PROVO — Perhaps there's nobody better to lead BYU's offense into Southeastern Conference country than Brandon Doman.
A decade ago, Doman, as a Cougar quarterback, guided BYU to its only victory over an SEC team, at Mississippi State.
Now, he'll make his debut as the Cougars' offensive coordinator in Saturday's season-opener at Ole Miss (2:45 p.m. MT, ESPN).
"I wish we could get on the bus right now and get on the plane," Doman said. "We've been at this for a while and our guys are chomping at the bit. So am I. There are a few things that we need to iron out, but for the most part, I think we're ready to go and get down there."
Doman admits he's nervous for this first game and that his hair is graying at an alarming rate. Occasionally, coach Bronco Mendenhall will walk past his office and say, facetiously, "No pressure."
"I don't know if it's nerves or just anxiousness," Doman said. "I'm really excited and want to make sure that the plan we have in place is the right plan and that we hit a home run. For any new coordinator, I'm sure there will always be nerves for the first game, which I have."
Cougar players say they have the utmost confidence in Doman and his ability to call the right plays.
"Anybody in his position is going to feel pressure," said running back JJ Di Luigi. "He breeds confidence and he's a confident guy. He knows what he's going to do and he believes in us. I think we're all going to get it done."
"It's pure excitement," quarterback Jake Heaps said of playing for the Doman-led offense. "We've worked extremely hard and we've progressed so much over this fall camp. That's really where you get a feel for what kind of football team you're going to have. What we saw in fall camp, I don't think there's any reason not to be excited."
Doman has been trying to bring back a more traditional BYU offense, complete with huddles, the quarterback taking more snaps under center, and more play-action.
"They're trying to set us up where our talent will be maximized," Di Luigi said. "And we're throwing in play-action more and different runs and formations that people haven't seen so far. It's just a lot more balanced offense. But it's harder to pick up on. It's not so predictable."
Last year, BYU scored 60 points in its first four games. In their final game, the Cougars exploded for 52 points in a bowl victory over UTEP.
Can the BYU offense be productive right away this season?
"Definitely," said offensive lineman Braden Hansen. "From last year first game to this year first game, there have been big improvements. Last year we ended and it didn't feel like we had to re-start the offense. It felt like we kept going, building on our last five games. Where we're at now, we're really excited and we feel like we're in a really good place."
"We're executing at a higher level that we were last year. In the run game, we're more efficient," Di Luigi said. "In the pass game, we're more efficient in terms of catches-to-drops ratio. We need to bring that confidence and execution into every game we go into. I think we will be a great offense if we do that."
Heaps knows that for the offense to succeed, every player needs to do his part.
"It's really up to each individual person to make sure that they do everything they can to be ready," he said. "I'm walking around every on campus with this (play) script in my hand. I've got to know this like it's the back of my hand. I've got to be able to go out there and give my best to my football team. It's one of those things that it's on an individual basis. You just hope that everybody on your team wants it as bad as you do. I'm confident that they do and I know they'll show up."
How will Doman judge success on Saturday?
"I want us to go down there and play really good like we have all fall camp. I want to see us execute just like we've practiced," Doman said. "I want to see us complete footballs. I want to see our kids try as hard as they can within the scheme that we have. I think the scheme is good enough to get a win. Now, the kids are going to have to execute it and play really hard. We might have to have some luck along the way. This is a great challenge and a great opportunity. I think our kids are really excited that we get to go down to Ole Miss and play against a pretty storied football program in their stadium. It will be fun. I think we're ready."
Cougars on the air
BYU (0-0) at Ole Miss (0-0)
Saturday, 2:45 MT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company