PROVO The Provo Bulldogs were such a young and inexperienced team last season that they have to be considered an experienced team this season, even though they'll still be playing a lot of underclassmen.
What could neutralize some of that experience, however, are the changes the Bulldogs are going through. Sia Pope, a longtime assistant, takes over as head coach. He's added former BYU lineman Larry Moeaki as the offensive coordinator. Randy Coy, a former coach in Colorado and assistant at Timpanogos, will be the defensive coordinator.
"I'm going to let these coaches coach and I feel like I have ones who know what they are doing," Pope said.
Moeaki is the specialist who will help the Bulldogs convert to a spread offense.
"He really knows his stuff about the spread offense. That's right down his alley," Pope said.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs have a lot of offensive stars who could blossom in the more open field. Matt Griner, a junior, is returning at quarterback and most of his weapons running back Kyler Hamilton and receiver Anthony Miles are back as well. Pope wants to get the football to his playmakers in a more open field, which is a sharp contrast to the option game the Bulldogs used the past few seasons.
"I really like our offense. It's going to give us a chance to win some games. I strongly believe that to be successful and to make the playoffs, you have to be able to run and pass the ball both equally effective. So we'll just have to see how we respond once we start playing games," Pope said.
Defense is where the Bulldogs will have to survive early on. Unfortunately, it's also an area where Provo doesn't have a lot of depth. But they did get some significant help when linebacker brothers Sebastian Na'Oupu and Monte Na'Oupu transferred in from Payson.
Pope has spent just as much time this summer on instilling team unity in his players as he has on the X's and O's. His simple philosophy is to embrace and serve the kids, and try to get them to embrace and serve each other"It's just high school football," Pope said. "The kids need to enjoy the game. And once they enjoy the game, they'll work harder and come together, be united and play for each other."
Provo Bulldogs 2008 prep football preview
COACH: For seven seasons he coached Provo's offensive and defensive lines. Now, Sia Pope is getting his chance to call the shots. The Provo High graduate himself replaces Clint Christiansen, who coached the Bulldogs for three seasons. Pope also teaches behavioral disorder classes at Provo High.
KEY PLAYERS: The Bulldogs are hoping the young players who started on offense last season will help them in the transition to the spread offense. Returning at quarterback is junior Matt Griner, who did a pretty good job last season of both running and passing the football. His main target will be senior Anthony Miles, who was the team's top threat last year prior to a season-ending arm injury. Junior tight-end Josh Roberts should also have some balls thrown his way. Kyler Hamilton, son of former BYU star Wayman Hamilton, will get most of the carries. Likio Pope, at 6-foot and 260 pounds, will anchor the line on both sides. The linebacker corps will include Monte Na'Oupu and Sebastian Na'Oupu. Also expected to play on both sides of the ball are Rex Saito, Andrew Yapias and Marcus Payne.
STRENGTHS: Almost all of the Bulldogs skill-position players saw action last season, which makes the team somewhat experienced. With a new coach and new coaching staff, the players are also full of energy and excited to prove they can be better than last season and return to the playoffs.
QUESTION MARK: The Bulldogs are not big, but are not small either. They also only have average team speed. Depth is the biggest question. With so many players lining up on both sides of the ball they can't afford to lose any key players to injury, and they might be susceptible to wearing down late in games. "We have a lot of kids who came out this year, but we have a lot who haven't played football before," coach Pope said.
LAST YEAR: 2-7 overall record, sixth in region and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
PREDICTED REGION 2 FINISH: Seventh
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: If the Bulldogs can stay healthy they have a shot at getting one of the league's four playoff spots, but most likely they're one year away from being a postseason team.
Aug. 22at American Fork, 7 p.m.
Aug. 28PLEASANT GROVE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5at Lehi, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12at Springville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19OREM, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26PAYSON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3at Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9at Mountain Crest, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15TOOELE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24at Timpview, 7 p.m.