaches all drew it up in January.

He gave a very interesting response.

“Without a doubt,” he said, “Robert is great at this "go fast, go hard." He’s very open and we have a great working relationship, so as we grow the passing game, I’m very happy and extremely pleased with how things have gone. I don’t plan on leaving BYU, but I tell you what, if I was an offensive coordinator I would take this offense because it has so many options you have to account for.”

And what are those options that seem to work so well?

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