The Brigham Young Cougars football team wrapped up spring practices this weekend. Now the players are preparing for their final exams in school. While the grades in the classroom are yet to be determined, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL is ready to give the football team its final grades for spring term.
The defense scored high marks this spring. Top to bottom, the defense is poised to shutdown opponents. Pass rush has been a weakness in previous years, but in 2011 the defense can bring the pressure from everywhere. The down linemen were in the backfield a lot. Normally, this unit does not make a lot of sacks, but during spring practices they were in the double digits.
Uona Kaveinga has emerged as the leader of a very experienced linebacking unit. Austen Jorgensen isn’t far behind. The linebackers are not short on playmakers either. They stuffed the run for most of the spring game, and all spring long the offense struggled to break off runs longer than 10 yards. Ezekiel Anseh was moved from d-line to linebacker to add another fast, athletic body to this unit that already had Jordan Pendleton and Kyle Van Noy.
The current weakness of the team is the secondary. While the newcomers can clearly get the job done, they gave up more than their share of deep balls. Most opponents probably won’t have receivers to match Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman, but you know Texas will have big, strong, fast guys. It would be a shame if the difference in that game was a BYU defensive back getting beat for a deep pass.
Mike Hague made a splash as a convert from the offense. Travis Uale doesn’t have any room to slip up or he could lose his starting spot to Hague.
The offensive side of the ball started very strong, but cooled off towards the end. That may be attributed to familiarity by the defense after 3-4 weeks of playing the same players and really understanding their tendencies. It doesn’t help, either, that the defense is pretty good this year.
With the way the spring ended, Jake Heaps and the gang should be extra motivated to work hard this summer to perfect timing, reads, and knowledge of assignments. The offense will be as good as Heaps is this year. Naturally, he is further ahead than where he was a year ago, but he still can make a lot of progress from now and September. He admitted himself that he made some bad decisions in the spring game. Heaps’ maturity in decision making could be a 2-3 game difference in the win-loss column this year.
The big development on offense was with the offensive line. Several starters sat out spring, which gave the backups a chance to play. The drop off was hard to detect. Protection for Heaps and holes for the running backs should not be a problem.
Overall, I get the feeling that the offense can do better. I don’t like that they seemed to have lost their edge near the end of spring practices.
Led by Bronco Mendenhall, the new coaching staff is giving 100% to make the 2011 team a hit as it moves to independence. The energy, excitement, and enthusiasm is higher than it has ever been. They are also raising the expectations for each player. New coaches Joe DuPaix and Ben Cahoon are doing their best to make their presence felt.
Lance Reynolds deserves special recognition for cleaning up the tight end position. Mike Weber should also get props for the way the second unit o-line guys were able to step in and play at a high level. Nick Howell should get some credit for the way the secondary is playing.
I want to see the secondary, however, defend the deep ball better. The pass interference penalties and the Rhen Brown touchdown in the spring game has to be corrected. The passing game isn’t where I would like it to be, either.
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