Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
While the offense won't crank out the big numbers last
year's attack did (finishing fourth in the
nation in total offense and fifth in scoring),
it'll be fantastic starting with a great line
that has more talent and depth (though unproven)
than the program has seen in a long time. The
receivers have to step up with the top targets
of last year gone, and new starting quarterback
Max Hall has to be efficient from day one. The
1-2 rushing punch of Manase Tonga and Fui
Vakapuna will carry things when it needs to with
an interesting blend of speed and power.
Rushing: Fui Vakapuna
92 carries, 445 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Matt Allen
27 catches, 420 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Max Hall
Player that has to step up and become a star: Hall
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT David Oswald
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Fui Vakapuna
Top three all-star candidates: 1) C Sete Aulai, 2) Hall,
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, running back
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback experience, number one receiver
Sophomore Max Hall ended up winning the starting job by
default when Cade Cooper suffered a season-ending foot
injury, but Hall was playing well enough in spring ball to have
earned the gig on his own. The Arizona State transfer isn't all
that big at 6-1 and 200 pounds, but he has a live, accurate arm.
He's not going to be John Beck throwing the ball, but the nephew
of former NFL star Danny White has the mobility will allow the
coaching staff to do a few different things.
Projected Top Reserves: The surprise of spring
ball was a pleasant one. 6-5, 220-pound JUCO transfer Brendan
Gaskins went lights-out in the spring game completing 19 of
22 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown to firmly establish
himself as the number two, with a puncher's chance of winning
the starting job this fall. He originally wanted to go to BYU in
2002, but chose Nevada after now-UCLA starter Ben Olson had
committed to the Cougars. Cooper, a 6-3, 205-pound bomber, will
likely be back in the mix next year once he gets healthy. The
NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year out of Snow JC as wanted by
several big boys before coming to BYU.
Watch Out For ... Hall to keep the offensive
production rolling. No, BYU's offense won't do what it did last
year, but Hall is good enough make the passing game shine. And
Strength: ... if Hall isn't up to the task, Gaskins is
more than ready to step in. They're two different passers who
can each put up huge numbers. BYU has reestablished itself as a
Weakness: Experience. Yeah, Hall and Gaskins are tremendous
prospects, but they have to actually show they can get it done
at the D-I level. The ceiling is high for both players, but it's
asking a lot for them to not make a slew of rookie mistakes.
Outlook: All Beck did was complete 69% of his
passes for close to 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns with eight
interceptions. The coaching staff won't be expecting that out of
Hall or Gaskins, but as long as the interceptions are kept to a
minimum and the accuracy is there, the offense won't skip that
big of a beat.
It'll be up to junior Manase Tonga to replace BYU's
all-time leading rusher, Curtis Brown, and while he doesn't have
the same sort of speed, he's quick, consistent, can catch, and
is big. At 234 pounds, he provided a nice pop rushing for 197
yards and four touchdowns while catching 23 passes for 230 yards
and two scores. He's a banger who can be used as a workhorse.
Helping out will be junior Fui Vakapuna, who's achieved
cult hero status among the Cougar faithful for his tough style.
A fascinating talent with 4.4 speed in the body of a 234-pound
fullback, he led the way with eight rushing touchdowns while
catching three short scoring passes. More than just a
short-yardage runner, he can line up at tailback if needed.
Projected Top Reserves: While Tonga and Vakapuna
will combine to carry the load, senior Joe Semanoff will
see time as the backup tailback. A 220-pound speedster, he's had
a hard time cranking the offensive lineup so far and had just 29
yards last year.
Backing up Vakapuna will be redshirt freshman
Harvey Unga, a 6-0, 221-pound runner who missed last year
hurt. He's more of a tailback than a blocking fullback, and
he'll have to prove early on that he can be a consistent
producer to end up as the third option.
Watch Out For ... Tonga to be terrific. Brown was
so good, and Vakapuna so effective, that Tonga didn't get as
much work as he probably should've. Now he'll get around 150
carries and should come up with a great year.
Strength: Size. When the smallest of the top four
options goes 220 pounds, there's some good size in the
backfield. Just because the Cougar backs are big, that doesn't
mean they can't move.
Weakness: Backup experience. Semanoff and Unga haven't seen any
meaningful time, and Ray Hudson transferred to Stephen F.
Austin, so Tonga and Vakapuna will likely be the running game
for a while. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Outlook: Replacing Brown's 1,010 rushing yards and
seven touchdowns, and the team-leading 62 catches, will require
a combination effort. Tonga and Vakapuna will each tear off
their share of big runs while providing good power. Each of them
can catch, but the one who does it on a more consistent basis
will likely get more work.
While the Cougars lost their top three pass catchers from last
year, they get back a key target in sophomore Austin Collie,
who's been out of the mix for the last two years on a church
mission. He's 6-2 and 212 pounds with excellent hands, but he
has to show he can regain the form from his freshman season when
he caught 53 passes for 771 yards and eight touchdowns. If he
doesn't win the starting spot a the Z, he'll be the first
reserve in the mix.
Likely to start at the outside X position
will be 6-1, 202-pound junior Michael Reed after catching
25 passes for 339 yards and three scores as a ten-game starters.
While he's not a blazer, he can get deep enough to make several
The smallish Bryce Mahuika will be used as an
inside possession receiver at the H. He's only 5-9 and 185
pounds, but he can move averaging 15.2 yards per catch on his
five grabs last season.
The biggest issue will be replacing All-American Jonny
Harline and his 58 catches for 935 yards and ten touchdowns.
It'll take several players to get the job done with 6-5,
230-pound sophomore, Dennis Pitta, likely to get the
starting nod. Coming off a mission, he needs to regain his 2004
form when he caught 17 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
He has great hands and solid route running ability.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Matt Allen
could end up starting at either the Z or the X after making 27
catches for 420 yards and three scores. While he's not a number
one target, he's a good complementary receiver and a strong
Sophomore Daniel Tervort, a quick player
who'll see time on special teams, will combine with junior
Reed White, who has yet to see the field.
at tight end with Pitta will be sophomores Vic So'oto and
Andrew George, who will each be a part of the passing
game and part of two tight end sets. The 6-5, 240-pound George
was mostly a special teamer last season, while the 6-3,
233-pound So'oto was hurt early on and ended up redshirting.
So'oto, a big-time recruit who was recruited by USC, Cal,
Michigan, Oklahoma and Florida State, among many others, has the
potential to be special once he returns from a one-game
suspension after being arrested in a strange incident when he
and linebacker Terrance Hooks kicked in the door of a couple of
students throwing water baloons.
Watch Out For ... the receivers to play more of a
role. John Beck liked to spread the ball around last year, but
there wasn't any one standout receiver. Now look for the
wideouts to make the most big plays.
Strength: Veterans. It's rare for a team to lose as much
production as BYU did and still have several good players to
work with. The return of Collie is a major boost, while Reed and
Allen can each be a number one target on any given day. However
Weakness: ... is there a number one receiver? Collie could be
one if he plays like he did a few years ago, but there's almost
certain to be a little rust to shake off. With a new quarterback
under center, it would be nice if one player stood out.
Outlook: Last year's leading receiver was Curtis
Brown, a running back and Harline was second as the two combined
for 120 of the team's 311 catches. It also doesn't help that
McKay Jacobson, Zac Collie and Nate Meikle, three of the team's
top receivers, are also gone. There might not be a gamebreaker,
but there are a slew of good, solid targets who'll all make
around 20-30 grabs.
The big question will be how well the new starting tackles can
do in place of Jake Kuresa and Eddie Keele. Junior
David Oswald is an interesting player to start with
checking in at 6-8 and 325 pounds. With three starts last season
at right tackle, and with good results, he should be able to
take over in a full-time role and be strong in pass protection.
On the left side will likely be 6-5, 300-pound sophomore R.J.
Willing, who's back after spending two years on a mission.
He started in nine games in 2004 and showed off a little bit of
the talent that made him a top prospect back in 2003. He could
play center if needed.
The inside of the line is rock-solid led by senior center
Sete Aulai, who earned second-team Mountain West honors.
He's a technician in the passing game and turned into a pounding
run blocker as the star the line revolved around.
Ray Feinga will return on the left side after a decent
season. He's 6-5 and 322 pounds, but he hasn't quite lived up to
his big billing as a superstar recruit for the program in 2004.
That doesn't mean he's been bad; he simply hasn't be a star yet.
6-5, 314-pound junior, Travis Bright, returns on the
right side after a good first year as the starter. Athletic
enough to play tackle if needed, he's growing into a reliable
Projected Top Reserves: Somewhere in the mix will
eventually be Dallas Reynolds, a 6-5, 328 junior
who's been a star at tackle after moving over from guard. He's
out with a shoulder injury, but he'll take over the left tackle
job when he returns.
While not nearly as big as
the 300-pound Willing, the 6-3, 273 pound Garrett Reden
is a good talent who'll push for the left tackle job.
The redshirt freshman is extremely quick and will be strong in pass
protection. Playing behind Feinga at left guard is 6-3,
320-pound redshirt freshman Walter Kahaiali'i, who's
growing into a good enough all-around blocker to be a big part
of the rotation even though he doesn't have any experience.
Watch Out For ... the line to be terrific by the
end of the year. Once the new tackles get comfortable, the
starting five will be among the Mountain West's best, especially
if and when Dallas Reynolds comes back from a shoulder injury.
Strength: The interior. The guards are good, while Aulai
is special at center. They'll for a good nucleus that'll give
the quarterbacks plenty of time to operate, while allowing the
ground game to work inside or out.
Weakness: There no experience among the reserves. There's a ton
of talent and plenty of great prospects to get excited about,
but the main backups for each spot will all be freshmen.
Outlook: New line coach Mark Weber proved right
away he'll be a fine replacement for Jeff Grimes, who left for
Colorado, and he has a good front five to work with. The coaches
rave about this group. While the line might not allow just 17
sacks like last year, it'll be a major strength as long as
Oswald plays up to his potential and the backups are as good as
advertised. Aulai is a lock for all-star honors, and everything
will revolve around him to give the skill players plenty of time