2007 BYU Preview - Offense

Posted May 9, 2007

Preview 2007 BYU Cougars Offense

BYU Cougars

Preview 2007 - Offense

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

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.

Returning Leaders
Passing: None
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, 3) Vakapuna
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, running back
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback experience, number one receiver


Projected Starter: 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 ...
... 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 quarterback factory.
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.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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.
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.
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.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: 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 big plays.

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 route runner.

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.

Combining 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.
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 ...
... 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.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 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.

Junior guard 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 guard.

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.
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.
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 to operate.
Rating: 8


Related Stories
2007 BYU Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 8, 2007
2007 BYU Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 8, 2007
Cougar Conversations: Rick Wolfley
 -by TotalBlueSports.com  May 4, 2007

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