With 37% of the vote, the Brigham Young Cougars tight ends were voted the position group that would improve the most from 2011 to 2012. Quarterback edged out running back (16% to 15%) for second most improved. Following those three came the defensive backs (9%), offensive line (7%), wide receivers (6%), linebackers (5%), special teams (3%), and defensive line (2%).
I think the running backs will be most improved, even with the shocking news that Joshua Quezada will transfer.
The tight ends were pretty solid in 2011. The injuries made it hard to realize how well they played as a unit. The trio of "true" tight ends (Austin Holt, Richard Wilson, and Kaneakua Friel) combined for 29 receptions, 365 yards, and 2 touchdowns. These aren't lights out numbers, but they aren't terrible. Once you account for "tweener" Marcus Mathews and his 27 receptions for 299 yards and one touchdown, the level of improvement that I expect in 2012 isn't as much as other positions.
The running backs were a disappointing bunch, by almost any standard, in 2011. It had been over a decade since the team's leading rusher had less than 600 yards. I had been over 15 years since an entire season passed without one back rushing for 100 yards in a game. Sure the team rushed for over 2,000 yards on the season, but nearly 400 of those yards came from quarterback Riley Nelson.
Assuming the passing game would be the backbone of the offense, head coach Bronco Mendenhall accepted that the team failed to work on the run game enough during fall camp. That mistake contributed to the struggles BYU had to run the ball the first four or five games. Don't expect that mistake to be repeated.
The running back corps is different this year than last. The presence of a true fullback has been missing. It won't be this year (knock on wood). Mendenhall has a lot of confidence that Iona Pritchard will provide what Manase Tonga and Fui Vakapuna provided not too long ago.
BYU is also expected to lean on just one running back, Michael Alisa, rather than use a "running back by committee" approach. The increased reps should help Alisa reach his full potential, and having just one style of back to block for should help the offensive line block better.
Speaking of the offensive line, they should be improve after the NFL draft wake up call and being called out by offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. The offensive line's improvement will directly benefit the running backs.
Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll: "Who will benefit the most from Joshua Quezada transferring?"
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