2012 BYU Preview – Offense
BYU QB Riley Nelson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - BYU Cougar Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
The BYU offense has been awful over the last two years when it's had to face a defense with a pulse, and then looks great when going against the mediocre WAC and Mountain West teams on the slate. This year, though, offensive coordinator Brandon Doman has enough good pieces in place for the attack to be great no matter who it's facing. The problem across the board is proven depth, but the starting 11 should be solid helped mostly by a terrific receiving corps. Cody Hoffman, Ross Apo and J.D. Falslev form an outstanding trio, and now quarterback Riley Nelson has to build on his strong 2011 and spread the ball around. The running game will be powerful with a big group of backs working behind a strong line. Tackle Braden Brown and guard Braden Hansen will be all-stars who'll blast away.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Cody Hoffman
Passing: Riley Nelson
116-202, 1,717 yds, 19 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Michael Alisa
85 carries, 455 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Cody Hoffman
61 catches, 943 yds, 10 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior RB Michael Alisa
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman OT Ryker Mathews
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Braden Hansen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hoffman, 2) OT Braden Brown, 3) Hansen
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Line
Weakness of the offense: Running Back, Proven Depth
The idea was that Jake Heaps was going to be the superstar quarterback for the next few years, but he couldn't move the offense. Utah State transfer Riley Nelson stepped in and provided the spark needed, completing 57% of his throws for 1,717 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven picks, while finishing third on the team with 392 rushing yards and a score. Only 6-0 and 196 pounds he's not all that big, and he doesn't have a huge arm, but the senior is a baller with great mobility and a flair for the dramatic. The 2005 Utah Mr. Football threw for a state record 79 touchdown passes and 4,041 passing yards, and after spending a few years on an LDS mission in Spain, he's mature and should take to the job of being the main man.
With injuries and church missions depleting the prospects last year, senior James Lark comes into the year as the No. 2 option with decent 6-2, 200-pound size and a nice arm. However, he only completed 2-of-6 passes for 21 yards in his limited time, and he might need a little time and seasoning after not throwing a live pass in five years before the 2010 season. He threw for 6,739 career yards in high school and threw for a Utah record 79 scores. Mobile, he has the skills to be a dual-threat playmaker.
6-5, 250-pound junior Jason Munns was wanted by USC back when it was USC, and he got the full court press from Nebraska, Oregon and other big programs, too. However, he hasn't done anything yet for the Cougars after suffering a knee injury early on. This offseason he was out with a foot problem. He has the size and the arm, but he needs time.
Watch Out For … Lark. He hasn't done anything yet and it has now been seven years since he did anything meaningful on the football field, but with the way Nelson gets hit, the backup situation will be in the spotlight.
Strength: Mobility. Lark is a strong dual-threat option, while Nelson is a terrific runner who can make things happen as a main rushing option as well as a passer. He ran for 62 yards or more in five straight games.
Weakness: The backups. There are plenty of talented options and prospects, but Lark and Munns have yet to do anything for the Cougars and freshmen Taysom Hill and Alex Kuresa are likely going to be in the mix in 2013.
Outlook: It would've been nice if Jake Heaps was still around to give it a shot rather than spend the 2012 season waiting in the wings at Kansas, but Nelson proved he could handle the work. Is he a bomber? No, but he'll get the offense moving with his legs and smarts as well as his arm. The backup situation is a problem, but as long as Nelson is upright the position will be fine. Not elite, but fine.
Unit Rating: 7
The ground game loses leading rusher J.J. Di Luigi, but it welcomes back No. 2 man, Michael Alisa, a 6-1, 213-pound big back with good enough speed to get by and decent quickness. The junior only ran for 455 yards and three scores, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and he caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. While he didn't do anything over the first half of the season, he came on late with 99 yards against Idaho and with 51 rushing yards or more in six of the final seven regular season games before missing the bowl game with an ankle injury.
5-11, 225-pound junior Josh Quezada can carry the load from time to time rushing or 505 yards and five scores with two 100-yard days in 2010, but he was limited last year to 298 yards and a score getting the most work in over the middle of the season. While he's not a home run hitter, with good power and a little bit of quickness he can be used in a variety of ways including at receiver after catching four passes for 21 yards.
Senior David Foote has to get over a shoulder injury, but he should be a part of the equation again after running for 146 yards on just 13 carries highlighted by a 56-yard run against Hawaii. Mostly, though, he has been a special teamer.
Fullback, 5-11, 245-pound senior Zed Mendenhall has been around long enough to play a bigger role. An academic all-star, he's a good, sound blocker, but he didn't get any carries last year and caught just two passes for seven yards. 6-0, 240-pound sophomore Iona Pritchard is a physical hitter who's trying to get back from a knee injury. He's not going to get the ball, but he'll serve as a good blocker at times.
Watch Out For … running back by committee. The Cougars don't really have one star back to revolve everything around, and QB Riley Nelson will handle plenty of the work, so several players will get some work in.
Strength: Options. For good and bad, there should be a solid rotation with a slew of different backs getting their turn. Everyone will be fresh and the team won't rely on any one back. However, it would be nice if there was any …
Weakness: One back to rely on. Alisa is close and he could blossom into the main man after showing some nice things over the second half of last year, but no one on the roster will throw a scare into defenses. The team's most dangerous runner might be Nelson.
Outlook: Can Alisa be special? He only handled the ball on 85 carries, but a J.J. Di Luigi-type has to emerge. The running game isn't amazing, and it's not going to average more than the 160 yards per game it cranked out last year, but it will be functional against the mediocre.
Unit Rating: 6
The offense needed a No. 1 receiver to step up and shine, and junior Cody Hoffman turned into the man with a team-leading 61 grabs for 943 yards and ten scores. With excellent size and good speed, he's not just a good target at 6-4 and 208 pounds, but he's also a terrific kickoff returner taking one back for a score against UCF. While he came up with a nine-catch, 162-yard, one score day against Oregon State, and caught eight passes for 138 yards in the Utah debacle, he came on over the last quarter of the season with three 100-yard games in his final four including a dominant 122-yard, three touchdown performance against Tulsa in the bowl win. A matchup nightmare, he took his game to another level and should be the team's most dangerous offensive weapon.
A dislocated finger kept sophomore Ross Apo out of the 2010 season, but last season he went from being a nice recruit to a good No. 2 option with tremendous quickness and speed. Last year the 6-3, 206-pounder finished second on the team with 34 catches for 453 yards and nine scores with back-to-back two touchdown days against New Mexico State and Hawaii to close out the regular season. He has the size, speed and ability to blow up with all the attention paid to Hoffman on the other side.
5-8, 184-pound junior J.D. Falslev is a strong punt returner averaging ten yards per pop with a score against TCU last year, and he also stepped up as a receiver finishing third on the team with 31 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Steady more than spectacular as a receiver, his good for a few catches per game. He'll back up Apo, while the 5-9, 170-pound junior Dallin Cutler is a smallish, quick option who got in a little bit of work making three catches for 23 yards. Mature, he spent 2007 to 2009 in Costa Rica on a mission and he'll be a good route runner behind Hoffman on one side.
6-4, 228-pound junior Marcus Mathews and 6-5, 244-pound junior Kaneakua Friel will combine forces at tight end while a slew of other options try to get healthy. Mathews turned into the team's top receiving tight end catching 27 passes for 299 yards and a score. While he disappeared at times, he came on late in the year with ten catches over the final four games as more of a big wide receiver than a big blocking option. Friel caught seven passes for 55 yards and a score, and while he's not the target or the field stretcher that Mathews is, he can do a little of everything well.
Watch Out For … Falslev. If and when the Cougars go to three-wide attacks, he should be more deadly than ever with Hoffman and Apo now with enough of a résumé to get all the attention from secondaries. Falslev should be able to dominate in the slot.
Strength: Experience. The top four receivers are back and the rest of the holes in the depth should be easily filled in. Hoffman and Apo are a deadly 1-2 combination, while Falslev is a terrific No. 3 option and Mathews is a good receiving tight end.
Weakness: Pass catching running backs. J.J. Di Luigi caught 27 passes and Bryan Kariya made 13 grabs. The top wide receiver targets will handle the work with the passing attack, but it would be nice if there were more options for Riley Nelson to check down to.
Outlook: The receivers should be terrific and they'll make Nelson look better than he probably is. After years with mediocre tight end play, Mathews and Friel stepped up last year and should be outstanding, while Hoffman, Apo and Falslev will be a strong trio that will stretch the field and should combine for close to 150 catches for close to 2,000 yards and 25 scores if the quarterback play is solid.
Unit Rating: 8
6-6, 301-pound right tackle Braden Brown hasn't received a whole bunch of credit and recognition after playing in the shadow of former star tackle Matt Reynolds, but now it's his turn to shine. With good size, a great frame and excellent feet, he's a strong pass protector with next-level athleticism. He came to BYU as a 6-6, 250-pound tight end type of blocker, and then he filled out his frame and it's all coming together. UCLA, Oregon and others in the former Pac-10 wanted him, but he has been terrific for BYU and should be a key part to a strong attack once he gets past a shoulder injury.
One Braden is back on the outside, while another returns to the interior. 6-6, 313-pound senior Braden Hansen returns with the upside and potential to be in the mix for All-America honors at left guard. A blaster of a run blocker, he's big, athletic, and experienced with good pass protection skills and excellent toughness. He'll be the one the running game works behind.
Taking over for Matt Reynolds at left tackle will be freshman Ryker Mathews, a 6-6, 313-pound athletic who was a great get for the program and has the upside and ability to quickly be special. He moves better than Reynolds, and while he might need a little bit of time to get his feet wet, he's going to be a fixture up front for the next four years.
Junior Houston Reynolds got hurt before the 2009 season before becoming a decent reserve at both guard and center. A veteran, he knows what he's doing at center with good athleticism and decent 6-2, 296-pound size. He's not his brother, Matt, but he's a solid blocker who'll get the job done as the quarterback up front. He's more of a technician than a blaster.
6-6, 287-pound sophomore Brock Stringham went on a three-year mission and showed a little bit of what he could do last year as a reserve. Now he'll start at right guard, and while he's built more like a tackle, he has decent run blocking skills and should be strong in pass protection. However, if the line is looking for more bulk, 6-3, 307-pound junior Manaaki Vaitai can step in. He hasn't done much of anything yet, but he was a good recruit with excellent size and terrific run blocking potential.
Senior Walter Kahaiali'i was a strong special teamer and a good backup. While he's one of the biggest and toughest blockers on the team, he slimmed down a bit getting to 325 pounds on his 6-3 frame. He'll work at left tackle behind Mathews, but he can play almost anywhere up front.
Watch Out For … Mathews. He might not get the preseason attention of other key Cougar blockers, but he has the potential to be a great one. All the tools are there to be a rock.
Strength: The Bradens. Right tackle Braden Brown and right guard Braden Hansen are legitimate All-America candidates to build around. Everything else will work around them with several good, mature blockers.
Weakness: Veteran depth. There's size, and as always, everyone has all but grown in their bodies, but there isn't much in the way of backup production to count on. There will be problems if injuries strike.
Outlook: As long as the starting five stays healthy, but line will be terrific. Hansen and Brown will be among the best in the nation at their respective positions, while Mathews is an up-and-coming star. Reynolds will be more than solid in the middle. The pass protection will be rock solid for Riley Nelson, while the ground game will be pounding.
Unit Rating: 8
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