Fear not, BYU football fans, the pass is not a thing of the past.
Insert your favorite slogan from one of the major airlines and it pretty much sums up the Cougars' long-running offensive philosophy. These guys love to fly and it shows. There's something special in the air. All aboard the friendly skies.Ok, you get the point.
The bottom line is that all preseason evidence points to BYU once again filling the air with footballs.
Exhibit A: Incumbent Cougar quarterback Kevin Feterik.
"We're going to throw it this year - definitely," Feterik said. "That's what I've been working on. We put in new formations with four wide receivers and everything. So we'll be back to throwing."
BYU's famed quarterback factory has been retooled with two experienced passers and a stable of talented wide receivers. A far cry from 1997, when injuries decimated the Cougars. BYU went 6-5 after scoring more touchdowns rushing (16) than passing (15).
Exhibit B: Cougar coach LaVell Edwards.
"Last year we got into a vein where we weren't throwing the ball much simply because we weren't very effective at it," Edwards said. "We thought maybe we could win some games playing good defense and maybe a little bit more ball control or whatever. Then it backfired on us and we lost a couple of close ones."
BYU attempted 36 fewer passes as a team last season than Ty Det-mer completed during his Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 1990.
"It just didn't work out for us," Edwards added. "We never changed any philosophy about whether we could throw the ball or not. Our approach is the same as its always been."
Feterik agreed. He blamed last year's deviation on injuries. In scrambling to find healthy bodies, the Cougars used three different quarterbacks and 13 receivers.
Exhibit C: Sophomore quarterback Drew Miller.
"We're definitely going to have the weapons to throw the ball more," Miller said. "We'll wait and see. It's going to be a fun season, real exciting.
"What I'm more excited about than anything else is that we're going to get that fire back inside of everybody and start playing with more emotion and with a lot of intensity," he added.
"Injuries did hurt us (last season), but I also think that we were pretty inexperienced," said Miller, who planned to redshirt in 1997 before being pressed into duty in the fifth game. He eventually became the first true freshman quarterback ever to start for BYU. "With everybody getting that extra year of experience and returning a lot of guys, we're going to be so much better off."
Exhibit D: Cougar All-American offensive lineman candidate John Tait thinks having a versatile performer like Ronney Jenkins - an impressive combination of ability and sprinter speed - in the backfield can only help the air attack.
"Being able to run the ball as well as going back a little more to the pass is great," Tait said. "We have certain plays where Ronney is going to be all over the field in a lot of situations."
And though junior college All-American Jonathan Pittman and fellow transfer Eugene Childs failed to make the grade academically (both will likely enroll at BYU in January), the Cougars still have depth, albeit young, at receiver. Senior Aaron Roderick is the only returning starter on a cast that includes sophomores Margin Hooks and Ben Horton; Snow College product David Steel; junior Cliff Doman and freshmen Soren Halladay, Mike Rigell and Michael Westbrook. The latter two were high school teammates of Miller.
"From all that we'll find a good crew of receivers," Edwards said.
The renewed emphasis on passing is catching on.
"If we execute it's going to be very hard to stop us. I have no worries. We'll be OK," Hooks said. "Now it's a little quiet, but give it a couple of days and a couple practices. It'll be back to normal."
The Cougars' air attack, it seems, is back in business. Edwards, however, insists BYU's approach never changed. A combination of inexperience and injuries only made it seem that way.
"We never shifted away," Edwards said. `We just did what we had to do to get the most out of our team."
Y. to scrimmage
BYU's first fall scrimmage is set for 10 a.m. today at the practice field, with the public invited to attend. The Cougars began practicing one week ago in preparation for their Sept. 5 opener at Alabama.