Monday, April 26, 2010

One Drafted, Three Signed by NFL Teams

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The 2010 NFL draft was disappointing for BYU fans. The one big prospect, Dennis Pitta, "fell" to the fourth round where the Baltimore Ravens selected him. He was the consensus All-American, had an impressive combine, and had been slated to go in the thrid round of many mock drafts. In the end, the stigma that BYU tight ends can't block hurt Pitta. Several tight ends were selected before Pitta, including the Ravens' third round pick Ed Dickson from Oregon. Maybe I should assume that an NFL team that would use two picks in consecutive rounds on tight ends would have a plan to use both of them, but my gut doesn't agree. I would much rather have seen Pitta go somewhere like Indianapolis, which drafted a tight end in round 5. The Colts spread the field and throw the pigskin around. The Ravens have a commitment to the run. Hopefully, Pitta gets a fair shake. That should be all he needs.

BYU fans expected Manase Tonga, who was rated as one of the top fullbacks, to go late, but he had to settle on a free agent deal with Oakland. Oakland is close to his hometown and he will be reunited with former Cougar David Nixon. It would be nice to see Oakland turn things around. If not, Manase can get some valuable experience and maybe move on to another team in a few years.

Two other Cougars have signed free agent deals: Tight End Andrew George and Quarterback Max Hall. George is headed to the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers draft strongly emphasized the passing game. The Panthers don't have a big name tight end, but none of the TEs on the roster are very old. I like George and hope he finds a spot on the roster, and given some time can break into the starting line up.

Max Hall signed with his hometown Arizona Cardinals. That was one team I listed as a possibility for Hall before the draft. I like Hall's chances here to make the team, and with a streak of luck, he may one day start and have a solid career. As of now, the targets that he would get to throw to if he was the starter are Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and Early Doucet. Hard to complain about that situation.

To these four and all the other former Cougars in the NFL, I am hoping for continued football success in 2010. To all former members of the 2009 team, I say thank you for your contributions while at the Y.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Poll Results: When will Dennis Pitta be drafted?

First let me thank everyone for participating in this poll. The voter turnout for this poll was better than every previous poll. Round 3 was the most popular with 47% of the votes, but round 2 was not far behind with 41%. Disappointingly, round 3 of the draft finished last night without Pitta's name being called.

If you haven't voted already, please weigh in on the new poll question, "Will Harvey Unga play for BYU in 2010?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NFL Draft: Top 3 Teams for each Player

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I realize that only the first two will probably be drafted, so for the other two it is more about free agency or just fun, wishful thinking.

Dennis Pitta, TE
1. Indianapolis Colts. Sure the Colts have Dallas Clark, but he is about to turn 31 and going on year nine in the NFL. Pitta would be a great fit for the Colts offense. Pitta’s soft hands will endear him to Peyton Manning very quickly. With both Collie and Pitta, the Colts would convert every third down and score a touchdown every trip to the red zone.

2. Philadelphia Eagles. Andy Reid held on to Chad Lewis for several years and has shown a preference towards BYU players over the years. While the Eagles might resemble the run and shoot more next year with Kevin Kolb, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin, Pitta could still be used in the slot. As Collie demonstrated last year, a 4.6 forty is good enough, and I like the possible match up problems with Pitta’s size.

3. Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll knows what BYU tight ends can do (Daniel Coats, 2003). The Seahawks have no proven tight ends on the roster, so it looks like a team Pitta could come in and not just fight for a spot on the roster, but a spot on the field.

Manase Tonga, FB
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While most NFL teams don’t use the fullback for much more than blocking, Tonga is capable of being much more than a blocking back. Mike Alstott was a feature back in Tampa Bay and he caught a lot of passes out of the backfield, something that Tonga does well.

2. Cleveland Browns. Cincinnati has Fui Vakapuna. Minnesota has Fahu Tahi. The next Midwest team to join the movement and get a BYU fullback will be Cleveland. Mike Holmgren is calling the shots now and, like Reid, he has kept his eye on the Y over the years and jumped on several former Cougars. With just one fullback on the roster the Browns could be in the market to add another.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers run game was down last year, so they might be looking to shake things up in the backfield. They went to the MWC to get UNLV’s Frank Summers a few years back. They went Polynesian with Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala. Will they mix both and pick Tonga?

Jan Jorgensen, DE
1. Denver Broncos. Elvis Dumervil led the NFL in sacks last year. Add Jorgensen on the opposite side and the Broncos could stop anyone from getting to the outside, or past the line of scrimmage.

2. Carolina Panthers. Julius Peppers is gone, so maybe Jorgensen can shock the world and not just make the team, but fill the void left by Peppers.

3. Detroit Lions. The Lions have been so bad the last few years, make that decade, that it might just be wise to clean house on the defensive side. They can pick up the best college defensive players available and let them fight for their roster spot.

Max Hall, QB
1. Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner is gone. Matt Leinart is still a big question mark. The Cardinals do have Derek Anderson now, but his best days are behind him. Don’t forget that this is the hometown team for the Mesa native.

2. Tennessee Titans. The Titans have a strong running game with Chris Johnson, which could help Hall’s chances to be successful in the NFL. Kerry Collins showed last year that it is time to hang it up, for good. Vince Young has been a dual personality, so if the wrong Vince shows up this year Hall could get a chance.

3. Chicago Bears. Chicago is a defensive team. They even won with Rex Grossman at the helm. Jay Cutler was disappointing last season, and with another year like that he could be out of a job. Former Colorado State Ram Caleb Hanie is also on the roster. If he is good enough for the Bears, then I like Max’s chances to take over his roster spot.

The Harvey Unga Bombshell: Delayed Reaction

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The news that Harvey Unga was withdrawing from BYU was so shocking that I thought I would wait and try to take it all in before posting something on it. What follows is basically my thoughts and reaction to everything that I have read on the situation. This may seem disjointed or random, or just hard to follow, but hopefully you will enjoy my point of views.

While BYU football players have been violating the honor code and have been subsequently suspended for a year, Unga’s case is different since he withdrew from school. By withdrawing when he did, it is possible that he can still play his senior year in the fall. I have never heard of a suspension for less than one year for serious honor code violations. Through this incident I have learned that by self reporting his violation and withdrawing from school, Unga can be back as soon as fall semester (having missed spring and summer terms, the equivalence of one semester).

The more I think about it the more I believe that Unga will still play for BYU this fall. The only thing stopping him will be an NFL offer too good to refuse, or an inability to get clearance to be readmitted from the dean of students or an endorsement from his bishop. I think Unga should have already told Bronco Mendenhall, the dean of students, and his bishop that he wants to come back in the fall and put a plan together of how to achieve that. For this to work, all three must be on board. If one of these three is unwilling to let Unga return so soon, he should have already told Unga. This would allow Unga to freely pursue NFL possibilities without worrying if BYU might still be available.

As far as the NFL goes, I would not act desperate and jump on any offer. I would want to go to a team with a track record of successful late round draft choices and free agents. My top choice would be the Washington Redskins. When Mike Shanahan was in Denver, he routinely turned late round running backs into 1,000 yard rushers. If none of the options are appealing, then wait for the draft to come next year. One thing the draft has shown this year is that the NFL isn’t scared of players who did not play during the year before the draft. Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, and Dez Bryant are three examples of players who did not play at all, or very little, in 2009, but their playing status does not appear to have impacted their draft stock. Bradford and Gresham are even coming off of injuries. Unga would be coming in at full strength. He was projected as a late round pick this year, so I am guessing he would go in the late rounds next year if he waits.

As far as passing judgment, I am one that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and assumes the best case scenario. While many people are “putting two and two together” about Unga and Keilani Moeaki, I want to be optimistic and think that maybe the issue is not what everyone thinks it is. Maybe they went out together and drank some alcoholic beverages—nothing more. Maybe they had a class together this semester, and cheated in the class. The honor code can be broken in many ways. Whatever it is, I am more apt to point out that Unga, and Moeaki for that matter, did what most others don’t do. They willingly confessed. Most of the time we learn about honor code violations through the Honor Code office concluding an investigation and handing out a sentence. Each student withdrew from school and cited the honor code as the reason. While they joined an ignominious club by breaking the honor code, they also joined a more exclusive club of those who voluntarily confessed their mistake.

My hope is to see Harvey in BYU blue this fall. Not only because he makes the team better, but because it will make him better. His actions thus far are a sign that he has learned his lesson, and any additional discipline should not be such that would make his life worse. It should reinforce and strengthen what he has learned, not create the opportunity for negative and resentful feelings.

Monday, April 19, 2010

BYU Spring Practice: Burning Questions Go Unanswered

BYU concluded spring practice Saturday, April 10, and most of my burning questions are still flaming.

1. Who will be the starting quarterback?
Coach Bronco Mendenhall appears to be taking to heart President Spencer W. Kimball’s counsel. Either that or freshman Jake Heaps has exceeded the coaching staff’s expectations and has a legitimate chance to start. Heaps was very impressive and has gained a strong following among the fans. Nevertheless, no starter has been named. I don’t know how close the coaches are to naming a starter, but I think they know exactly what they are looking for from each quarterback so that a decision can be made.

2. Will spring be effective for the offensive line?
For the linemen who were healthy and participating, this spring might have been the most effective ever. The reduced numbers allowed them to each get more reps. Famika Anae’s ACL was not pleasant news. There was not spring game, so whether or not this spring was effective will have to be answered as each game is played in the fall. Historically, the o-line is not a troubled spot.

3. Can the wide receivers take the next step?
The attention during spring was so much focused on the quarterbacks and other holes that needed to be filled that the wide receivers were not given much attention. The answer to this question might be best answered by the way Jake Heaps was able to put up such impressive numbers. He completed several long balls to wideouts. What we don’t know is who was defending on those plays. The BYU secondary looks to be one of the best in the MWC this year. Corners Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley are coming off big years. If McKay Jacobson, O’Neill Chambers and company were able to do their damage against the first unit, then the receving corps may be on its way up the ladder.

4. Will the defensive front seven be filled?
It looks like the down linemen have settled in and the starters will be team vets who have considerable experience. Kyle Van Noy and Jameson Frazer made names for themselves at linebacker. The only thing missing is middle linebacker. No one seems to know who will take over in the middle.

As for the rest of the team, the outlook for 2010 looks bright. I like what is happening with the running backs. While BYU has been and will continue to be a pass first offense, the quality and athleticism of the running backs is increasing. The tight end race has become a two man race, which means it is pretty much done. The BYU system always makes use of two tight ends. Devin Mahina and Mike Muehlmann will get the chance to prove themselves on the field and the depth chart can be adjusted accordingly. All in all, even with all the key losses from 2009, I am starting to expect a lot of wins this fall.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poll Results: Who is the most important player/position to replace on defense?

It was unanimous, 100% of voters think Scott Johnson at free safety is the most important player/position for BYU to replace on defense this year.

Don't forget to vote in the new poll: When will Dennis Pitta be drafted?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Practice: Final analysis

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Spring has sprung, the grass has risen, 141 days 'till we are out of prison.

My seventh grade English teacher used this little rhyme to help us count down the days left in the school year. I am using it now to count down the days left before school starts. Actually, I'm counting the days before the 2010 BYU football season kicks off. After the spring that BYU had, these next 141 days will feel like being in prison. Maybe its just the fact that I have never invested as much time as I did this year in following spring practice, but I am ready to go. Even with major losses from last year's team, I am really excited about this team. Matching or exceeding the 11-2 mark from last year might not happen, but this team seems like it could be special in its own way.

On the defensive side, BYU has to replace six in the front seven. I have a lot of confidence that BYU has found quality players to start. That doesn't mean that the defense is taking the step to the next level, and that BYU will start to gain a reputation as a school with a traditionally strong defense. However, I do get the impression that we won't see a drop off on the defensive front. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jameson Frazier turned heads. Add to them returning starter Jordan Pendleton and the linebacking corps is taking shape and could be something special, if not this year then next year. The down linemen have been in the program for years and know what to do and what is expected of them.

The secondary, however, is normally the weak link in BYU's defense. While both corners are coming back, as well as strong safety Andrew Rich, Scott Johnson will not be back. Johnson was the free safety, which is the pivitol position in the BYU defense. He missed one game last year, and the defense fell apart (Florida State). Rich might be moved to free safety. Bronco Mendenhall has said whoever is the second best safety will play, whether that is a free safety or a strong safety will dictate what position Rich plays this year. Even if Rich stays at strong, the overall secondary experience should help compensate for anything that the new free safety lacks in experience.

No one impressed on offense more than Jake Heaps. He has made believers out of players, coaches, and fans. No one doubts that he will be the starter someday, but it is still uncertain if 2010 will be that day. The coaches have done the wise thing and not named a starter, yet. At this point, prolonging the competition will make all three, soon to be four, prospects better. While I like what Heaps has done, I still have some reservations about starting a true freshman. The reservations, however, are calmed somewhat by how well the rest of the offense played this spring.

Heaps was not the only newcomer to shine. Johsua Quezada built his case for immediate playing time. Harvey Unga will still get the lion's share of the carries, but his presence will allow Quezada to develop at his own speed without undue pressure to produce. Bryan Kariya, J.J. Di Luigi, and Mike Hague provide added depth and ability that could give BYU its most potent run game in ten years.

The offensive line should continue to be the unsung heroes that they were last season. The biggest concern will continue to be staying healthy, especially with Famika Anae out for the year.

The wide receivers are a veteran group and will be the new quarterback's second best friends. They will be Mike Muehlmann and Devin Mahina's best friends as these two tight ends work into the offense. They both made plenty of plays during spring, and I expect them to be significant contributors in the fall.

This spring has raised my expectations for the season. This is a special time in BYU football. Bronco has the program moving forward. I can't wait for September 4.

Monday, April 5, 2010

BCS Bash Week

For those interested in the BCS, I am running a four part series this week on my college football blog. Whether you love the BCS or hate it, this series will be worth your while. The schedule is as follows:

1. Tuesday: The Scam
2. Wednesday: The Cover-up
3. Thursday: The Evidence
4. Friday: The Solution.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poll Results: Will Bronco name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practice?

The majority voted (60%) that BYU will not know who will start in September when spring practice ends. The way spring is going in Provo, I think that will be the case. Jake Heaps' strong start has forced this decision to wait till the fall. Bronco did, however, say that Heaps and Riley Nelson are separating themselves from James Lark.

Be sure to vote in the new poll question, "Who is the most important player to replace on defense?"