1.Go-fast, go-hard, part II
The Cougars should be more confident and comfortable in year two of offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s go-fast, go-hard offense.
But will that translate to more touchdowns?
In 2013, BYU was one of the worst teams in the country in red zone touchdown percentage. The Cougars amassed tons of yardage, but inside the 20-yard line, they struggled to punch the ball into the end zone. That will be something to keep an eye on during fall camp.
Quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams (who will miss the season-opener at UConn due to an honor code-related suspension) comprise one of the nation’s top rushing tandems, and Hill has a host of weapons to throw to at the deep and talented wide receiver position.
If the Cougars are going to have the kind of special season they aspire to, they need to turn drives into touchdowns on a consistent basis.
Over the past few seasons, BYU has struggled to provide quarterbacks ample time to throw the ball. Anae is optimistic that the O-line play this season will see vast improvement.
The Cougars have depth and experience on the O-line, considering there are 10 returning linemen that started at least one game a year ago. Of that group, Tuni Kanuch, Manu Mulitalo, Ului Lapuaho and Tejan Koroma are expected to vie for starting jobs. Kanuch, who was injured a year ago, was listed as the starting right guard on the post-spring depth chart.
The veterans include Terrance Alletto, Brayden Kearsley, De'Ondre Wesley, Edward Fusi, Brock Stringham, Kyle Johnson, Michael Yeck, Ryker Mathews, Brad Wilcox and Solomone Kafu.
It should be very competitive at this position, and the depth chart could change day to day.
BYU has benefited from a bevy of talented transfers joining the program, including wide receivers Jordan Leslie (UTEP), Nick Kurtz (Grossmont JC), Devon Blackmon (Riverside CC), and Keanu Nelson (Stanford); and safety Harvey Jackson (Nebraska). Then there's true freshman Trey Dye, who's listed as a running back and impressed through the first two days of camp.
How quickly can they assimilate to the program and make an impact?
Leslie racked up more than 2,000 receiving yards in three seasons with the Miners and is a proven playmaker. Kurtz participated in spring ball, while Blackmon has speed that could open up the field for Hill and the passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars lost three starters at linebacker from a year ago, including second-round NFL draft pick Kyle Van Noy. While Alani Fua and Bronson Kaufusi will start on the outside, three highly touted freshmen — Troy Hinds, Fred Warner and Tyler Cook — are projected to be good enough to play in their first season in the program. Hinds, a Davis High product, recently returned home from an LDS mission while Warner and Cook are right out of high school.
Scott Arellano returns for his senior season at punter, but the placekicking position appears to be somewhat wide open after the graduation of Justin Sorensen.
During spring ball, Vance “Moose” Bingham and Trevor Samson battled for the job, and both showed potential. Bingham had a slight edge heading into fall camp.
Returned missionary Corey Edwards, who prepped at Hurricane High, has joined the battle for fall camp, as has former Oregon State walk-on Andrew Mikkelson.
There’s a possibility that the kicking duties — extra points, kickoffs and field goals — could be divided up. The Cougar coaching staff is looking for reliability and consistency from the kicking game.
Meanwhile, the Cougars are hoping that improved success in the red zone will mean not having to settle for field goal attempts inside the 20-yard line, as was the case a year ago.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall is turning over the task of defensive play calling to defensive coordinator Nick Howell, who’s entering his second season in that position. Mendenhall will still be involved, and could make some crucial calls, but it's Howell's responsibility to be the play caller.
“Nick has been with me for seven years,” Mendenhall said. “We’ve been in every meeting together and he knows exactly how the system runs. I think he’s ready and capable. That’s the plan.”
Don’t expect Howell’s style to vary much from Mendenhall’s, though Howell has said he likes to be aggressive. That means Howell could dial up more blitzes for the Cougar defense in 2014.
BYU is looking for a continuation of strong play from the defense, just like the previous few seasons. Last year, for instance, the Cougars were No. 12 in yards-per-play defense, No. 16 in pass efficiency defense and No. 22 in scoring defense.