PROVO Unlike last year's Timpview football team, a team that had no kinks in its armour whatsoever, this year's Thunderbirds squad has a few holes to fill and a few questions to answer.
Mainly, the T-Birds lost a good share of their offensive starters and most of their weapons. Several players are fighting for time at quarterback, running back and receiver. The good side of that problem is it's probably going to make Timpview's attack a lot more balanced and a little more difficult for opponents to figure out.
"We feel like we're going to be able to spread the ball around more," coach Louis Wong said. "We don't really have that one breakaway guy like we did last year with Mark Ercanbrack, but we have some big receivers who are big targets who can also block pretty well. Having receivers who can block is a big part of what we do offensively."
This year's offensive line is also nowhere near as deep as the one Timpview used to plow over opponents last season. With the likely season-ending shoulder injury to Tui Crighton, the T-Birds have only star D-1 recruit Xavier Su'afilo back. Still, the T-Birds expect to mold the new guys into another outstanding blocking crew.
"It will take this line some time to find its groove. But if they do things like we have the past few years, they're going to be very good," Wong said.
Regardless of whether the offense develops in a strong attack or not, Timpview's defense has been the staple of this team for the past several years. That should again be the case this season. If the schemes that Wong uses to confuse opposing offenses are not enough, the speed and athleticism of his defenders should be.
With BYU-bound Bronson Kaufusi and top-notch Nick Mitchell leading the way, the T-Birds will again have a ferocious pass rush. When opposing quarterbacks do get off a pass they'll then have to worry about returning safeties Chris Badger and Craig Bills. Timpview's linebacker crew will again be very difficult to run against.
"Flat out, our guys can run. They're quick to the ball and they are explosive," Wong said.
Despite the questions marks, the T-Birds are again the team to beat in Region 7 and favorites to win a third-straight 4A state title. But the path might be a little more challenging this time around."We might struggle early, but as time goes on I think we'll turn out to be a pretty good team," Wong said. "Our key is to stay healthy. We can't have someone going down. If we don't have guys getting hurt, we have the ability to do what we want to do."
Timpview T-Birds 2008 Season Preview
COACH: It seems like Louis Wong has been around Timpview forever, but this will only be his fourth season as head coach. However, the former Hawaii prep star, BYU Cougar and NFL lineman did get plenty of mentoring in eight seasons as the assistant to former head coach Chad Van Orden.
KEY PLAYERS: The Thunderbirds are replacing several players at the skill positions, including quarterback. It appears that senior Casey Rumsey is the leading candidate for the job. Levi Te'o returns at running back and should be a workhorse this season. Providing the protection and opening holes will be Xavier Su'afilo, Collin McGuire and Tyson Tiatia. Most likely, returner Travis Van Leeuwen will be the team's most-dangerous target on the outside. For the most part the T-Birds are stronger on defense, where they'll be lead by safeties Craig Bills and Chris Badger. Kevin Mitchell, Bronson Kaufusi and Kalvin Cusick will provide the pass rush. Linebackers Jason Whittingham, Ofa Latu and Blake McKenzie will be the run stoppers.
STRENGTHS: Once again this a very strong defensive team. The T-Birds are quick, strong and very athletic at every position. They probably have the top pass defense in the state. No team in 4A has as much confidence or higher expectations than this squad. The T-Birds once again will be very strong on special teams.
QUESTION MARKS: Believe it or not, this might be the thinnest in depth the T-Birds' line has been for a few years especially after losing D-1 recruit Tui Crighton to a shoulder injury. Depth at the skill positions could also be a question. Most likely it will take Timpview a game or two to iron out some offensive quirks before all of the new players figure out their roles.
LAST YEAR: 13-0, Region 7 champions and state 4A champions.
PREDICTED REGION 6 FINISH: First.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: There is no doubt the T-Birds will be in the playoffs. In fact, it would be stunning if they didn't at least make it to the Final Four. Most feel the T-Birds will win their third straight state title.
Aug. 22 at Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.
Aug. 29 SPANISH FORK, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Lone Peak, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 Bye
Sept. 19 at Payson, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 MOUNTAIN VIEW, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Tooele, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Orem, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 SPRINGVILLE, 7 p.m.Oct. 24 PROVO, 7 p.m.