Mike Terry , Deseret News
Robert Anae

PROVO — BYU's anticipated offensive coaching shakeup has begun.

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae announced his resignation Thursday, which means the Cougars will enter independence next fall with a new offensive play-caller. According to the school, Anae "will pursue other opportunities," ending his six-year tenure as BYU's offensive coordinator.

"I have decided to resign at BYU and look forward to taking on the next chapter in my life and career," Anae said in a statement. "I want to express my gratitude to this university and to Coach Mendenhall for the opportunity I have had to coach at my alma mater and all we were able to accomplish over the past six seasons."

"I have tremendous respect for Robert Anae," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Robert is extremely loyal and trustworthy and a man of principle, faith and character. I appreciate all he has done for our program and for me personally the past six years. I consider him a dear friend."

Last week, the Deseret News reported that Mendenhall met with the five offensive coaches on the staff — Anae, assistant head coach/running backs coach Lance Reynolds, quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman, offensive line coach Mark Weber and receivers coach Patrick Higgins — and told them to aggressively seek other employment.

There is speculation that Anae could join the new staff at Maryland. Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who worked with Anae in Lubbock from 2000-2004, reportedly has been interviewed by Maryland's search committee. Leach appears to be Maryland's No. 1 choice to replace Ralph Friedgen, who coached his final game with the Terrapins Wednesday in a 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl.

Doman is considered to be among the leading candidates to replace Anae as offensive coordinator. In the days leading up to BYU's 52-24 rout of UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, Mendenhall was asked about Doman's performance in his role as quarterbacks coach.

"I think Brandon is the best quarterbacks coach in the country," Mendenhall replied. Doman was instrumental in the development of quarterbacks John Beck and Max Hall, who led the Cougars to conference championships and are now in the NFL. This past season, Doman tutored true freshman Jake Heaps.

At the beginning of the 2010 season, the BYU coaching staff opted to play two quarterbacks, Riley Nelson and Heaps, and as a result the offense lacked consistency, cohesion and production. After the bowl game, Mendenhall blamed himself for the "mishandling" of the quarterback situation.

Anae served not only as the offensive coordinator, but also as the Cougars' inside receivers coach. Under Anae, BYU tight ends Johnny Harline and Dennis Pitta earned All-Mountain West Conference accolades six times. Harline was a first-team All-American in 2006 and Pitta was a consensus All-American in 2009.

During Anae's six seasons as offensive coordinator, BYU earned top-25 NCAA offensive statistical rankings 28 times. The Cougars were ranked in the top 25 in third-down efficiency in each of Anae's six seasons, including a No. 1 ranking in 2009. BYU was No. 2 in the country in that category in 2006 and 2008. The Cougars achieved a top-6 passing ranking three times — in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

As an assistant, Anae played a big role in one of BYU's most successful stretches in school history — four consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins from 2006-2009. As a player, Anae was also part of the Cougar team that won the national championship in 1984. He played on BYU's offensive line from 1981-84 and earned second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors in 1984.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com