Brigham Young Cougars 2010 Season Recap (Part 2)

Position Grades for the Brigham Young Cougars is part 2 of BYU Football Talk’s 2010 Season Recap. Part one can be found here. Part 3 will be tomorrow, Wednesday, January 5.

Handing out grades was tough. Most positions had a huge swing in play during the year. While we better remember the strong finish to the year, the wretched start has to be taken into account as well.

Three times this year BYU had less than 100 yards passing. Two other times, BYU had less than 150 yards passing. The quarterback position showed no ability to lead a comeback effort during the first half of the season. Jake Heaps did come alive in the final five games, however, he still does not have a 300 yard passing game. He shattered almost all of the BYU passing records for a freshman. Quarterback play was good enough for 8 wins this year.

The running back position was the lone bright spot during the early season. J.J. Di Luigi was a playmaker. Bryan Kariya started slow, but he became automatic in short yardage situations. Joshua Quezada came on strong near the end of the year, but he did have two costly fumbles (Wyoming and Utah). Di Luigi also had a critical fumble against Air Force. This position really carried the team during the San Diego State and Wyoming games. As a team, BYU rushed for 2,185 yards and three different backs totaled over 500 yards. The backs were highly involved in the passing game catching 86 passes.

The receiving corps uncharacteristically dropped many passes. They share the blame for the five games with less than 150 passing yards. The receivers needed to fill the void left by Dennis Pitta and Andrew George, but they were barely able to match their production from a year ago. O’Neill Chambers was a hindrance as opposed to a leader. Luke Ashworth did have the 4 TD game. Cody Hoffman ended his strong finish with a big game in the New Mexico Bowl.

The tight end position averaged 2.6 receptions and 35 yards per game with zero touchdowns. Last year, those averages were 7 and 95 with 13 TDs for the season. There still isn’t a clear cut number one tight end. Granted, all five were freshmen, but this is Tight End U. The tight end can’t go all year without a touchdown. Under no circumstances should the tight end position average less than 4 receptions a game for 50 yards.

The offensive line was supposed to be the anchor of the offense. By the numbers, they didn’t play too poorly this year. They allowed 21 sacks and 65 tackles-for-a-loss (5 per game). In comparison, the 2008 offensive line allowed 19 sacks and 50 tackles-for-a-loss (4 per game). The Florida State game left a bad mark on the offensive line. Florida State registered 8 sacks. Matt Reynolds had about every preseason honor possible for a lineman. He quickly fell off all those watch lists and his NFL stock has taken a hit as well.

Vic So’oto had a break out/redemption year. The defensive line had to deal with injuries as well. D-linemen accounted for 11 of the team’s 24 sacks and 22 of 76 tackles-for-a-loss. They also intercepted two passes. Run defense was terrible early in the year, but fantastic once Bronco Mendenhall took control.

The linebackers had a very slow start. This unit needed time to solidify its rotation and gel. Injuries took a toll as well. Jordan Pendleton missed more than half of the season. The linebackers share the blame for poor run defense early in the year. Linebackers made six interceptions, 8.5 sacks, and 36.5 tackles-for-a-loss.

BYU pass defense gave up less than 200 yards passing per game. No opponent passed for more than 300 yards. Led by Andrew Rich with five interceptions, the secondary intercepted 8 passes (BYU had 16 as a team). Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley were solid. Bradley did have the notorious fumble in the Utah game. Corby Eason was unstoppable on the corner blitz.

Punter: Riley Stephenson averaged 42.0 yards on 52 punts. He had a long of 60 yards and 17 were 50 yards or more. Twenty (38.5%) of his punts were inside the 20 yard line.
Kicker: Mitch Payne became the school's career scoring leader. He was 17-21 (81%) on field goals. He missed the potential game winner against Utah, but that was a protection block, not a mechanics problem. Payne was 37-39 on PATs.
Returns: O’Neill Chambers set a new record for career kickoff return yards. Cody Hoffman was phenomenal in his limited time on kick off return duty. JD Falslev was more than serviceable on punts and kicks. The 9.0 punt return average needs to go up to 12 next year, and some punts/kicks need to be taken back for six.

Each position grade reflects on the position coach as well as the players, so I won’t get into the position and assistant coaches here. This grade focuses on head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

I know many people have a lot of gripes about Mendenhall's performance this year. I don't think he was acting any different than most other coaches in the country would with regards to delegating and delaying the release of Jaime Hill. My only complaint is that Bronco didn't do more to keep the team glued together early in the year when the team lost. This was a young team that needed a leader to give them confidence and to help guide them through adversity. Instead, anarchy broke out. Bronco did take drastic steps when the hemorrhaging became unbearable.

Conversely, Bronco deserves 100% of the credit for the way the season turned around. The difficulty to rebuild was vastly underrated, especially with this particular schedule.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at

Other recent posts on BYU FOOTBALL TALK:
Poll Results: Will Matt Reynolds enter the 2011 NFL Draft?
BYU 2010 Season Recap: Part 1
Friday Highlights: 2010 Season
Thursday Trivia: Most Total Offense In Bronco Mendenhall Era
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars 20, Colorado Buffaloes 17 (Freedom Bowl V)