The results are in, and Brigham Young Cougars fans say running back is the team's area of greatest need for 2012. However, the vote was far from a consensus. Running backs received just one third of the vote (33%). The offensive line came in second with 26% followed by quarterback at 17%. The defensive side of the ball came in at the bottom of the poll with 13% of voters selecting defensive back and 11% selecting defensive line.
Recently, I have expressed concerns about the situation at running back, but my vote for the area of greatest need goes to the defensive backs.
BYU is losing a cornerback and the free safety this year. In the Bronco Mendenhall defensive system, the free safety is very important. He makes the calls and ensures players are lined up in the right spots every play. The value of a good free safety was very evident in 2009 against Florida State. In the first two games of the season, the BYU defense dominated. Free safety Scott Johnson missed game three against Florida State, and the Seminoles scorched BYU for 54 points.
The Armed Forces Bowl showed how important having a good cornerback can be. All it took for Tulsa to stay in front of BYU was a couple of deep passes. Cornerback play can be the difference between a win and a loss, especially if the offense is having an off day.
The offensive line is a close second for me. The good news is that three of the five starters are returning. The bad news is one of them is not Matt Reynolds. As long as the offensive line is motivated during the offseason, this position group will be fine. Replacing starters hasn't been a problem in recent years. From 2008 to 2009 the offensive line lost four starters, but when the season kicked off against number 3 Oklahoma the offensive line played very well. However, BYU needs the offensive line to win the battle of the trenches more than it has been.
The running backs come in third on my list of most needy. There are some key losses, but BYU returns a lot of experience as well as high potential newcomers that opposing defenses might find hard to handle with no game film on them. More importantly, I think Riley Nelson's mobility can mitigate some of the challenges that will arise if the running backs can't produce to the level needed. Otherwise, running backs would be higher on my list.
Thank you to everyone who voted, don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "Which former BYU player in the NFL had the best season?"
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