As spring football practices opened for the Brigham Young Cougars, it wasn't just the players competing to fill the holes left by graduating seniors looking to prove themselves. The five new offensive coaches have the burden of proving they deserve their new jobs just as the new starters will this fall.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae is back at BYU after leaving in 2010. Discontent with Anae was growing from an increasingly vocal fan base. When he left, it appeared he left in shame. While discontent with his replacement was equal or greater just two years later, head coach Bronco Mendenhall surprised everyone when he rehired Anae.
Anae quickly hired Mark Atuaia and Garett Tujague. Atuaia's hiring had been two years in the making. When he was passed over in 2010 for a position on the Cougar coaching staff, a prominent alumni cried foul and publicly pressured BYU to rectify what he considered wrong. A brouhaha ensued. Atuaia has no proven coaching experience. Other than helping the BYU coaches for a few years while studying law in Provo, Atuaia has not coached anywhere else. His qualifications for this position are all anecdotal at this point.
Tujague returns to BYU with several years of coaching experience, including a head coaching role at the junior college College of the Canyons. That, however, is the flaw in Tujague's resume. He has no experience at the FBS level of college football. Will the coaching methods that were successful at this lower level of competition translate into the same success at this higher level? Tujague has also been tasked with coaching the offensive line, which had more than its fair share of problems in 2012.
Jason Beck was predominately a backup quarterback during his playing career (2004-06) at BYU. Now, he returns to tutor and develop the signature position of the school and the game. Beck was selected among other known qualified candidates, which wasn't the case for the other coaches. The quarterback position has been a sore spot the last three years, but the cupboard is not bare. Immediate results will be expected.
Guy Holliday is the mystery man of the group. His hire took everyone completely by surprise. He has no previous history with the school, unlike every other new hire. Holliday inherits Cody Hoffman, arguably the best wide receiver in BYU history coming off one of the best seasons in school history. If Hoffman's production dips, then Holliday will face the fans' ire.
Which of these five has the most to prove in their first season?
BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL put this question out to site visitors recently and offensive coordinator Robert Anae was clearly the popular choice receiving 62 percent of the votes, which was nearly three times more than runner up Jason Beck (21%). Running back coach Mark Atuaia was third with 12 percent, followed by Garett Tujague (4%) and Guy Holliday (1%).
I agree that Tujague and Holliday are fourth and fifth, respectively, on the list of who has the most to prove. Tujague will have Anae helping him coach the offensive line. Holliday has a very strong resume with many of his past pupils going on to the NFL. He will get a pass for the first year, rather than be placed under a microscope. At this point, Hoffman can crank out 1,000 yards and 10 TD without any coaching whatsoever.
My top three, however, are different.
Anae is third on my list. While he had worn out his welcome two years ago, he has a track record of success that was much better than what was seen the last two seasons. The hindsight perspective and new knowledge about what was happening behind closed doors before Anae's departure have bought him some good will. No, hiring Anae was not flashy, but it wasn't very risky, either.
Atuaia is my choice for the coach with the second most to prove. At this point, his hiring appears to be nothing more than a public relations move to satisfy the Polynesian community. Yes, he is a bright guy who has proven capable in many other endeavors he has pursued, but, again, his resume has a lot of holes in it. Atuaia inherits a favorable situation with several talented and experienced backs. It also helps that no one is going to put pressure on the running backs to be the ones to win games for BYU.
Beck has the most to prove. This is Quarterback U. A lot of deficiencies can be tolerated, but poor quarterback play is never acceptable. Taysom Hill showed a lot of potential last year, and if he doesn't progress significantly this year then the backlash will be directed at Beck. If Beck/the QB struggles, fans can lament that Paul Peterson would have been a better choice, or even letting Brandon Doman stay and coach the quarterbacks would have been smarter since he had done well with John Beck and Max Hall.
Thank you to everyone who voted. Don't forget to vote in the new poll: "How long should Bronco Mendenhall's contract extension be?"
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