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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Trivia: Tackles by the 1996 Linebackers

The correct answer to the last trivia question "Prior to 1976, what two seasons did the BYU football team win 8 games?" is 1966 and 1932. BYU was 8-2 in 1966 and 8-1 in 1932.

On to this week's question. Yesterday’s flashback highlighted the 1991, 1996, and 2006 linebackers. It was clear that the linebackers were the ones who make most of the tackles. This week’s trivia question asks:
How many tackles did Shay Muirbrook, Brad Martin, and Dennis Simmons combine to make in 1996?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flashback: Living Large at Linebacker

The Brigham Young Cougars 2011 linebacking corps could turn out to be one of BYU’s finest. At the linebacker position, BYU returns nine players who played significant minutes last year (Brandon Ogletree, Austen Jorgensen, Jadon Wagner, Jordan Pendleton, Kyle Van Noy, Jameson Frazier, Zac Stout, Connell Hess, and Aveni Leung-Wai). These nine players played in 90 games, combined for 280 tackles, 32.5 tackles-for-loss (TFL), 8.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, 8 quarterback hurries, 2 fumble recoveries (1 touchdown), and 4 forced fumbles. Head coach and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall has already said that USC transfer Uona Kaveinga will start at middle linebacker after sitting out last year, per NCAA rules. With a year’s experience to go with the great talent and depth at this position, the expectations are high. Thinking about how good the linebackers might be in 2011 conjures up memories of great BYU linebackers of the past.

2006
Five years ago, the BYU linebackers led a staunch defense. Cameron Jensen was the ring leader. He ended the year the team's leading tackler (107) and was named first-team All-MWC. He played both in the opponents’ backfield, registering 9.5 TFL and 4 sacks, and back in pass coverage, intercepting three passes and breaking up three others.

Bryan Kehl was also a beast that opposing offenses had to deal with. He finished the year honorable mention All-MWC. His great effort and athleticism allowed him to make 70 tackles and play all over the field. He was an effective pass rusher making 3 sacks to go along with 8 TFL. He could also run step for step with receivers out of the backfield breaking up six passes.

David Nixon was fresh off his mission to Ecuador, and he picked up where he left off as a freshman. Nixon was named academic All-MWC for his 62 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 5 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. His forced fumble against TCU has become a staple for highlight videos.

Aaron Wagner is the forgotten man of the group, but he did have the second most tackles that year with 75.

1996
Fifteen years ago, Shay Muirbrook terrorized the competition from the middle linebacker spot. He was easily first team All-WAC, and the conference defensive player of the year. Muribrook played all over the field. He made 97 tackles, 9 sacks, 11.5 quarterback hurries, 8 TFL, recovered 2 fumbles and forced 2.5 more. He was just as lethal against the pass as he was the run. He intercepted 3 passes and deflected 6 more. Muirbrook’s best game, however, is not reflected in these stats. In the Cotton Bowl, he made 12 tackles, and set a Cotton Bowl and BYU single-game record for most sacks (6). His first sack of the day was a safety, giving BYU a 2-0 lead.

Brad Martin was Muirbrook’s “partner in crime.” He earned second team All-WAC honors as a sophomore. Martin was most impressive at jumping on the ball when it was loose. When others were treating the pigskin like a hot potato, Martin cradled it like a baby. He recovered 7 fumbled in 1996 to go with his 77 tackles, 9 TFL, 6 sacks, and 4 quarterback hurries. He wasn’t too shabby in pass coverage either. Martin intercepted one pass and knocked away three others.

Dennis Simmons didn’t put up big numbers, but he was a solid contributor. He played the role that BYU needed that year, and he was an integral part of the 1996 defense that had no weak links.

1991
Twenty years ago, the linebackers on the BYU roster might be the best of this bunch. Against the toughest competition that BYU has ever faced, these linebackers put up eye popping numbers.

Rocky Biegel was the senior leader of the group, and he didn’t disappoint. He recorded an amazing 192 tackles on his way to first team All-WAC honors. He spent most his time in the other teams’ backfield. He had 14 quarterback hurries, 5.5 sacks, and one TFL. He also recovered three fumbles.

Shad Hansen was named second team All-WAC, but he one upped Biegel in tackles with 193 (still a BYU single-season record). When Biegel didn’t penetrate the line of scrimmage, Hansen did. The result was 13 quarterback hurries, 5 sacks, and 4 TFL. He forced three fumbles as well.

Scott Giles didn’t receive any post-season honors for his play, despite racking up over 100 tackles himself (116). As impressive as Biegel and Hansen were at getting to the quarterback, Giles was even better. He was credited with 16 quarterback hurries, 8 sacks, and 2 TFL. He made his contributions to turnovers by recovering one fumble and forcing two others.

Jared Leavitt might not have had as impressive numbers, but he was no chump. Leavitt made a respectable 62 tackles during the season. He sacked the quarterback 5 times and hurried him 6 other times. He kept with the magic number 3 and recovered three fumbles.

If the 2011 starting linebackers play to the level of any of these groups, this could be one special season for the Cougars.

More Flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poll Results: Which new coach will have the biggest first year impact?

The poll results are in. Offensive Coordinator Brandon Doman was voted as the new coach that would have the most impact with 56%. Wide Receivers coach Ben Cahoon was next with 32%. Joe DuPaix and Lance Reynolds both received 6%.

To answer this question, I looked at the 2010 performance for the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and offense. Then I tried to imagine how each will perform in 2011. DuPaix is definitely out for two reasons. First, the running back play was pretty good in 2010. Second, BYU is not Wisconsin. Two 1,000 yard rushers or a 2,000 yard rusher isn’t something BYU aims for. While BYU did well enough to have a 1,000 yard rusher for five straight seasons (2005-09), it takes an exceptional talent to get much more than 1,000 yards in BYU’s system.

The offense was playing pretty well at the end of last season. Four games with 40 points or more. From 2006-09 the offense was good enough to win 10 games or more. Each year the quarterback surpassed 3,500 yards passing to go along with the already mentioned 1,000 yard rusher. While I hope for and expect some offensive improvements, I don’t think the impact level will be that much. BYU is just too good already on offense.

Both wide receiver and tight end were major sore spots on the team last year. Between the two, tight end easily takes the prize for worst overall play. That makes Reynolds a logical pick. My vote, however, is for Coach Cahoon and the wide receivers.

I believe Reynolds will have the tight ends playing much better, but I expect Heaps to favor his receivers and will throw significantly more passes to them. In the end, the wide receivers will show the biggest improvement, thus giving Cahoon the greatest impact in 2011.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don’t foreget to vote in this week’s question: “Who should be BYU’s #1 running back in 2011?”

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Monday, March 28, 2011

Brigham Young Cougars Spring Mid-Terms

The Brigham Young Cougars’ spring football practices are half over. Time for a mid-term progress report.

1. Tick for Tack. The offense and defense are matching each other big play for big play. The defense has made several sacks and intercepted a few balls. The offense has four pass completions of 50 yards or more and scored three touchdowns. The competitive balance is good. Neither unit is inferior to the other, which is making it challenging for both. The end result will be both sides of the ball better reaching their potentials.

2. Making up ground. Wide receiver Ross Apo redshirted last season with injuries. That lost time impeded his development on the collegiate level and in the chemistry department with quarterback Jake Heaps. Apo is playing well this spring. He has made several receptions, including a 59-yarder. By the fall, he should be ready to be an integral part of the offense.

3. Position changes. Michael Alisa has moved from linebacker to fullback. Mike Hague has moved from fullback to safety, and lost 45 pounds in the process. Mike Muehlmann has switched from tight end to defensive end. Muehlmann has registered a sack already. Alisa’s move is a good one. BYU has no depth at full back, so he figures to see playing time this year. The competition at safety is probably just as stiff as it is at running back, but at least Hague won't have to deal with any established starters.

4. Full speed ahead. Last year, BYU was replacing six of the front seven on defense and the entire offensive back field and tight end. Naturally, that necessitated the coaches to move a little slower as new players got up to speed. This year, position battles and depth are much more solidified. The coaches realize this and they are conducting practices with more intensity and driving the team full speed ahead to make 2011 the best it can be.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. UNLV (2006)

Here is a look back at the BYU-UNLV game from 2006. Notable from the highlights are McKay Jacobson getting his first two career touchdown receptions.

BYU vs. UNLV, 2006

Enjoy!

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Trivia: 8 Wins in a Season

The correct answer to the last trivia question "Who did Steve Lindsley beat out for the starting quarterback spot in 1986?" is Mike Young. Later in the year, Lindsley was benched for Bob Jensen, but when Lindsley was knocked out of the second game of the year (New Mexico) with a concussion, it was Mike Young who filled in until Lindsley could return.

On to this week's question. Yesterday’s flashback pointed out that the 1976 team set a new school record with 9 wins in a season. The old record was 8, which had happened twice before. This week’s trivia question asks:
Prior to 1976, what two seasons did the BYU football team win 8 games?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flashback: Gifford Nielsen’s Breakout Season (1976)

The 1975 season started rough for the Brigham Young Cougars. Quarterback Gary Sheide had graduated, and finding his replacement proved to be difficult. Four games into the season, however, Gifford Nielsen came off the bench and rallied BYU to victory. BYU was just 1-3, but rallied to finish the season 6-5. Nielsen was fully entrenched as BYU’s starting quarterback. He was 5-1 as a starter, but his stats were nothing to get excited about: 110-180 (61.1%), 1,471 yards, 10 TDs, 7 Int.

The next year, 1976, would be a different story. Following 1975, BYU hired Doug Scovil to be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Under Scovil’s watch, Gifford Nielsen blossomed. He would have the best season, to date, for a BYU quarterback, and the team would become the best team in BYU history.

Over the final seven games of the season, Nielsen averaged 371 yards passing and threw a total of 23 touchdowns. For the year, Nielsen set BYU single-season records for most completions (207), most attempts (372), most yards passing (3,192), and most touchdown passes (29). His 29 touchdown passes led the nation, and he was fourth in the nation in pass efficiency (143.2). People across the nation took notice. Nielsen was voted first-team All-American, and he finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

As for the team, BYU won the WAC championship. BYU set a new school record by winning 9 games in a single season, and for only the second time in school history was invited to a bowl game.

It was a breakout year for Nielsen. He exceeded everyone’s expectations. Quarterbacking and BYU football, overall, would never be the same.

More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Poll Results: When will Bronco formally announce that Heaps has won the QB competition?

Another poll has successfully closed. The leading vote getter was "at the end of spring practices" with 64%, followed by "after one week" with 24%. "Sometime during fall camp" was last with 12%.

After the reports quoting Bronco Mendenhall saying Jake Heaps "earned the rightful chance to begin the spring as our quarterback," the starting QB issue seems to have been put to rest. For me, to win the QB competition means to be named the starter for the season opener at Ole Miss. As I explained at length yesterday, that has not happened, but everyone in the mainstream media appears to be pacified. Therefore, I don’t expect the status quo to change until the date of the opener nears.

At this point, Bronco has a hang up over making Jake “the guy.” (I am not trying to say whether that is right or wrong. I am merely pointing out that it exists.) Once spring practices conclude, I expect Bronco will be very selective with his words and tell the team something to the effect that Jake has earned the rightful chance to lead the summer drills as the starting quarterback. Again, no mention of starting September 3 and beyond.

That is why my vote would be for “sometime during fall camp.”

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don’t foreget to vote in this week’s question: “Which new coach will have the biggest first year impact?”

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ty Detmer Interview--Submit Questions

I will be interviewing 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer tomorrow. I have prepared my list of questions for him, but I wanted to give all of you the opportunity to get an answer to questions of your own.

I will select two from all that are submitted, either via email (bluecougarfootball@gmail.com) or in the comments section below.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Brigham Young Cougars Starting Quarterback Rhetoric

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall proved last week he is very media savvy. The big question since the New Mexico Bowl on December 18 was is Jake Heaps BYU’s permanent starting quarterback? Mendenhall and new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman gave evasive responses to that question whenever it came up. They neither denied nor confirmed that Heaps would be the starter in 2011. Then, as spring practices opened, the following headlines popped up:

BYU football: Jake Heaps still Cougars’ starting QB
BYU has no quarterback controversy


Everyone from Heaps, the media, and the fan base appear to be pacified. They have moved on to the next issue. Except for me. While Coach Mendenhall did say, “Jake will begin the spring as the starter,” he made other comments that give the impression that Heaps has not locked up the starting spot for 2011.

Here are the complete Mendenhall quotes (emphasis added):
"That's where [Heaps] finished last season. The way he progressed and the way our team performed under his leadership through the season is something that he's earned the rightful chance to begin the spring as our quarterback."
"Riley's recovered really well. He's exhibited the same type of leadership which I chose to recognize when I named him the starter going into last season. He's back 100 percent in terms of how he's working out, how he's leading and how he's training and adding chemistry to this team. He's had a very good off-season. We're not allowed to have footballs out there prior to spring, so I haven't seen him throw a pass. That will be fun to have a chance to see exactly where he is now in terms of mechanics and decision-making.

"Riley, and our other quarterbacks, will have to beat Jake out now to become the starter. Spring is a great chance for competition. We have a number of quarterbacks that would like that spot, but Jake will begin the spring as the starter. His intent is to continue to grow and mature and perform at an even higher level than he did in the fall."
From the italics you can see the two areas of interest are with “begin the spring” and “will have to beat Jake out … Spring is a great chance for competition.” Mendenhall said nothing about the season opener at Ole Miss September 3. Heaps is simply number one on the depth chart. Mendenhall appears to be keeping his mind and options open. Why else would he call spring a “great chance for competition”?

The most insinuating part of Mendenhall’s words are that Riley Nelson, James Lark, or Jason Munns could “beat Jake out” for the starting spot. When a quarterback is the starting quarterback he cannot be beaten out. Rather, the starting job is his to lose.

This is more than a question of semantics. To beat out Heaps for the starting spot means, regardless of how well Heaps plays, if one of the other three hits a hot streak and outplays Heaps, then he would win the starting job. Last year, that would have worked. None of the quarterbacks had any real game experience. This year, just as Mendhenhall said, Heaps has a definitive edge on the other quarterbacks—game experience. Heaps' play down the stretch is the major reason the expectations for 2011 are high.

Think back 10 years. Brandon Doman started and won the last two games in 2000. Going into 2001, he didn’t have to beat out Brett Engemann and Charlie Peterson to start. The way he played in those two games earned Doman the starting spot and it was his spot to lose.

To lose the starting job means that Heaps is BYU’s starting quarterback until he goes through a real slump, in real games, and shows no signs of improvement.

Did Bronco Mendenhall’s comments really change anything last week? No. They were simply more of the same rhetoric that has been going around for the last three months. The quarterback competition is still open. Yet, somehow, while still being noncommittal about a 2011 starter, Mendenhall found a way to diffuse this issue without saying anything substantive or conclusive. It was genius. Now the team can go through spring practices and into the fall without constant questions from the outside about who is starting.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Other recent posts on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL:
Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Tulane (2001)
Thursday Trivia: The 1986 Quarterback Battle
Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars Big-Time Scorers
Poll Results: If BYU is not in a BCS bowl, what bowl would be your first choice?
Brigham Young Cougars Spring Football Burning Questions

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Tulane (2001)

The Brigham Young Cougars season opener for 2001 was against Tulane with Brandon Doman at quarterback. Gary Crowton was making his debut as head coach. Ten years later, Doman will debut as BYU's offensive coordinator.

BYU vs. Tulane, 2001

Enjoy!

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Trivia: The 1986 Quarterback Battle

The correct answer to the last trivia question "How many BYU representatives have been inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame?" is nine (9)—eight players and one coach. They are: Kyle Whittingham, Bart Oates, Ty Detmer, Leon White, Robbie Bosco, Steve Young, Clay Brown, Jim McMahon, and LaVell Edwards.

On to this week's question. It appeared there would sort of  be a quarterback battle in spring practice, which got me thinking about other quarterback battles and who beat out who. Twenty five years ago, Steve Lindsley won the battle to replace Robbie Bosco. This week’s trivia question asks:
Who did Steve Lindsley beat out for the starting quarterback spot in 1986?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Flashback: Brigham Young Cougars Big-Time Scorers

For over three decades, the Brigham Young Cougars have been known to put a lot of points on the scoreboard. Just last season, Mitch Payne set a new school record for most points scored in a career—334. That record appears to be safe for the time being, but don’t be surprised if a BYU Cougar achieves another scoring milestone in 2011. Looking back over the last 60 years, BYU football players have a propensity to reach high-water marks in scoring in years that end in 1 or 6.

1951 (60 Years Ago)
Running back Roy Oliverson set a school record by scoring 90 points on 15 touchdowns (12 rushing, 3 receiving).

1976 (35 Years Ago)
Running back Jeff Blanc finished his career as the BYU record holder for most points scored in a career with 174 points (29 touchdowns—21 rushing, 8 receiving).

1981 (30 Years Ago)
Running back Waymon Hamilton broke Oliverson’s 30-year old record for most points scored in a season by scoring 96 points on 16 touchdowns (14 rushing, 2 receiving).

1986 (25 Years Ago)
Running back Lakei Heimuli finished his career by tying Hamilton’s record set in 1983 for most points scored in a career with 192 points (32 touchdowns—30 rushing, 2 receiving).

1996 (15 Years Ago)
Kicker Ethan Pochman shattered Hamilton’s record for most points scored in a single season as he became the first Cougar to eclipse the century mark by scoring 123 points.

2001 (10 Years Ago)
Running back Luke Staley made Pochman’s 123 points look like child’s play. Staley scored 170 points (28 touchdowns—24 rushing, 4 receiving—and one 2-point conversion) during the 2001 season. Not only was Staley’s 170 points the most points scored by a BYU player in a single season, he was the nation’s leading scorer in 2001.

Staley also finished his career in 2001 with the most points scored in a career by a non-kicker, 290.

2011???
Looking ahead to 2011, if a BYU player sets a new scoring standard, who will it be? Every player on this list, except one is a running back. From the pool of running backs, Joshua Quezada will probably score the most points. I am not sure if it will be enough to join this prestigious list. However, don’t count out kicker Justin Sorenson. The offense, led by Jake Heaps, is poised to explode. Sorenson might be the biggest beneficiary and rise to the top of the single-season scoring charts.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Poll Results: If BYU is not in a BCS bowl, what bowl would be your first choice?

The results are in, and the non-BCS bowl of choice for Brigham Young Cougars fans is the Holiday Bowl with 52% of the vote. The Cotton Bowl came in second with 42%. The only other bowls receiving votes were the Las Vegas (5%), and the Sun and Dallas Football Classic split the remaining 1%.

The Holiday Bowl is a nice pick with BYU's history, and the location is great as well. San Diego is hard to beat at Christmas time, but it is also great because San Diego is a recruiting hot bed. Texas is as well, which makes a high profile bowl game in Texas intriguing. But, let's not forget the weather in Dallas that time of year can be brutal (remember the Super Bowl).

The payout, however, is better at the Cotton Bowl. The 2010 Holiday Bowl payout was $2.2 million compared to the Cotton Bowl's $3.575 million. That is a $1.375 million difference, which is very hard to ignore (even if BYU doesn't have to split the bowl money with conference members).

Who would BYU play? If BYU is playing a Pac-10 team in the Holiday Bowl, then I favor the Cotton Bowl. If the Holiday Bowl opponent is a Big 12 school or Big Ten (like back in the good old days), then I like it better. The Cotton Bowl would pit BYU against an SEC team, which would go a long way to helping BYU build street cred, or a Big 12 team.

As a traditionalist, I like the late December date for the Holiday Bowl better than the post-January 1 date of the Cotton Bowl. Unless it is the BCS national championship game, I don't want to wait until well after January 1 to see BYU play its bowl game.

Basically, I am trying to figure out which bowl (Cotton or Holiday) would be better for BYU and its needs (money, recruiting, exposure, how well will fans travel, national reputation, etc.). In the end, my vote would go to the Holiday Bowl. Despite the bigger payout in Dallas, for a better fan experience, the Holiday Bowl wins out. I also feel, in my gut, BYU would win more at the Holiday Bowl than the Cotton Bowl, and winning bowl games matters to a program's reputation.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll. With spring football starting this week, the question is: "When will Bronco formally announce Heaps has won the QB competition?"

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Monday, March 14, 2011

Brigham Young Cougars Spring Football Burning Questions

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?

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Other recent posts on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL:
Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Kansas State (Cotton Bowl)
Brigham Young Cougars Pro Day
Thursday Trivia: Brigham Young Cougars in the Holiday Bowl
Flashback: The Holiday Bowl—Where the Best Celebrate Graduation
Poll Results: Should Jake Heaps Do A Trick Shot QB Video?
Is a Contract with the Holiday Bowl in the Brigham Young Cougars’ Future?     

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. Kansas State (Cotton Bowl)

Since we have been on a bowl theme this week, the highlights are coming from the Brigham Young Cougars' bowl game 15 years ago. It is BYU's only appearance in the Cotton Bowl and in a New Year's Day bowl. Last year, I rated this game as the third best game in BYU football history.

BYU vs. Kansas State (Cotton Bowl)

Enjoy!

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brigham Young Cougars Pro Day

The Brigham Young Cougars held their annual Pro Day on March 9. While no former Cougars were invited to the NFL combine last month, a few might have been impressive enough to find their way onto NFL rosters, hopefully, for 2011. The group of eight consisted of Mitch Payne, Zeke Mendenhall, Luke Ashworth, Jason Speredon, Andrew Rich, Brandon Bradley, Brian Logan, and Vic So’oto.

So’oto impressed the most. He scored high marks on the bench press (35 reps of 225 pounds) and the 40 yard dash (4.5 seconds). To put the 40 time into perspective, it is the same speed that cornerback Brian Logan ran the 40 (that begs the question, how fast would Logan be if he was 6’3 and not 5’6”).

Logan was the best jumper recording a 37.5 inch vertical jump. Size might limit him to free agency, but he should get a shot somewhere.

So’oto might have worked himself into one of the later rounds of the draft. Size and speed are what kept Jan Jorgensen from getting a chance at the next level, despite a nice body of work on the field. So'oto doesn't have the same playing resume as Jorgensen did, but with the size and speed tools he will find a home.

As for the others, Rich and Payne probably have the next best chances of making a squad.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Thursday Trivia: Brigham Young Cougars in the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame

The correct answer to the last trivia question "Which two BYU records held by Golden Richards are also NCAA records?" is most touchdonws on punt returns in a game (2), and most touchdowns on punt returns in a season (4).

On to this week's question. Keeping with the Holiday Bowl theme this week, BYU had many outstanding performances in the Holiday Bowl, which have been recognized by the Holiday Bowl in may ways, including inducting BYU representatives into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame. This week’s trivia question asks:
How many BYU representatives have been inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Flashback: The Holiday Bowl—Where the Best Celebrate Graduation

Several great quarterbacks have played for the Brigham Young Cougars. Several of the best Holiday Bowl games have featured BYU. It is only fitting that the two BYU quarterbacks who had the best collegiate careers took their final snaps in the Holiday Bowl.

Jim McMahon, Holiday Bowl IV (1981)
Thirty years ago, Jim McMahon suited up in a Cougar uniform for the final time as BYU faced Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. There was no other way for this BYU legend to go out. The Holiday Bowl was where McMahon made his biggest mark. BYU had never won a bowl game before McMahon led BYU to an unbelievable 20-point comeback victory punctuated with a 41-yard hail Mary as time expired. As McMahon’s career concluded one year later, the natural thing to do was go back to where the miracle comeback happened. This time, the game was a little less dramatic, but McMahon was just as heroic.

Appropriately, the game was able to embody the two sides of McMahon that Cougar fans most liked. BYU either crushed opponents, or Jim McMahon fought tooth and nail to do everything possible to win. A 31-7 lead early in the second half was similar to many Saturday afternoons that saw McMahon take a seat early. When Washington State closed the gap to 31-28, McMahon the winner took control of the game. Not only did McMahon want to win more than anyone else, he believed more than anyone else that, regardless of the situation, he would win. McMahon threw one last touchdown pass, and converted a crucial fourth down to seal the win for BYU.

When the game ended, BYU was celebrating more than a victory. They were celebrating the graduation of a fantastic quarterback. A quarterback unlike any that anyone had ever seen.

Ty Detmer, Holiday Bowl XIV (1991)
Twenty years ago, Ty Detmer played his swan song in the Holiday Bowl. For Detmer, this was one last chance to redeem himself. In the Holiday Bowl the year before, the Heisman Trophy winner suffered in agony on the sidelines with two separated shoulders. He made sure that his last impression on the Holiday Bowl was a good one. Facing the #7 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, Detmer and the Cougars had their work cut out for them.

If there was one thing that Ty Detmer had proven in his career, it was that he could throw the ball against any defense. Whether the opponent was a WAC doormat or a national power, Detmer would move the ball through the air. The Iowa defense, the best in the Big Ten, was no exception. Detmer passed for 350 yards. Both of BYU’s touchdowns came through the air.

Although the game ended in a tie, Detmer did everything possible and necessary to win the game. Nevertheless, the game’s outcome exemplified one of Ty’s greatest attributes. The sign of a great leader is to make those around him better, and there was no doubt that Detmer brought out the best in his young team. BYU was double digit underdogs going into the game, yet they played toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best.

Both quarterbacks graduated with honors, taking home the offensive MVP award.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Poll Results: Should Jake Heaps Do A Trick Shot QB Video?

The poll results for Jake Heaps doing a trick shot QB video like the UConn and Monmouth quarterbacks was 44% yes and 56% no.

This Daily Universe column makes it sound like Heaps could do one of these videos pretty quick. As a former quarterback, I am facinated by these videos. I would love to see one of my very own Cougar QBs do one. It could be used to market BYU. Send it out like they did the Heisman Ties, and at the end of the video say something like, "Think this is impressive? Just wait until you see what he can do in a game," and provide a copy of the 2011 schedule. If Heaps has a breakout sophomore season, who knows where this proactive publicity stunt could take him and BYU.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "If BYU is not in a BCS bowl, what bowl would be your first choice?"

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Monday, March 7, 2011

Is a Contract with the Holiday Bowl in the Brigham Young Cougars’ Future?

The Brigham Young Cougars and the Holiday Bowl were inseparable from the bowls inaugural game in 1978 to the 1984 game that saw number 1 BYU complete its run for the national championship. BYU played in the Holiday Bowl four other times from 1989 to 1993. The Holiday Bowl was good to BYU, but several factors have prevented BYU from playing in this bowl for seventeen years running.

BYU declared independent status in football on August 31, 2010. That left BYU without any bowl tie ins. Since declaring independence, BYU has made agreements with the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl for 2012, and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl for 2013. For many BYU fans, if BYU is not playing in a BCS bowl, then the Holiday Bowl would be the first option.

I recently spoke with Holiday Bowl Executive Director Bruce Binkowski and discussed the possibility of BYU reaching an agreement with the Holiday Bowl to participate in one of the bowl’s future games. Mr. Binkowski has been with the Holiday Bowl since its inception in 1978 and has served as the executive director for 10 years.

Q. The Holiday Bowl currently has contracts with the Pac-10 and the Big XII conferences. When do they expire?

Bruce Binkowski (BB): After the 2013 Holiday Bowl. The contracts are for four years, so we have just started the second year of the current four-year cycle.

Q. My understanding is that bowls consider certain criteria when selecting teams. The criteria usually involves getting teams that will bring fans to the game and fill up the stadium, and teams that can maximize television viewers. What other criteria does the Holiday Bowl consider?

BB: You are right about bringing fans to the game and creating a game that will attract television viewers nationally. We also look at the win-loss record of teams; we want good records. We also look at the match up.

Q. With those criteria in mind, what makes BYU attractive to the Holiday Bowl? What makes BYU unattractive?

BB: BYU is attractive for all the reasons mentioned. BYU would be good for any bowl because of its tremendous history and following. BYU brings TV sets. BYU is very appealing. That is why we signed BYU for the Poinsettia Bowl. We have the conference contracts for the Holiday Bowl. It is too early to tell beyond 2013, but we had the opportunity to get BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012. It was a perfect fit, so we immediately communicated with BYU for the 2012 game.

The Holiday Bowl has worked with BYU since 1978. BYU made 11 appearances in the Holiday Bowl. Every appearance was positive. There was nothing negative. The fans were great. The teams were great. BYU is a major reason the Holiday Bowl got off to a great start and is a great bowl today. I have only positive things to say about BYU.

(Note: The Holiday Bowl organizers are also the Poinsettia Bowl organizers.)

Q. ESPN has televised the Holiday Bowl for many years. Last year, ESPN and BYU announced a special TV package. Since then, ESPN has helped BYU schedule some high profile games in the regular season. Could ESPN play a role in getting BYU and the Holiday Bowl together?

BB: No. ESPN broadcasts the game, but it is not involved with our business. ESPN does not get involved in any way.

Q. This year the Holiday Bowl had a rematch (Washington vs. Nebraska), and it wasn’t very appealing to many fans when it was announced. Normally, 2/3 or 3/4 of a team’s schedule is conference opponents that can’t play each other in a bowl game. As an independent, BYU would have no conference opponents, which increases the likelihood of a rematch, in theory. If the Holiday Bowl and BYU had a contract, would it make any special effort to avoid rematches?

BB: No. Rematches are very rare. This year was unique. We had the third pick from the Pac-10, or in other words, the second pick after the BCS. Two Pac-10 teams went to the BCS, so our pick was, essentially, the fourth pick. Washington was the only bowl eligible team left from the Pac-10.

With the Big XII, we were convinced Missouri would be our team on selection Sunday. The Insight Bowl passed on Nebraska and picked Missouri. When Nebraska is available you pick them for all the reasons already discussed. It was also our last chance to have Nebraska since they would be leaving for the Big Ten.

Q. Since the Holiday Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl organizers are the same, can the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl be viewed as an “audition” for BYU to get a future contract with the bigger, more established Holiday Bowl?

BB: No. Don’t look at it that way. We know what BYU can do. We have two games in San Diego. One was available because it doesn’t have a four-year conference agreement, and BYU could be worked in with the other independent FBS schools.

Q. What is the bottom line? What can BYU fans expect as far as a future agreement between BYU and the Holiday Bowl?

BB: It is way too early to tell. Only time will tell. At this time, all our discussions with BYU have centered around the Poinsettia Bowl. We won’t get into any discussion with our current partners until early in 2013. The Holiday Bowl has every intention of continuing the Pac-10/Big XII partnership beyond the final year of the current agreement.

*********

Overall, Mr. Binkowski was very positive about BYU, and I believe everything he said was sincere. However, it appears the chances of BYU and the Holiday Bowl reuniting are slim. They like their current conference partners and (my interpretation is) they like the security that brings. With an independent BYU, they could be forced to have a 6-6 team or a 10-2 team. Some years BYU would be better than the fifth Big XII or the third Pac-10 selection, but, I guess, in the long run the Holiday Bowl thinks things will even out or tilt in their favor with the current conference partners. Additionally, a conference partnership provides variation; whereas, a contract exclusively with BYU would not. However, maybe 2013 comes and the Big XII is still 10 teams and the fifth pick (or sixth if two Big XII teams go to BCS bowls) represents just another 7-5 or 6-6 team. I would hope that such a scenario would get the Holiday Bowl to start considering other options—like BYU. If that is the case, maybe the Holiday Bowl would find it more appealing to have a BYU/Notre Dame deal where each school would appear twice during a four year period against an opponent from either the Pac-12 or Big XII.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Other recent posts on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL:
Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs (1991)
Thrusday Trivia: Golden Richards’ NCAA Records
Flashback: A Golden Return Man (1971)
Poll Results: What validated the BYU QB Factory the Most?
The Brigham Young Cougars Need To Have Killer Instinct

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs (1991)

In recent weeks, the highlights have been from 5 years ago, 10 years ago, and 15 years ago. This week, we are taking the next step to 20 years ago. The BYU-San Diego State game in 1991 was an instant classic, even if it was a tie game, 52-52. It was the highest scoring tie game in NCAA football history, and by coming back from 28 points down the reversal of fortune felt almost as good as a win.

BYU vs. San Diego State (1991)

Enjoy!

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thrusday Trivia: Golden Richards’ NCAA Records

The correct answer to the last trivia question "What was the highest one game point total for the 2001 BYU football team?" is 70 points in the season opener against Tulsa. It was the first time that BYU scored 70 points since the 1989 Utah game.

On to this week's question. Yesterday’s flashback listed Golden Richards’ seven BYU records. Two of those records are so exceptional that they are also NCAA records. Therefore, this week’s trivia question is:
Which two BYU records held by Golden Richards are also NCAA records?
Leave your answer in the comments section. Come back next week when the answer is revealed and a new trivia question is asked.

More trivia questions can be found on the Trivia page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Flashback: A Golden Return Man (1971)

The Brigham Young Cougars got a boost in 2010 on kick off returns when Cody Hoffman started returning them in the Wyoming game. JD Falslev had a nice 43-yard punt return in the New Mexcio Bowl. In 2011, Drew Phillips has the potential to be a deadly return threat as well. Special teams sparks are always welcome, but will BYU strike gold with any of these three? Forty years ago, BYU had a return man worth his weight in gold: Golden Richards.

Richards had his coming out party in the 1971 season opener against North Texas State. He had a combined seven returns (kick off and punts) on the day for a BYU record 247 yards. Most of these yards (219, another school record) came from punt returns. As impressive as these yardage totals are, Richards’ biggest feat was that he returned, not one, but two punts for touchdowns. The two punt return TDs was also a new BYU record.

This fast start in the returns department for Richards paid off in the long run as well. By season’s end, Richards had rewritten the BYU record book for returns. To this day, he still holds seven school returns records. No other former BYU player owns that many. Richards’ records are as follows:

  • Most Punt Return Yards, Game: 219 (North Texas St., 1971)
  • Most Punt Return Yards, Season: 624 (1971)
  • Most Punt Return TD, Game: 2 (NTSU, 1971)
  • Most Punt Return TD, Season: 4 (1971)
  • Most Punt Return TD, Career: 4
  • Most Combined Return Yards, Game: 247 (NTSU, 1971)
  • Most Combined Returns, Game: 10 (Arizona, 1971)
Richards was more than a bright spot on the 1971 team. As a return man he lived up to his name; he was Golden.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Poll Results: What validated the BYU QB Factory the Most?

The results are in, and voters say the most validating accomplishment for the BYU QB factory was Ty Detmer’s Heisman Trophy with 43% of the vote. The 1984 National Championship and Jim McMahon winning the Super Bowl both had 26% of the votes, while Marc Wilson being an NFL 1st Rounder was last with 5%.

While all of these selections brought validity to the BYU QB Factory, for me, this came down to choosing between Jim McMahon winning the Super Bowl and Ty Detmer’s Heisman Trophy.

Marc Wilson being an NFL 1st rounder is out because the very next year, McMahon put up video game numbers and BYU only had one loss, but BYU couldn’t crack the top 10 in the rankings and McMahon was a very distant 5th place in Heisman Trophy voting. The 1984 National Championship is a team accomplishment. Alabama QB Greg McElroy won a national championship, but no one is touting him as a future NFL star, or even one of the best college QBs of his era. Robbie Bosco had a very good statistical year, and I love the heart and guts he showed in the Holiday Bowl, but a national championship validates a progam more than the quarterback position.

How much of a role did McMahon winning the super bowl have in Detmer winning the Heisman Trophy? The voters could have easily given it to Notre Dame WR/KR Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail instead, just like they did Notre Dame WR/KR Tim Brown in 1987. Detmer played great and deserved to be in the thick of the race on his merits alone. Maybe, this is the wrong way to look at it.

The poll question asked about validating the QB factory. The BYU QB Factory resume needed both a super bowl win and a Heisman Trophy to be complete. In the end, I think the Heisman carries more weight than the Lombardi Trophy. Winning the Super Bowl is also more of a team accomplishment than winning the Heisman Trophy. With a BYU QB winning the Heisman Trophy, the QB Factory was validated more than with a team winning a championship.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Don’t forget to vote in this week’s poll: “Should Jake Heaps do a trick shot QB video?” (Like the UConn and Monmouth QB videos.)

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com