Here’s a glimpse of Grimey’s Ground Zero.
The mission of new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes is to lead BYU’s offense out of the doldrums of the 2017 season. It is not a finished product, but there are signs. He wants passion from all. He wants it led by O-linemen the size of the late Merlin Olsen, who, Jim Murray once said, “went swimming in Loch Ness, and the monster got out.”
In BYU’s final week of spring practice before Saturday’s spring game in LaVell Edwards Stadium, Grimes has definitely accomplished several initial goals. It remains to be seen whether this offense, which primarily goes up against the No. 2 defense, is as explosive as it looks in practice.
On Wednesday, the offense carved the defense. Again, it was a defense composed of many developmental players while key veterans stood on the sideline.
But, if you’re looking for watermarks of this spring with Grimey’s mission
Grimes wanted to create energy: He’s got it.
Grimes wanted accountability: It is there.
Grimes wanted balance: The design is in place.
Grimes wanted misdirection and unpredictability: Getting it installed.
Grimes wanted a physical ornery offensive line to lead his offense: Done.
Grimes wanted the eight QBs he started with to go through a refining fire: Kindling set; the match has been struck. He put them through four full-contact scrimmages where they were fair game. Teeth were rattled, comfort disrupted, film created.
Grimes wanted exactness and precision: You can envision it.
Put Grimes on the stand, hand on the Bible, and ask, “Have you got BYU there yet?" He’d say under oath that there is a very long way to go.
But he’s leaving evidence that he’s got an evolution in bloom.
Receiver Neil Pau’u put it this way: “I love it. The concepts are definitely difficult, but we like them. I’ve tried to learn them right off the bat, but we are all continuing to try and learn them and grow. We haven’t installed everything completely, but we have the majority of it installed. Once we get it all in, it will be fun to see what the defense does with the offense we’ve installed.”
His brother, middle linebacker Butch, a defensive leader, said the offense has made a statement so far.
“You walk into the room, and there’s a silence. You can see the amount of respect they have developed in coach Grimes and the whole offensive staff. I’m excited when their offensive line is pancaking our linebackers. They are not only having fun but doing what they love and are believing in the scheme.
“It’s tough because sometimes you have a free offensive lineman come up and not even have to worry about a defensive tackle, because they know another boy is going to take care of it. They come up to us linebackers, and we say, ‘Well, we have to get to the ball, but it is going to be hard to get to the ball when we have to take on this guy first.’ It’s fun to watch them grow as a group.”
Head coach Kalani Sitake explained why he’s had live contact on his quarterbacks, a protected class for decades on BYU practice fields.
“We just need to see them in this kind of environment,” said Sitake. “It’s easy to play football when the quarterbacks have all the time in the world and the only punch they get is a tap on the shoulder pads. Now the guys get hit, and they have to be aware of the timing of the throws.”
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson, who was decked on a blindside hit by freshman defensive end Devin Kaufusi Wednesday likes what he got recruited to. Even though Wilson said he loves the spread formation, he sees value in a pro-style philosophy and the QB taking hikes right behind the center.
“I think the play action kills defenses. If that’s what our offense wants to do and we’re good at it, I’m totally cool with it.”
And thoughts on offense? Said Wilson, “I love it. I think we are so multiple, and a confusing team. We can do so many things I think it will be tough for defenses to pick up.”
Both linemen and running backs have spoken all spring of the emphasis on details and precision with steps, targets, technique and ball security.
That exactness to detail by Grimes may be best explained by tight end coach Steve Clark when asked whether 6-foot-4, 214 pound Neil Pau’u could be moved from receiver to tight end after freshman Joe Tukuafu broke his hand.
“We talked about it a little bit last year,” said Clark. “Tight ends in this offense have to be 235 pounds. That is the least they can be. Right now, Neil obviously could do the pass-catching part of it, but the blocking would be a little hard.
“Sometimes we’re using tight ends as a third tackle. That’s perfect for Joe (6-4, 275), perfect for JJ Nwigwe (6-5, 260), and it’s good for Matt Bushman (6-5, 240). But Matt has had to put on weight. Coach Grimes is constantly on Matt to put on weight. We get weight reports every day and they hear about it if they are down. Joe had to hear about it if he was up. So there’s kind of a very fine characteristic coach Grimes wants in tight ends.”
In other words, Neil Pau’u isn’t being drafted by Clark unless he eats and lifts his way into a role.
So, this work in progress will come to an end next Saturday in the spring game. Grimes is even counting kilograms.
It’s an interesting transformation. It’s just 15 practices.
And it’s a long way to Arizona and Grimey’s Tucson road show.