2007 BYU Preview

Posted May 9, 2007

BYU might not be the killer it was last year, but it'll still be good enough to be a major player in the Mountain West led by center Sete Aulai and a fantastic offensive line.

BYU Cougars

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 BYU Offense Preview | 2007 BYU Defense Preview
2007 BYU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN BYU Preview 

When Bronco Mendenhall took over as head coach two years ago, he made a big deal about bringing back all the old traditions. In 2006, he brought back the old BYU tradition of winning conference titles.

With one of the nation’s most efficient offensive machines and a swarming defense that never got enough recognition, BYU joined Wisconsin as one of the best teams not to get into the BCS. In case you missed it (and considering the Mountain West’s lousy television package, you did), the Cougars won their final ten games of the year and came within a bomb of a field goal by Arizona’s Nick Folk and a two-overtime heartbreaker against Boston College of getting all the love Boise State is now receiving.    

Head coach: Bronco Mendenhall
3rd year: 17-8
Returning Lettermen
Off. 17,  Def. 27, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 28
Ten Best BYU Players
C Sete Aulai, Sr.
2. FS Quinn Gooch, Sr.
3. LB Kelly Poppinga, Sr.
4. DE Jan Jorgensen, Soph.
5. OT Dallas Reynolds, Jr.
6. RB Fui Vakapuna, Jr.
7. QB Max Hall, Soph.
8. WR Austin Collie, Soph.
9. LB David Nixon, Jr.
10. LB Bryan Kehl, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1


Sept. 8


Sept. 15

at Tulsa

Sept. 22

Air Force

Sept. 29

at New Mexico

Oct. 13


Oct. 20

Eastern Washington

Oct. 27

at San Diego State

Nov. 3

Colorado State

Nov. 8


Nov. 17

at Wyoming

Nov. 24


2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 11-2

Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 at Arizona L 16-13
9/9 Tulsa W 49-24
9/16 at BC L 30-23 2OT
9/23 Utah State W 38-0
9/28 at TCU W 31-17
10/7 San Diego St W 47-17
10/21 UNLV W 52-7
10/28 at Air Force W 33-14
11/4 at Colorado St W 24-3
11/9 Wyoming W 55-7
11/18 New Mexico W 42-17
11/25 at Utah W 33-31
12/21 Las Vegas Bowl
Oregon W 38-8

The system is in place for success and the coaching will still be phenomenal, but the loss of quarterback John Beck, the one who made the offensive machine go, along with star tight end Jonny Harline and top back Curtis Brown means the offense will have to do a bit of rebuilding. Fortunately for BYU, Mendenhall is a defensive guy and will make sure the other side of the ball picks up the slack as long as needed.

The defense lost all-star linebacker Cameron Jensen, but gets seven starters back from a group that finished tenth in the nation in scoring defense. The coaching staff is fantastic at making adjustments on the fly and isn’t afraid to make big changes to get the best players on the field as much as possible, so there might be several big position moves made during the season. With several good defensive prospects waiting in the wings, the school once known for being an offensive juggernaut might have the nastiest non-BCS team defense in America.

Now the key is for Mendenhall and the program to keep the momentum going. The demanding fan base is used to winning all the time, and fortunately for the Cougar faithful, Mendenhall is included in that group. This isn’t a mirage like the beginning of the Gary Crowton era, when the program sunk into the abyss after a tremendous 2001 season. This time, the good old days really have returned.

What to watch for on offense: Can anyone come close to matching Beck’s production? With a good stable of young running backs and a veteran line, all the Cougars need is a little bit of consistency from the quarterbacks. Arizona State transfer Max Hall has all the skills to be another big-time Cougar passer, but former National JUCO Player of the Year Cade Cooper might be in the mix at some point.

What to watch for on defense: More from the defensive tackles. The Cougars survived last year with Jensen cleaning everything up the young tackles couldn’t handle, but after a year under fire, Russell Tialavea, Jan Jorgensen and Ian Dulan are all experienced sophomores and should form one of the team’s strengths. Stopping the run is a must, but getting more of a push into the backfield will also be vital.

The team will be far better if … there’s more of an overall pass rush. It’s hard to fault a defense that allowed just 14.7 points per game and gave up 17 or less in ten of the 13 outings, but the Cougars were able to get the job done without the benefit of steady pressure on the quarterbacks. To make matters worse, two of the players who did generate a rush, Hala Paongo and Jensen, are gone. The coaching staff might be good at tweaking, but it doesn’t want to have to get cute with its scheme. That means Jan Jorgensen on the inside, or Bryan Kehl on the outside, has to produce.

The Schedule: Merry Christmas. It's not an easy slate, especially with road non-conference games against UCLA and Tulsa and a home date with Arizona to start the season, but the Mountain West schedule couldn't be more favorable, with TCU and Utah each having to come to Provo. If you could pick any two league games to play on the road, you’d take UNLV and San Diego State. Three of the final four games are at home to offset a mid-season stretch of three road games in four. Playing Eastern Washington in the middle of the year will provide a nice break.

Best Offensive Player: Senior C Sete Aulai. A bit of a question mark being thrown into a new position last season, Aulai turned into an all-star center and a rock of the line. He has a low center of gravity, giving him tremendous leverage for the rushing game to go with the technique and quickness to be a brick wall in pass protection. He’ll be the anchor that the rest of the line works around.

Best Defensive Player: Senior S Quinn Gooch. A decent reserve as a sophomore, Gooch turned into an All-Mountain West playmaker, finishing fourth on the team in tackles as a steady hitter all over the field. With his experience, he needs to do more when the ball is in the air and pick off more passes.

Key player to a successful season: Quarterbacks Max Hall and Brenden Gaskins. Whoever it is has monstrously huge shoes to fill, and it could be a battle that lasts throughout the season. Gaskins, the surprise of spring ball, is bigger, while Hall is a gamer who turned heads last fall while running the scout offense. He consistently moved the ball against BYU’s first team defense in daily practices. Hall took the lead in the race for the starting job when Cade Cooper went down for the year with a foot injury during his first series in the Cougars’ spring scrimmage, but Gaskins was tremendous in the spring game completing 19 of 22 passes.

The season will be a success if ... BYU wins at least ten games and repeats as the Mountain West champion. That’s a tall order considering all the turnover on both sides of the ball, but the league schedule works out well enough for the Cougars to build momentum over the course of the season. BYU isn’t good enough to beat UCLA at UCLA, and could likely have issues at home against Arizona, but that won’t matter if it ends up winning the league title for the second straight year.

Key game: Nov. 8 vs. TCU. The Cougars shocked the Horned Frogs 31-17 in Fort Worth last season to set the scene for winning the Mountain West championship. Now they’ll have to avoid having the tables turned, in what should be the league’s game of the year. With both TCU and Utah at home in November, there should be a season-long buildup to those final showdowns.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: BYU 138; Opponents 15
- Third down conversions: BYU 94-168 (56%); Opponents 58-177 (33%)
- Turnovers: BYU 13; Opponents 27