PROVO — BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and head coach Bronco Mendenhall covered a wide range of topics during BYU's State of the Program address Wednesday. From scheduling to the health of key players, here's what they talked about at a glance.
Remembering Tommy Hudspeth
BYU paid tribute to former head coach Tommy Hudspeth during BYU's State of the Program section of media day. Hudspeth passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 83 from cancer.
"Tommy Hudspeth was a name that most people at BYU should know," Holmoe said. "He was kind of the forerunner with Virgil Carter as a quarterback and they started chucking the ball a little bit up and down the field. LaVell (Edwards) came in under him, and they won the first championship in 1965."
Holmoe also mentioned that there's a big 50-year reunion coming up this season for that 1965 WAC Championship team. Fans can expect more tributes to Hudspeth at that time.
Coach Mendenhall on the state of the team
Mendenhall is as optimistic as ever about the state of his team.
"Man, I love our team. A lot of things have to come together for any one particular team to have a great season," Mendenhall said. "Our quarterback is back and healthy, and he's a senior. That gives you a great chance. A senior running back at the same time is back and healthy. So you have those two pieces together. An offense that scored the most points I think since 2001 comes back basically intact, only missing three players. A defensive tradition with myself back involved to give us our best chance that way."
Comments on the 2015 Schedule
BYU announced the times of two games this season, and both of them are late games. The Cougars will face Boise State Saturday, Sept. 12 at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN2. BYU vs. UConn will take place Friday, Oct. 2 at 10:15 p.m. ET also on ESPN2.
Mendenhall approved of the toughness of the 2015 schedule.
"It's not a time to be safe. It's not a time to be complacent," Mendenhall said. "We're going after anyone who will play us wherever they'll play us on the biggest stages. And we have the team to do it, I think."
"We look at it as an opportunity," Holmoe said. "When you look at what we do this first month, I don't think a team in the country has that opportunity. Now, it's out there for us to take advantage of that."
Mendenhall also highlighted the game vs. Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium In Kansas City, Missouri.
"One of the greatest things about being the coach at BYU is not only do we get to play fantastic teams, and we're designing to do that, but where we play," Mendenhall said. "Our players still talk about playing in Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) for the first college game."
Bowl tie-ins for 2015
Holmoe clarified BYU's bowl situation for 2015 with both the Las Vegas Bowl and the Hawaii Bowl.
"It's based on our relationship with ESPN," Holmoe said. "They'll look and see how the season progresses, and ESPN will do their very best to put the best matchups together."
Of course, there's a chance BYU could play arch-rival Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl.
"That would be amazing," Mendenhall said.
BYU schedules a home-and-home with Toledo
BYU announced a home-and-home series with Toledo of the Mid-American Conference. The Rockets will visit LaVell Edwards Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, while the Cougars will make a return trip to Toledo Sept. 28, 2019. This will be the first meeting between these two teams.
"We are very pleased to add the series with BYU to our football schedule," Toledo vice president and athletic director Mike O'Brien said in an official press release.
With the addition of Toledo, BYU now has 11 games on the 2016 schedule. The last game to schedule will probably come against a lower-division opponent.
On scheduling Power 5 teams
BYU will face six Power 5 schools in 2016: Arizona, Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, Michigan State and Mississippi State.
"Again, it's not a time to be complacent or to wait around," Mendenhall said about the 2016 schedule. "We're going after anyone who will play us from any conference at any place."
Holmoe elaborated on the difficulties of scheduling schools from Power 5 conferences.
"It's really difficult to get the P5 schools to get out of their conference late in October or November and come play on the road," Holmoe said. "I think our fans would love to see us play them in September maybe through a murder's row than not play them at all."
Holmoe also talked about the decision of the ACC and the SEC to include BYU as a Power 5 level opponent.
"It helped a lot," Holmoe said. "There was some talk that they might not be able to schedule games outside of their little group, or big group I should say. We were very fortunate working through the members of those conferences, the coaches, the ADs, the commissioners, to be allowed to get into that and count as games in their schedule."
Holmoe recognized the help of the American Athletic Conference in getting Power 5 team on BYU's schedule.
"The American Athletic Conference has done a great job with us. They got us into that bowl game in Miami," Holmoe said. "They've moved games that have allowed us to get those P5 games."
BYU has 23 games scheduled with Power 5 schools between now and 2019.
Mendenhall's return to the defense
One of the biggest changes this season is Mendenhall's return to running the defense.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae appreciated Mendenhall's help with the offense last season.
"The year he spent with us really helped," Anae said. "It helped develop our offensive staff."
Mendenhall was asked if he would coach defense "the rest of the way," to which he replied, "The rest of the way is a big and broad statement. I think for the current team, the current resources we have and our current personnel it gives us the best chance."
Health updates for Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams
Quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams appear to be on track to play Sept. 5 against Nebraska.
"I feel good," Hill said. "My health is good. I've been fully cleared to do everything. At the end of this week will be the sixth full week with no limitations. My leg has responded really well."
"I'm feeling better than I did when it first happened," Williams said about his knee.
Williams sidestepped the question about if he was ready to play Nebraska if that game was tomorrow, but he did say that he's going to play against the Cornhuskers in the season opener. When asked if he was going to be full speed by then, he simply responded, "Of course I will."
Williams found a great example in recovering with a positive attitude from none other than his teammate Hill.
"Hill is Iron Man," Williams said. "I just wanted to see if I was as strong as he is. I've noticed that I'm starting to get traits of leadership from him. To stay positive, and how to take bad things and keep consistent."
Anae is confident about Williams' return to the field. When asked about how much he'll be able to use Williams coming off a season-ending knee injury last season, Anae said, "100 percent," with no hesitation. "He's a very important part of the offensive scheme."
"With Taysom and Jamaal on the field and in uniform and contributing, our team carries themselves more confidently," Mendenhall said. "Jamaal and Taysom have earned our team's respect because of how they work."
Rave reviews for the strength coach Frank Wintrich
BYU's coaches are happy with new strength coach Frank Wintrich.
"They guys look different. They look better," Anae said. "They got an attitude like there's nothing we haven't done. They've got an attitude like, what do you have, coach?"
"I love the exact partnership we're forming in terms of demand," Mendenhall said. "Coach Wintrich likes players to try hard as well. He likes them to do things exactly he asks them to do it. So what's happening is my job just got a lot easier. The player will have more preparation not only physically, but mentally before they get to us."
"We always want our athletes to train at a high level because we expect them to compete at a high level," Wintrich said. "If we don't define who we are now, somebody else will come Sept. 5."
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.