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2008 BYU Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - BYU Cougar Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN BYU Preview |
2008 BYU Offense
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2008 BYU Depth
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2006 CFN BYU Preview
What you need to know:
The offense might not have been as explosive as its
reputation, but it was good enough to lead the Mountain West in
every major category except for rushing offense.
There will be plenty of passing, lots of points, at least
more than last year when the Cougars averaged 30 per game, and
more balance. Nine starters return, and one of the losses,
Manase Tonga, will be replaced by veteran Fui Vakapuna. It all
starts up front as Dallas Reynolds and Ray Feinga lead a very
big, very good line that'll give Mountain West Player of the
candidate, QB Max Hall, plenty of time to work. WR Austin
Collie and TE Dennis Pitta will combine for at least 100 catches
again, while freshman sensation Harvey Unga is a superstar back
ready for a bigger profile.
Passing: Max Hall
298-496, 3,848 yds, 26 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga
244 carries, 1,227 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Dennis Pitta
59 catches, 813 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Junior QB Max Hall
Backup quarterback experience, home run hitters
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior C Tom
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Andrew George
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Fui Vakapuna
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hall, 2) OT Dallas
3) TE Dennis Pitta
Strength of the offense: Talent, experience, production
Weakness of the offense:
There was supposed to be a quarterback controversy last year,
but when Cade Cooper ended up suffering a foot injury, Max
Hall stepped in and became a star. While not all that big at
6-1 and 201 pounds, and with a decent, but not special arm, the
former Arizona State Sun Devil, and the nephew of former NFL
star Danny White, is an accurate, effective passer who completed
60% of his throws for 3,848 yards and 26 touchdowns with 12
interceptions. He only had one real clunker of a game, but that
came in a win over UNLV, and he struggled against Utah before
coming through when he absolutely had to. No longer a well kept
secret, the junior will be on everyone's radar and could be the
Mountain West player of the year.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 215-pound junior
Brenden Gaskins was one of the surprises of spring ball last
year, but he only saw mop-up duty throwing four passes for 31
yards with an interception. It's been a long career already as
he initially wanted to go to BYU, but went to Nevada after
now-UCLA Bruin Ben Olson had committed to the Cougars. Then he
went the JUCO route to get back to Provo, with a two-year stop
in Uruguay for a church mission along the way. He has good
mobility and a nice arm, but he's clearly a backup behind Hall.
Still in the hunt for the backup job is 6-2, 213-pound sophomore
Kurt McEuen after a nice spring. A scout teamer so far,
he showed the poise and the accuracy to make the race for the
main reserve behind Hall a good one. He has a live arm and good
maturity considering he hasn't seen any playing time.
Watch Out For ... McEuen. It was supposed to be a
foregone conclusion that Gaskins was the No. 2 behind Hall, but
McEuen changed that this spring. Now there will be a season long
battle for the backup job.
Strength: Hall. While there wasn't much of a concern
over the quarterback job last year, there wasn't any D-I
experience to rely on, Hall settled in right away and appeared
comfortable all season long. Now, after leading all sophomores
in passing yardage, he could be on his way to a 4,000-yard
Weakness: Backup experience. Gaskins and McEuen were fine this
spring, but considering Hall is a Heisman candidate, there's a
major drop-off from the one to the two. The coaching staff has
to get the reserves into the game quicker in blowouts.
Outlook: Part system, part coaching, and part
player, BYU has become quarterback central again. Hall is a
tremendous passer with a consistency the offense can rely on,
and enough accuracy to keep the mistakes to a minimum. He'll be
allowed to bomb away even more now and he'll get to take a few
more chances now that he has a year of experience to rely on.
McEuen should be a capable backup if needed, while Gaskins could
be a good one with a little more seasoning.
With Manase Tonga academically ineligible, more of the workload
will fall on last year's freshman sensation, Harvey Unga.
After missing all of 2006 hurt, the 6-0, 221-pounder came up
with a tremendous year setting the Mountain West record for a
freshman with 1,227 yards and 13 touchdowns averaging five yards
a crack, while also finishing third on the team with 44 catches
for 655 yards and four touchdowns. He was a 100-yard machine
seven games over the century mark highlighted by a brilliant
two-game late season stretch against Utah and San Diego State
when he ran for 302 yards and four touchdowns, but he struggled
against some of the better run defenses, like UCLA's. With his
combination of size and quickness, he'll be a dangerous
workhorse once again.
Senior Fui Vakapuna will be in Tonga's fullback role, but
he has the scary blend of top-end speed in a 6-1,
245-pound frame to do more. Hurt throughout last year with hand
and ankle problems, he still finished third on the team with 252
yards and two touchdowns after achieving cult hero status two
years ago because of his tough, bruising style. Now healthy, he
should be in for a huge year in a 1-2 punch with Unga.
Projected Top Reserves: Clearly the third man in
the mix, and unlikely to see too many carries, is 5-11,
210-pound senior Isaac Taylor, a former JUCO transfer
with good speed and a little bit of promise after coming through
with a good spring.
5-8, 196-pound redshirt freshman J.J. Di Luigi missed
last year with a foot injury, and now he'll try to find playing
time and carries in the rotation. He was a top recruit who had
several options to choose from after rushing for 2,159 yards and
34 touchdowns as a senior at Canyon High School in California.
Now he needs a little work.
Watch Out For ... Vakapuna to build on what he did
in 2006. Never right last year as he played through injuries,
Vakapuna struggled to be the all-around back he started to
blossom into. Now that he's right, he should be dominant when he
comes in to spell Unga.
Strength: Size and speed. BYU backs are always
interesting. They can all catch, they can all run, and they're
almost always big. Vakapuna and Unga are each well over 200
pounds, with good hands and excellent speed.
Weakness: A home run hitter. Even with Unga averaging five yards
per carry, the Cougars only averaged a mediocre 3.8 yards per
crack and didn't have a run longer than 44 yards. There's
too much speed to not have a few more big dashes.
Outlook: The loss of Tonga doesn't help but it's
not as big a deal as many made it seem this off-season
considering the improved health of Vakapuna. Unga is a special
back who cranks out yards in chunks, especially when teams are
focusing on the passing game, and he's also a fantastic
receiver. As long as the two main guys are healthy, no one else
will get any work.
The Cougars needed a number one receiver to emerge last year,
and they got one as now-junior Austin Collie caught 56
passes for 946 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 16.9 yards
per grab, as he showed little rust after missing two years on a
church mission. He's 6-2, 206 pounds, and grew into a
tremendously consistent playmaker over the second half of the
season cranking out over 100 yards in five of the final six
games. He has excellent hands at the inside Z position.
Working on the outside is 6-1, 202-pound senior Michael Reed
after finishing fourth on the team with 41 catches, 449
yards, and four touchdowns. While he's not necessarily a blazer,
he's consistent and is always good for three catches a game. He
had one monster performance against Tulsa catching eight passes
for 132 yards and a touchdown, but failed to do much exploding
the rest of the way.
While Collie might be the top wide receiver, tight end Dennis
Pitta is the No. 1 overall target after leading the team
with 59 catches for 813 yards and five touchdowns as a great
replacement for All-American Jonny Harline. The 6-5, 250-pound
junior has great hands, who got bigger over the past year, is a
fantastic route runner, and is tremendously consistent. An older
player, like many of the Cougars who spend two yards on a church
mission, he doesn't make mistakes.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Luke Ashworth
is back from a church mission and will be one of the main
backups behind Collie at the inside Z. He caught six passes for
90 yards in 2005 and was a good special teamer. He has the
talent to blossom into a star if he gets more work.
5-9, 185-pound sophomore Tyler Kozlowski, son of former
Cougar and Chicago Bear, Glen Kozlowski, redshirted last season
but now will combine with senior Reed White for the third
slot in three wide sets. 5-10, 198-pound White is the son of
former Dallas Cowboy, Danny White, and spent most of last year
on special teams making three tackles. Both are smallish, quick
options who'll make things happen in the middle of the field.
Pitta is the unquestioned starter at tight end, but junior
Andrew George will see a little time after catching 17
passes for 200 yards averaging 11.8 yards per catch. The 6-5,
246-pounder has the talent to be an all-star, but he isn't going
to see enough passes his way. His combination of route running
ability and good hands to be used more often in two tight end
Watch Out For ... everyone to get a turn. Max Hall
is good at spreading the ball around, and now that he knows what
he's doing, he should be even more effective with his veteran
receiving corps to work with. Everyone will get some work.
Strength: Consistency. It's not just that several
receivers are returning, it's that they all produce. Pitta and
Collie are the unquestioned main men, but it's not like everyone
else in the mix will be ignored. If you're a regular BYU
receiver, you catch at least two passes a game.
Weakness: A blazing deep threat. There's good speed all across
the board, but this isn't exactly a home-run hitting bunch.
Collie comes close and will hover around 17 yards per catch
again, but he's not a field stretcher as much as he is a solid
Outlook: Throw RB Harvey Unga into the mix, and
BYU gets back its top four receivers from last year. Pitta and
Collie form a tremendous 1-2 punch and Reed is a nice veteran to
count on for three big catches a game, every game. Now the
backups have to start getting more involved, and they have the
discipline and route running ability to do it. George is an
excellent tight end who should see far more work even with Pitta
getting his normal grabs.
The line is loaded with veterans and plenty of talent. The stars
of the show are on the left side as longtime veteran Dallas
Reynolds will once again be an all-star at tackle while
senior Ray Feinga has turned into something special at
The 6-5, 332-pound Reynolds missed time early last off-season
with a shoulder injury, but he quickly returned to become earn
first-team All-Mountain West honors and should be on several
All-America lists. He's a crushing run blocker and has turned
into a phenomenal pass protector; he didn't give up a sack in
Mountain West play. A top producer from day one, with 37 career
starts, he's the anchor the line works around.
The 6-5, 332-pound Feinga was a superstar recruit and a great
get for the program in 2004, but he didn't live up to the hype.
He was good, but not special. Last year he changed and became a
dominant run blocker and was more consistent overall. Most
importantly for this offense, he was fantastic in pass
protection failing to allow a sack all year.
The one replacement on the front line is at center, where 6-5,
306-pound junior Tom Sorensen is ready to step in for
Sete Aulia and provide a big blocker. The former Vanderbilt
Commodore was out of the mix when he transferred after suffering
a knee injury, but he has starts under his belt from back in his
SEC days and he saw a little time last year. He should be more
6-8, 330-pound senior David Oswald is back at right
tackle after coming up with a decent year. While he's a good run
blocker, he struggled with his consistency in pass protection
and will have to fight to keep his job.
6-5, 329-pound senior Travis Bright is one of the team's
strongest players and one of the most interesting combinations
of talents. He
broke his leg in the bowl game and was rehabbing all off-season,
but he's expected to be ready for the start of the season and
could be an All-Mountain West star if he builds on what he did
last year. He's a tough, strong-blocking guard who can pound
away and get the hard yards.
Projected Top Reserves: Until Bright gets healthy,
it could be up to redshirt freshman Matt Reynolds, who's
back after a church mission, to play a big role. The brother of
left tackle, Dallas, will start out the year playing behind
Feinga on the right side, but could see more work on the left
side. He's 6-6, 315 pounds and very, very promising. He was the
Utah High School Player of the Year in 2005 and a superstar
recruit. He could've gone almost anywhere.
One of the team's most versatile backups is 6-5, 312-pound
junior R.J. Willing, who'll start out at center behind
Sorensen but could play anywhere. He started in nine games in
2004 and was a star prospect in 2003, but he hasn't been able to
crack the starting lineup again. He's a great backup who'll see
starting time before the end of the year.
The only question about 6-3, 286-pound sophomore Garrett
Reden is his health. One of the most athletic tackles in the
rotation, he saw a little bit of work last year but suffered a
leg injury that knocked him out halfway through the year. He's a
good talent who can move, and when he gets the leg back to 100%,
he'll push Oswald on the right side.
Watch Out For ... Matt Reynolds and R.J. Willing.
They're going to have a hard time finding starting time on a
veteran line that was so good last year, but it's asking a lot
for the starting five to be healthy all season long. Reynolds
and Willing will be starters at some point this year.
Strength: Pass protection. The line allowed 32 sacks in
close to 500 pass attempts. While that's not phenomenal, it was
good considering Max Hall needed a little bit of time to learn
on the fly. With all the talent returning, especially on the
left side, it'll be tough to get to the BYU QBs.
Weakness: Playing up to the size. This is a good run blocking
unit, but it wasn't an elite one last season. That could change
considering all the returning experience, and for a lint that
averages around 320 pounds per man, it has to impose its will
for the running game, every game.
Outlook: Three starters are back with Reynolds and
Feinga forming one of the better left sides in America, and a
fourth starter, the injured Bright, should be back at guard.
There's promise among the reserves, there's talent all across
the starting five, and there should be plenty of production from
the league's best line.