Spring football is now less than a week away as BYU takes the practice field on March 4 for the first day of several weeks of bonus football for the football-starved diehards (admit it, you know you were watching the NFL Combine this past weekend just to get a quick football fix.) Two weeks ago, BYU finalized (finally) the offensive staff by hiring Jason Beck and Guy Holliday to manage the quarterbacks and wide receivers respectively. Since the end of the 2012 season, BYU has hired five new offensive coaches (Robert Anae, Garett Tujague, and Mark Atuaia being the other three.) With BYU taking the field, albeit for only a few “meaningless” weeks, it got me thinking about just how meaningful they can and will be for many of the new faces both on the coaching staff and the roster for this offense as it heads towards Virginia on August 30.
It is no small secret that of the five offensive positions, three of them need serious help.
Since 2010, BYU hasn’t seen any worthwhile play from the tight end position. There have been glimpses of success, but by and large, they have been missing in action. Who will be the next Dennis Pitta?
Fortunately, for BYU fans aching to see a return to a stable of tight ends, Robert Anae is back in town and it isn’t any secret that he’s a fan of the position. The problem he has is finding a worthy recipient of playing time. Kaneakua Friel, Austin Holt, Devin Mahina, Marcus Mathews, and Richard Wilson all have seen playing time in the past two seasons, but none has really stood up. In a perverse sort of way, the tight ends are playing a warped version of “Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?”
There will be three more guys returning for their sophomore seasons to help push this group forward. While I have no idea who it will be, I have no doubt that Anae will have someone in place to be a legit tight end this season.
When you look at the offensive woes last season, most fans will point to Riley Nelson. And you’d be right to do so. But no matter how good a quarterback is, he can’t be as fully productive as he could be if the guys in front of him are letting the defense through with minimal effort. Sure, the line has been plagued with injuries and holes were filled by defensive players, but you just can’t expect to be successful on offense if the five hogs up front aren’t doing their jobs well.
Fortunately, the hiring of Tujague, along with Anae’s help, will considerably improve the unit’s overall success. It also bodes well that BYU signed eight new offensive linemen on signing day – four of which were junior college transfers that can rotate in immediately. I’ve heard thoughts that come August 30, Ryker Mathews will be playing alongside four new linemen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all five are new. Count me among the fans who have not been impressed with the former 4-star recruit in his first season as a Cougar.
No matter how it turns out in 2013, it can’t get much worse can it?
All this talk means absolutely nothing if the quarterback never gets going. There was so much wrong with the QB position these past two seasons, its difficult to find anything positive to say. Jason Beck should provide the stability BYU fans are used to from the quarterback and Anae’s schemes and play-calling will better situate whoever is taking the snaps to be successful.
But who will it be? My bet is squarely on Taysom Hill. He’s a big-time player who brings just the right mix of pass and run to the position to be wildly effective. However, the biggest hindrance will be that knee that needn’t be blown out last season on the last play against Utah State. If he can return to form, the quarterback play will be vastly improved. Anae wants to run a fast-paced, high-tempo offense and I believe Taysom Hill is perfectly suited to manage that game plan.
In the mix to push him and vie for back up rights will be veteran Jason Munns, and relative new-comers Ammon Olsen and Billy Green. All three should provide adequate competition, but if Hill loses this battle, it’s only his fault. Expect to see #4 under center when the Cougars line up in Virginia in August.
The onus for success in 2013 will be the offense’s alone. The defense will continue to be great in 2013, but there is so little chance that they match last year’s productivity that the offense will need to give them a chance to be as successful. To do that, they need to manage long drives and finish with scores.
I know it is only spring and this doesn’t really matter, but to me, its just a small open door into football that has to hold me until August rolls around.