The Brigham Young Cougars open spring football practices today (March 14). BYU finished the 2010 season with just a 7-6 record, but optimism permeated the program. Notwithstanding the good will and the 16 returning starters, there are a lot of questions surrounding the 2011 BYU football team. Of all the questions, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL has identified the five burning questions that Bronco Mendenhall and Cougar Nation need to have answered.
1. Will the coaching changes make a serious impact?
This is Joe DuPaix and Ben Cahoon’s first opportunity to get real hands on with the backs and receivers. Lance Reynolds is moving over to coach the tight ends. Each of these three have their work cut out for them, and the success of the 2011 season is largely dependent on them.
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman needs to get an intimate understanding of what each offensive player is capable of and start making adjustments accordingly. Weaknesses need to be identified and any holes in the offensive arsenal need to be addressed. When the team gets back together in the fall this offense should be ready to take the nation by storm.
The honeymoon/grace period is over. Everyone on the coaching staff should be ready to attack the new challenges that they have received. The way they approach spring practices will set the tone for the 2011 season.
2. What is going to be done about the tight ends?
Devin Mahina kind of emerged as the number one tight end at the end of the season. He made six receptions for 76 yards over the last three games. However, Austin Holt and Mike Muehlmann both logged some big catches during the final games as well.
Lance Reynolds has to do something different than the committee approach. All the tight ends appear to have potential, but none of them will reach their potential by splitting the reps. My best suggestion is to establish the depth chart, and treat things the way you would if Dennis Pitta and Andrew George were returning as your clear cut number one and two tight ends. Either the guys at the top will validate their placement there, or they will not, and then you adjust it accordingly.
3. Will the defensive secondary reload or rebuild?
Gone from the team are strong safety Andrew Rich, cornerback Brian Logan, and cornerback Brandon Bradley. Replacing these three will be Bronco Mendenhall’s biggest task. At least he has a pretty good pool to draw from.
Corby Eason came on strong last season (22 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 pass breakups) and started getting some of Bradley’s reps. Robbie Buckner started to make a name for himself as well (played in six games). DeQuan Everett sat out last year after transferring from Cerritos Community College. With his size (6’3”) and speed (4.4 in the 40) he could see a lot reps and lock up a starting spot. Preston Hadley, Carter Mees, and Travis Uale all figure to be in the mix also. Kori Gaines will have to wait for the fall to make his attempt to earn a starting spot (suspended for breaking a team rule), and Jray Galea'i may have to wait as well (academic issues).
Rumors are that Riley Nelson might be switched to defense. Depth doesn’t seem to be an issue in the secondary, so if he does move, I would imagine that it would happen near the end of spring if Bronco doesn’t like what he sees from the other guys.
4. Which newcomers are going to have an immediate impact?
Several transfers or highly touted redshirts will finally see the field in 2011. With a good spring, they can position themselves to be impact players in the fall. In addition to DeQuan Everett and Preston Hadley, Uona Kaveinga (USC), Hebron Fangupo (USC), Drew Phillips (redshirt), and Ross Apo (redshirt) all have the potential to become household names by the end of September.
5. When will Jake Heaps be designated as the starter?
Ask any fan, and there is little doubt that Jake Heaps should be the starting quarterback in 2011. Ask Bronco Mendenhall or Brandon Doman and they will say something that gives you the impression that Heaps is number one on the depth chart, but neither one has come out, point blank, and said the starting QB spot is not up for competition. The confusion over a starting quarterback had major consequences last season, and neither Bronco nor Doman want to repeat that. At some point, they will publicly announce a starter, and close the competition. The question isn’t who, but when?
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