As the Brigham Young Cougars get set to kick off the 2011 football season, this year’s team is facing a situation similar to the 2001 BYU football team. The 2001 Cougars finished the year before with a disappointing 6-6 record, but the team did finish the year with some momentum after two big wins. The 2001 season saw several new coaches on the sideline for BYU as Gary Crowton took over for the retired LaVell Edwards. As part of this change in leadership, Crowton came in and made some adjustments to the BYU offense.
The 2011 team enters the season with the momentum of finishing a disappointing 7-6 season on a 5-1 run, including a 52-24 bowl win. Several new coaches have joined the BYU coaching staff, and new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman has vowed to make some adjustments to the BYU offense.
The 2001 team was able to keep its momentum rolling and started the year 12-0. Needless to say, BYU would be happy to have the same result in 2011. To find out more about what was happening with the team between 2000-01 and to see if the 2011 team might replicate that 12-0 start, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL caught up with the star of the 2001 team, and 2001 Doak Walker Award winner, Luke Staley.
With regards to the team’s attitude following 2000 and entering the 2001 season, Staley explained that the team was filled with two feelings. One was disappointment with what happened in 2000. They knew that they did not want to repeat that type of a season. The players also had uncertainty. They didn’t know what to expect with Coach Crowton.
Personally, Staley was considering transferring from BYU to play elsewhere. The 2000 season had been especially rough for him. To make matters worse, everything he heard about Crowton was that he loved to pass the ball. Naturally, Staley wanted to run. He said, “I worried that Crowton would come in and I couldn’t use my ability to the fullest.”
Right after Coach Edwards left, Staley met with BYU Athletic Director Val Hale and explained his feelings. He also requested that his position coach Lance Reynolds be retained on staff.
The first time the team met with Coach Crowton was at LaVell Edwards Stadium. “He came in and gave the program new energy,” Staley explained. Staley thinks that new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman can do the same for BYU in 2011.
Along with that new energy, Crowton brought a new offense. The team didn’t have a hard time adapting to the new offense because it adapted to them. Said Staley, “Crowton developed the offense around the talents there and coached to the strength of the offense.” He continued to say that Crowton got the players to perform the best they could on the field.
With the players vowing not to repeat the disappointment of the year before, the new energy brought by Crowton, and the new wrinkles to the offense could the players sense that 2001 would be a special year?
“We knew we could be good, or had the ability or talent to be good,” Staley stated. He continued, “2001 was the most complete offense that BYU has ever had. We had the ability. It was about putting the pieces together. Crowton was able to come in and do that.”
Anyone who remembers 2001 will agree. The BYU offense put all the pieces together, which led to a remarkable 12-0 start. BYU led the nation in scoring (46.8 points per game). In an average game, BYU racked up 542.8 yards of total offense, which also led the nation. Is it likely that 2011 can replicate the success of ten years ago?
“The thing that sets 2011 apart from 2001 is the players returning in ‘01 were mostly seniors and juniors. They had multiple years of experience on the field that gave them confidence.” While he thinks that BYU’s lack of experience in 2011 compared to 2001 matters, Staley did point out that this is college football and you never know what will happen. However, BYU will need some players to provide the leadership necessary for a team to win all or almost all its games.
It has been well documented that the 2011 BYU football team has a new energy that was lost early in 2010. The disappointing feelings of the 2000 team were probably stronger than the 2010 team. The 2011 Cougars are very talented, too. What remains to be seen is how well the offense will fit with each player’s abilities and skill sets, and how much leadership this team possesses.
While some similarities are readily seen between 2001 and 2011, other question marks exist. However, the possibility of an exciting 2011 season sounds like it is within reach.
OTHER BYU ISSUES
Luke Staley was kind enough to answer some additional questions about BYU football that were not necessarily related to 2001 vs. 2011.
Offensive Coordinator Brandon Doman was Staley’s quarterback in 2001. The two have talked a little about Doman’s new job and his ideas, but nothing to the point where Staley could give any hints as to what the BYU offense would run out on the field.
The 2001 team was the last to play in SEC country. Precisely where BYU opens the 2011 season. In speaking about that experience, Staley said, “As a player you have to go down and embrace it, feed off the energy there.” He pointed out that life revolves around football for those fans in the south. “It was phenomenal to go down there. Even though [Mississippi State] was not a top team in the SEC, they were there tailgating all day.” Staley commented that he wished it was more like that at BYU.
Reader Submitted Question
As promised, I gave him one of the questions submitted by you—the readers. This question was very timely, as I spoke with Staley one day after Troy Hinds committed to BYU.
Q. While a standout high school athlete in Tualatin, Oregon, what was your recruiting experience like? What made you ultimately choose BYU?
A. “In high school my name was out partially because my brother [Dustin Staley] was an all-state running back and defensive back. That opened the door for schools to be familiar with me and my family. Most schools wanted me to play linebacker, defensive back or safety. That is not where my passion was at or where I thought I could make the most impact. BYU wanted me to play running back. Lance Reynolds recruited me. I had hundreds of coaches calling and he was the only one who acted different. So just how Reynolds handled himself and sold me on BYU made me want to go there. The first thing about Reynolds was that the same guy who recruited was the one who coached me.”
Editors Note: Luke Staley was a great interview. He was very professional and a class act. Staley was always careful not to take any credit for himself and propped up his teammates and coaches.
To read more about Staley check out his past player profile.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org