Friday Mailbag: Michael Alisa in 2012, Riley Nelson’s Impact, Bronco Mendenhall’s Coaching, and Winning

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

On to the mailbag.

In your opinion on the poll results, it seems you selected Michael Alisa by default. It is one thing to be the team’s leading rusher. It is another to be a good running back. How many rushing yards do you think he will have in 2012 and will that be enough to be considered a good running back?

If Alisa reaches 700 yards rushing this year with a 5.0 yards per rush average, then I will be happy. Alisa had some good moments last year, but also he showed some signs of improvement needed. Normally, I would want closer to 1,000 yards rushing from BYU’s leading rusher, but this is not a normal year. Riley Nelson’s style of play will decrease opportunities for the running backs this year. Additionally, I expect Joshua “Juice” Quezada will shows improvement from last season. If he reaches 400 yards, that will probably impact Alisa’s rushing totals. Under those conditions, if Alisa is between 600-700 yards and still averages 5.0 ypr, then I will still be happy.

The important part is that Alisa be effective enough to make opponents respect the run and take pressure off of Nelson and the receivers. I think that with 700 yards from the primary rusher and a viable second rusher, who is not Riley Nelson, will do that.


Nice flashback remembering that "magic happens"  I hope that after this season we will adapt that phase to say “Riley happens” because Nelson’s leadership and toughness elevates the team and surprises all of us with how good this season is. The guy is a winner. I can’t wait for kickoff. Go Cougars!

I think Utah State and Tulsa agree. BYU has already experienced “Riley happens” twice. BYU fans are hurting for a “special” season, and if Nelson leads the charge and delivers what Cougar fans have been longing for, then a unique way to remember him is in order.

After everything that has happened in the BYU QB saga with Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson, the 2012 season will be an interesting case study in leadership and heart vs. talent and training. Guys like Ty Detmer and Tim Tebow have “over achieved” based on their size or talent level because of their leadership and heart. Based on his pedigree of talent and training, Heaps was expected to return BYU to heights that it had not seen for ages. Obviously, that didn’t happen. It would make a huge statement if Nelson, the leadership and heart guy, did what Heaps was “supposed” to do.


RE: Frustrated with Bronco Mendenhall? Read This.

1. Why would anyone be frustrated with his coaching? He's done the best he can with what he has to work with. It's not like BYU has five-star athletes at their disposal every day. I would say he's the perfect guy for the job. Still plenty of dumb Cougar fans out there who would actually like to see Bronco replaced. DUMB.

2. If I wanted to read an article about VaTech, I'd go to one of their forums. Look, I am frustrated with Bronco because of his attitude and arrogance towards Cougar fans. I also have a sour taste in my mouth the way the Heaps thing was handled, but I'm past that.

3. This article is far too reasonable. I had this conversation with my Dad last night. He's been a cougar fan his whole life, but he's frustrated with the current "ceiling" of the program. He deemed it mediocrity. I will agree that BYU has failed at some bad times over Bronco's tenure, but his record is anything but mediocre. I hear nothing but respect for his program around the country. He's only hated at home where they can't be satisfied.

4. This article's opinion is very myopic. Considering the restrictions Bronco has to overcome at a church-owned school like BYU, I feel he has done a very admirable job. I'm 100% behind Bronco.

Maybe my understanding of myopic is different than yours, but I don’t find my opinion to be “shortsighted.” Shortsighted would be to have the extreme opinion that he should be on the hot seat because he hasn't gotten BYU into a BCS bowl, or that he should have a free pass for as long as he wants to stay at BYU because he won 10 games for four consecutive seasons. I acknowledge the success he has had, however, he has shortcomings as well. The bottom line is seven years is too short to make snap decisions about his ability to take the team to the next level, and it is also too short to make rash guarantees for future job security.

Personally, I have found several reasons to be frustrated with Mendenhall.

The loss to Florida State in 2009 sticks out to me. Mendenhall’s comments after the game about underestimating the Seminoles’ speed, and rationalizing the magnitude of the defeat by saying it was “only 37” errors in execution that cost BYU the win, that ended the 18 game home winning streak, and that wiped away all the national credibility earned by beating Oklahoma.

The 2008 loss to TCU is another one. After beating the Horned Frogs two years in a row, and the reports that a BYU helmet was on their tackling dummy at practice, I knew BYU would be walking into an ambush. Someone who played competitive sports growing up and coached football all of his adult life should have known it, too, and gotten his team ready for it.

On the flip side, there are way too many good things happening to call BYU mediocre under Mendenhall. Five 10 wins seasons over six years, five bowl wins, an excellent 0.733 winning percentage, and many more that can be found here, here, and here. He has embraced BYU for what it is and found a way to use that identity to help his teams win.

Why did I bring the Virginia Tech fans into this? Some people listen to and respect the opinion of outsiders more than friends and family. Teenagers are a good example of this. They don’t want to listen to the advice of their parents, but if the advice comes from one of their teachers at school they will listen.


I don’t care what BYU calls the model they are following. They can call it the “Irish Model,” the “Boise State Model,” the “old BYU model,” or the “SEC Way.” One thing is certain. No model will be successful without winning, so I say BYU needs to use the “Winning Model” to make independence work.

I agree 100%. Winning was the key ingredient in Notre Dame, Boise State, BYU of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, and the SEC all rising to prominence. Other factors may have contributed, but they were all dependent on winning.

Notre Dame won seven national championships over a 25 year span (1924-49), and then continued to win at a high rate, including five more national championships in the next 40 years.

All of the “power” conferences became “power” conferences because they were winning. They built a tradition of winning and established that as part of their identity. It became important to the players, the coaches, the school administrators, and the entire fan base that they be winners. The Big East isn’t considered a “power” conference anymore because they stopped winning.

It doesn’t matter how many gimmicks BYU has, the Cougars cannot have success as an independent without winning.

Fortunately, it sounds like Bronco Mendenhall understands this. “Credibility as a football team comes from scheduling tough teams, and usually going on the road and beating them,” Mendenhall said.

It is also important in this day and age that on the rare occasions that you don't win that you loose respectably, as opposed to the wild blowouts seen in the last few years. The 2009 team probably would have been ranked in the top 10 if its two losses were each by seven points or less.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. Alisa has the potential to be great. Last year, despite showing his inexperience at the position, he averaged 5.4 ypc. What makes Alisa so dangerous is his speed and his big play making abilities. BYU has not had a contributing runningback with that type of speed and break away ability since Luke Staley.

    The question is "Can Alisa (and the coaches)
    correct the misreads and other mistakes indicative of a green running back that caused micheal to have many of his runs stopped earlyier than necesary for little or no yards.

    If those apparently fixable issues are takecare of, I could easily see Alisa averaging over 6ypc. If those mistakes are more deeply ingrained in his nature and can't be overcome, then I think your estimate will be more on target.

  2. Alisa had 2 rushes for 0 yards against Utah and 6 rushes for 11 yards against TCU. So some room for improvement remains. Good thing he was a freshman last year, I hear they improve over time.


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