Two factors kept BYU's football team from a perfect season a year ago.
Going undefeated is nearly impossible these days, but it's a lofty chore most experts declare the Cougars must accomplish if they are to make a BCS bid this fall. Sometimes the difference between running the table and a loss or two is a paper-thin line.
Robert Anae wants some things fixed in 2008.
Those items? There are two of them, and he spent the offseason studying and researching them. He's attended camps and seminars and developed a game plan to take care of them. He's chosen not to publicly share the process he has picked to accomplish this with the Cougars' offense, but it will take a step forward today when BYU's players don pads.
So what's he up to? What are the two things he's obsessed with this year?
(1) Blocking. (2) Ball security.
Not necessarily in that order.
In 2007, if the Cougars had held onto the ball at UCLA, they would have won. Despite a shootout and defensive meltdown at Tulsa, if Max Hall hadn't given up the ball, they would have won. The campaign would have ended 13-0.
Blocking? Anae wants a veteran offensive line to protect better, to explode off the ball and run-block more efficiently. He wants tight ends and backs to more fully engage their targets and receivers going down field to be more accomplished in the art of smacking defenders. He wants Hall protected as if he's in Leavenworth.
Ball security? Sometimes tied to blocking, he wants less fumbles and interceptions. It must be cleaned up. The Cougars ran 996 plays last year, had 13 interceptions and lost 13 of 25 fumbles for 26 turnovers, with seven of those miscues (or 27 percent) coming in losses to UCLA and Tulsa. On two picks alone, those two teams had return yardage of 105 yards.
Anae has put it on himself to get that fixed.
"There's nothing more to the game than blocking," said Anae. "If I could be a better coach, improved blocking and ball security are the two things that must get done. I feel I haven't got it done at a higher level since I've been here."
Actually, in 2006, with seniors John Beck, Curtis Brown and Jonny Harline and a decent offensive line, the Cougars' ball security was the best ever. That team had just 9 interceptions and lost 4 of 14 fumbles, a total of 13 turnovers.
Still, when Anae sees BYU had double the turnovers in one year, even with the excuse of breaking in Max Hall and Harvey Unga and getting back Austin Collie and Dennis Pitta from church missions, that factor bugs him.
Now the burden is on their veteran players to produce another conference title and chip away at going undefeated.
Anae isn't looking that far ahead.
After chatting with him on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday practices, Hall had four interceptions when he tried to pass to journeyman receivers.
Nobody can talk of undefeated seasons when they've got housework to do that's so visible.
"My goal is nothing more than that, to secure the football and be a better blocking team," Anae said.
"You can test an offensive coordinator by how well his group blocks and how well they secure the ball.
"Yes, I spent the whole offseason working on it. I don't want to let on to our process, not that it's secret, but I want to keep it inhouse. But yes, we have dug down to prove ourselves as better blockers and better, as a group, in ball security. To me, it's pretty simple, that is offensive football."
So, today the pads go on in Provo, and it isn't a tough, complicated formula as to what a veteran offense will be trying to accomplish.
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