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Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Mailbag: Mark Atuaia Hire, BYU vs. Utah on ESPN2, Brayden Kearsley’s Antics, and Redshirt Freshmen

Welcome to the Friday Mailbag where once a week I answer your questions and respond to your comments about Brigham Young Cougars football. As a quick reminder, there are three ways to submit a question:

1. Email: bluecougarfootball@gmail.com
2. Twitter: @BlueCougarFball and use #BCFmailbag
3. Leave a comment at the end of a BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL article.

On to the mailbag.

I am happy to see Mark Atuaia hired by the BYU Athletics Department. I hope that can end this nonsense from some people about how BYU treats Polynesians.

It is always nice to see good things happen to former BYU football players. I have never met Atuaia, but everything I hear from others is that he is a fantastic person and very deserving of the good things that happen to him.

How this move impacts BYU relations with the Polynesian community is not something I am qualified to speak on. Assistant to the Athletic Director is clearly not the same as Assistant Football Coach, but his presence in this position can be used in many positive ways with Polynesian recruits and their families.

*****

It’s nice to know we can at least watch the BYU-Utah game. What I was really hoping for was that the game would be moved to Friday or Thursday to give one or two more days before the Boise State game the following Thursday.

With this game being played in Salt Lake City, the Utes probably has more control over a possible change to the date. Doing anything to help BYU is the last thing they would do. This is the school who always tried to have a bye the week before the BYU game.

If I was Bronco Mendenhall, here is how I would prepare for Boise State. I would use the Friday and Saturday after the Washington State game to sneak in two days of work on Boise State.

I remember back in 1991, BYU played Penn State in game three and Air Force in game four. Between games two and three, BYU had a bye. Rather than get super prepared for Penn State, LaVell Edwards used the bye week to help prepare his young defense for the Air Force option attack.

With the Boise State game five days after the Utah game, BYU has two less days to prepare. At a minimum, Mendenhall should use the Friday and Saturday following Washington State to prep his team for Boise State. He could even use the Monday as well. Weber State is the next game. BYU shouldn’t need a full week of practice to be ready to beat the Wildcats. As long as BYU beats Weber State I will be happy.

I fully support sacrificing a blowout win in order to be ready for Boise State. No one will care if BYU beat Weber State by 45 points if the Cougars go to Boise and lose by 20. Poll voters, pundits, and college football fans won’t have pity for BYU because of the short turnaround.

*****

BYU 2013 commit Brayden Kearsley is very outspoken. He reminds me of O’Neill Chambers in that way. I hope he can understand his place in the locker room when he gets to BYU. We don’t need another division between upperclassmen and freshmen.

Are you referring to him burning the scholarship offer from Utah, his tweets, his high self-confidence that comes out in media interviews, or all of the above?

The transition from high school recruit with four or five stars to freshman who needs to earn his stripes is tricky. After committing early and then successfully recruiting other players to sign with BYU, it can give a guy the feeling he has already spent a year or two in the program, and he is not a normal freshman.

I don't know how Kearsley will act once he arrives on campus or how the team will respond, but I think it helps that he is a lineman and not a skill position player. BYU has a long history of freshmen linemen starting immediately. Also, linemen aren’t typically your team leaders that everyone rallies around. If Kearsley’s continues his antics and they upsets upperclassmen, the residual effect shouldn’t be as big as what appeared to be a widespread rift that resulted from Jake Heaps’ confident attitude.

*****

I am enjoying your Top 10 BYU Freshman list. Clearly, you did your homework, so I was wondering what your research has shown you as far as playing as a redshirt freshman or a true freshman? Does it make much of a difference?

Good question. What I noticed is that it doesn’t really matter if a player is a redshirt freshman or a true freshman. The Top 10 is evenly split with five true freshmen and five redshirt freshmen. Great players are great no matter when they see the field. The difference between these freshmen and other great BYU players who didn’t play when they were freshmen is timing.

Players who succeed as a freshman were in the right place at the right time. They didn’t arrive at BYU when a player like Dennis Pitta had the starting spot at their position locked down, or they got an opportunity earlier than expected because the more experienced guy ahead of them suffered an injury.

As far as performance on the field, I don’t think the five who redshirted were better than they would have been if they had played one year earlier.

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

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