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BYU football: Cougar offense has plenty of options

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 8:06 a.m. MDT

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall works with the Cougar defense during BYU football practice on Monday.      (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Head coach Bronco Mendenhall works with the Cougar defense during BYU football practice on Monday. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO — It's first down, and first-year BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman has a decision to make.

Does he call for quarterback Jake Heaps to throw it deep to one of his tall wide receivers, Ross Apo or Cody Hoffman?

Or does he call play-action and have Heaps look for speedy McKay Jacobson? Or connect with one of the tight ends — Austin Holt, Marcus Mathews, Richard Wilson or Devin Mahina? Does he put running back JJ Di Luigi in the slot? Or call for a handoff to Joshua Quezada or Bryan Kariya and let them barrel through holes created by the Cougars' big, physical offensive line?

Decisions, decisions.

As Doman game plans this season, he'll be something like a mad scientist, armed with plenty of options, trying to concoct ways to humble opposing defenses.

BYU Football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU Football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"The goal of coach Doman this year will be to figure out which weapons to use and what time," said left tackle Matt Reynolds. "We have them all over the field. We've got depth all over the field. To have that much of an arsenal at his disposal is a huge advantage for him."

Notwithstanding the offense's lackluster performance during practice Monday morning, Doman has unveiled glimpses of the Cougar offense's unlimited potential during fall camp.

"It's really scary for opposing defenses to look at our offense," said Heaps. "Then you add on top of that we can bring JJ in any spot on the field. We're so versatile with our offense that we're coming out there with different formations and motions and shifts. What we're trying to do is make the defense think and make them react to what we're doing. When they have to think, that's when we're able to capitalize on mistakes. It's fun to be in this offense and I'm so happy that coach Doman is our offensive coordinator. Our guys are flourishing."

BYU Football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU Football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Since taking over as offensive coordinator, Doman has shown a propensity for being both aggressive and unpredictable. For instance, on the first play from scrimmage during last Saturday's scrimmage, Heaps aired out a long pass for Apo, which resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty.

At the same time, Doman wants the offense to be balanced, with a blend of run and pass, in order to keep defenses guessing.

"I just like the style of play," coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Doman's play-calling. "I like the run and play-action mix with the chance to spread out and throw the football. We're very versatile and we have the weapons. I'm impressed with the talent we have to pull off the balance that we have."

"We have a lot of great players and great options," said Kariya. "We're not a one-dimensional team. We have a number of different things we can attack with and that's promising."

Receiver Matt Marshall watches the ball into his hands during BYU football practice on Monday. Marshall is one of a stable of receivers who will be options for QB Jake Heaps. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Receiver Matt Marshall watches the ball into his hands during BYU football practice on Monday. Marshall is one of a stable of receivers who will be options for QB Jake Heaps. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

In an unorthodox move, Doman has decided to call plays from the sideline on game day, even though the vast majority of offensive coordinators work from the press box.

"We have a couple of new coaches on staff that haven't been on the sideline with us before," Doman explained. "Our quarterback's still very young. And I think we have the best press box coach in America in (tight ends coach) Lance Reynolds. He's really good at it. He provides me with the exact right information at the right moment. He's savvy. The combination of him up there and providing the information, and the stability that I can provide for the quarterback on the sideline has a chance to be a really good combination."

BYU's offense started slowly last fall, due to a two-quarterback system, inexperience at many key positions, and a difficult early season schedule. The Cougars averaged a mere 16 points per game through the first eight contests. But over the final five games, BYU roared to life, averaging 42 points, including a 52-point outburst in the New Mexico Bowl against UTEP.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman talks with quarterback Jake Heaps during practice.     (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman talks with quarterback Jake Heaps during practice. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Can the Cougars continue their momentum when they travel to Ole Miss for the season-opener on Sept. 3, then visit Texas the following week?

"One of the positive things we have going for us is we have guys with experience from last season. We definitely have a lot of confidence from last season," Kariya said. "We have a really tough opening schedule and we're playing a lot of great teams. It's great to win every game by 30 or 40 points. I don't know if that's going to be the case; hopefully it will. But we're preparing as well as we can right now to ensure that type of success. We are focused on making sure we can make plays and establish ourselves as a powerful and strong offense this season."

How good can BYU's offense be with Doman at the controls, and with so many weapons?

Linebacker #1 Jordan Pendleton works out in a spin move drill during BYU football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Linebacker #1 Jordan Pendleton works out in a spin move drill during BYU football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"We've got to bring it together and we all have to put time in the film room and make sure we know our assignments," said center Terence Brown. "Our position mastery has got to be exact. That's what we need to do. The talent's there. The sky's the limit."

BYU camp report

DAY 8: The Cougars held two practices Monday, a morning session and an afternoon session. The afternoon practice was closed to the media.

STANDOUTS: BYU's defense bounced back in a big way Monday morning after a less-than-stellar performance in Saturday's scrimmage. The Cougar 'D' did not allow the offense a single first down in five series. Ezekial Ansah and Jameson Frazier both recorded sacks while Kyle Van Noy stopped running back Joshua Quezada four yards behind the line of scrimmage.

BYU Football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU Football practice Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

INJURIES: Free safety Travis Uale was sidelined Monday with sore ribs.

NEXT UP: BYU returns to practice Tuesday with a morning practice (10:15) that's open to the public.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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