2009 BYU Preview - Offense
BYU TE Dennis Pitta
BYU TE Dennis Pitta
Posted Jul 12, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - BYU Cougar Offense

BYU Cougars

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN BYU Preview | 2009 BYU Offense
- 2008 BYU Defense | 2008 BYU Depth Chart
- 2008 BYU Preview | 2007 BYU Preview | 2006  BYU Preview

What you need to know:
Only four starters are returning, with four starters gone off the line and the receivers, including star Austin Collie, have to be replaced, but the attack should be explosive once again with QB Max Hall appearing to be ready for a special season. He makes everyone around him better, and the receiving corps should step up and shine with O'Neill Chambers and McKay Jacobson good ones to get excited about. Tight end Dennis Pitta is a special pass-catching tight end, while Andrew George is hardly a No. 2 with great hands and nice route-running ability. Two-time, 1,000-yard rusher Harvey Unga will handle the ground game working behind a massive, line that should be strong with a little bit of time. Matt Reynolds is one of the nation's best left tackles and should keep Hall clean.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Max Hall
330-477, 3,957 yds, 35 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga
240 carries, 1,132 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Dennis Pitta
83 catches, 1,083 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Max Hall
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR O'Neill Chambers
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Terrence Brown
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Matt Reynolds
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hall, 2) TE Dennis Pitta, 3) Reynolds
Strength of the offense: Tight End, Passing Game
Weakness of the offense: Wide Receiver Experience, Four New Line Starters


Projected Starter: Senior Max Hall has been good, he has put up big numbers, and he has been a fringe All-America candidate after throwing for 7,805 yards and 61 touchdowns with 26 interceptions and five rushing scores since coming over from Arizona State. He completed 69% of his passes for 3,957 yards and 35 touchdowns with 14 picks last season, with four rushing scores, but for all the big statistics and all the big performances, the 6-1, 201-pounder has to show once again that he can win the big game. He came through in the clutch against Utah two years ago, pulling a clunker of a game out of the fire, but he melted down against the Utes last year throwing five interceptions, and he couldn't handle the pass rush against TCU and struggled. The mediocre performance in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Arizona didn't help (even though he threw for 328 yards). If he's on and if he can lead the team to a conference title, he'll be the front-runner for the Mountain West Player of the Year honor.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 213-pound senior Brenden Gaskins is a big, strong passer with good mobility, but he only saw a little time last year completing 7-of-12 passes for 73 yards, and he'll only see time in blowouts or if something happens to Hall. It's been a long career already as he initially wanted to go to BYU, but went to Nevada after former UCLA Bruin, Ben Olson, had committed to the Cougars. He went the JUCO route to get back to Provo, with a two-year stop in Uruguay for a church mission along the way. While he has the tools, he's clearly a backup.

Sophomore Riley Nelson got plenty of work as a freshman at Utah State throwing for 925 yards and six scores, and rushing for 290 more, but he decided to transfer, went on an LDS mission to Spain, and now comes into Provo with a shot at being the main man in the near future. He's only 6-1 and 195 pounds, but the 2005 Mr. Football in Utah is the most mobile of the Cougar quarterbacks and has a nice prep résumé throwing for a state record 79 touchdowns and 4,041 passing yards.

Watch Out For ... Nelson to get some meaningful playing time. The coaching staff needs to know if he's the one to build around for next year, or if quarterback is going to be a major issue after Hall and Gaskins are gone.
Hall. He's going to light up mediocre defenses like a Christmas tree. Razor sharp throughout the offseason, he appears to be ready to put the up-and-down 2008 season behind him and be a major star. It'll be a shock if he doesn't throw for 4,000 yards.
Backup experience. Nelson has a year of playing time at Utah State, but he has been off for a few years. Gaskins has the tools, but there's a big drop-off from Hall to the backups.
Outlook: Hall is a good player who has a ton of experience and is in a great system. The numbers will be there and he'll be a lock for all-star honors as long as he stays healthy, but it'll all come down to the big games. If he's able to light up Oklahoma in the season opener, he and BYU will be on the national map for the rest of the year. If he has problems, he'll be a great Mountain West player, but will be out of the All-America discussion. The backups are fine, but they need more time.
Rating: 8.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Junior Harvey Unga was tremendous as a freshman, rushing for 1,227 yards and 13 touchdowns, while catching 44 passes, and he proved it wasn't a fluke by rushing for 1,132 yards and 11 touchdowns, while catching 42 passes for 309 yards and four scores last year. Even with all his production, he didn't have quite the same burst and he wasn't the same dangerous playmaker. He ran for 100 yards or more seven times two years ago, but he went over the century mark just three times last year. This offseason he appeared to be back to form and he should be in for another great all-around season again with his 6-0, 239-pound frame able to bring the power to go along with his quickness.

Gone if Fui Vakapuna after finishing second on the team in rushing and doing a decent job of blocking. Sophomore Brian Kariya isn't necessarily a fullback, but he'll be used as one with a 6-0 and 212 pound body that's able to bring some pop. He'll get shoved aside if Manase Tonga is back, but he appears ready to take on a bigger role after rushing for 67 yards and a score and catching four passes for 21 yards.

Projected Top Reserves: Is Manase Tonga going to be able to come back? He was going to be a big part of the attack as both a fullback and as a runner, but the 6-0, 238-pounder didn't get to class and was academically ineligible. He's trying to get back in the mix, taking courses at Utah Valley University to get his grades up, but the team isn't counting on him. He ran for 305 yards and caught 27 passes for 248 yards last year.

5-9, 198-pound sophomore J.J. DiLuigi missed all of the 2007 season with a foot injury and came back to be a little used backup running for 48 yards and catching two passes. He was a top recruit who could've gone almost anywhere on the West Coast, and now he needs to do more for the offense. Willing to do whatever is needed, he'll work behind Unga as a quick tailback who can do a little bit of everything.

While Malosi Te'o needs time and work after coming off a Church mission, but he should be a good part of the rotation as a backup in both running back spots. Speedy enough to carry the ball for stretches, and tough enough to be used as a fullback from time to time, the 5-10, 199-pound freshman will see plenty of work.

Watch Out For ... Kariya. The team needs a fullback to count on if Tonga isn't back and in everyone's good graces, and Kariya appears to be ready. He's not going to flatten anyone, but he can block.
Unga. The Cougar offense will revolve around Max Hall and the passing game, but Unga is a strong do-it-all back who handles the rushing portion of the offense. He's a 1,000-yard back who can carry the attack from time to time, but he doesn't have to be the main man every game.
: A home run hitter. This has been a problem for the last few years. BYU averaged a paltry 3.9 yards per carry two years ago and 4.1 yards per carry last year with the longest run, 40 yards, coming from Unga. This is a serviceable running game, but not a scary one.
Outlook: No pressure, but if Unga gets hurt, the ground game goes kaput. As long as he's in the lineup, the Cougar running game will get nice production when it needs it and should get enough production from the other runners to get by. This will be an effective ground game that will do what it has to in an attempt to balance things out.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: Looking to become the team's No. 1 target is McKay Jacobson, a 5-11, 192-pound sophomore with excellent speed and decent experience making 28 grabs for 547 yards and three touchdowns in a breakout freshman year. That was 2006, and then he went on a Church mission for two years before coming back to fill in a major hole. Not able to do much this offseason with a hamstring injury, he's expected to be fine by the start of the season, he wasn't in bad shape at the end of spring ball. Along with being a home run hitting receiver, he should be a key punt returner.

Sophomore O'Neill Chambers took over a starting spot after coming up with three catches for 42 yards and a score last year. At 6-2 and 209 pounds he's a big, physical receiver with fly-paper for hands. He doesn't miss a catch and has the big-play capability to stretch the field on the outside.

Senior Dennis Pitta followed up a 59-catch season by making 83 catches for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 13 yards per grab. The 6-4, 248-pounder is trying to get over a torn MCL, but he should be 100% and more than fine by the start of the year. With great hands, tremendous route running ability, and the talent to be a go-to target, he should put up monster numbers as the team's top target. While he's steady, when he's on, he's unstoppable catching 21 passes for 351 yards and a score to start the season, and he made 12 grabs for 175 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado State. He'll be on the All-America short list and should be among the nation's leading receiving tight ends.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Luke Ashworth will likely end up as a starter, and at the very least, he'll be in a rotation with Jacobson at one spot if he's not a part of three-wide sets. The 6-2, 201-pounder can work inside and out with excellent athleticism and the toughness to go over the middle whenever needed. He caught three passes for 49 yards last year, but he'll help make up for the loss of Austin Collie by catching at least 40 passes. 

5-9, 188-pound junior Tyler Koslozwki, son of former Cougar and Chicago Bear, Glen Kozlowski, made three catches for 31 yards in a limited role and now will work behind Chambers at one spot. While he doesn't have the ability of the other top targets, he has great hands and should be strong on third downs.

Even though Pitta is back and healthy, senior Andrew George will be a key part of the offense again after catching 23 passes for 219 yards and six scores. Pitta is a big play receiver, while George is strong on short to midrange targets. The 6-5, 249-pounder has all-star talent, but it's hard to shine with Pitta as the main weapon. If something happens to Pitta, George could be a 60-catch target.

Watch Out For ... Jacobson. He's not going to be Austin Collie, but he has the makeup and the potential to be an all-star who makes big things happen. He'll be great whenever he gets the ball on the move and he should end up being the team's leading receiver.
Tight end. There are a slew of good tight ends throughout college football. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham is the best in America, leading the pack, but Pitta's numbers will be as impressive as anyone's. George would start and be a star for most teams.
Austin Collie. There are plenty of good receivers who should step up and put up nice numbers last year, but it'll be tough to replace the 106 grabs for 1,538 yards and 15 scores that Collie came up with. Losing Michael Reed, and his 49 catches for 589 yards and two scores, also hurts.
Outlook: Max Hall will make everyone around him better. All he needs are a slew of good route runners, and a dependable go to target, and he has them. Pitta will make every big play happen when needed, while all the Cougar receivers run precise routes and catch everything thrown their way.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The star of a rebuilding line will be Matt Reynolds, an All-Mountain West star with the job to keep Max Hall upright. The 6-6, 320-pound sophomore is one of the top recruits the program has ever landed, and he showed why in his first season as a starter at left tackle. He was the Utah High School Player of the Year in 2005 and could've gone anywhere, and now he'll be the one the offense works around and runs behind on key plays.

Stepping in at left guard is junior Jason Speredon, a 6-5, 305-pounder who's versatile enough to play either guard spot or tackle if absolutely needed. Big, athletic, and tough, he showed this offseason that he's ready to become a major factor after serving last year as a key backup.

Taking over in the middle is senior R.J. Willing, a veteran who has seen extensive time over the last three years and will be more than fine in a full-time role. At 6-5 and 310-pounds he has excellent size, and he knows exactly what he's doing. He won't miss any line calls and he should be a rock as the season goes on.

6-3, 351-pound sophomore Terence Brown is a massive blocker who has the upside to be special. More athletic than he should probably be for a player of his size, he'll hold down the starting right guard job for the next three years, if he doesn't move over to left guard. Very smart, he's not going to make many mistakes.

Junior Nick Alleto is a 6-6, 318-pound junior who worked hard to bulk up over the last few years, and now he's ready. He suffered a knee injury this offseason and will be pushed for the right tackle job this fall, but he's expected to be fine and he should be fine. He's an athlete who put on extra pounds. He should be great in pass protection.

Projected Top Reserves:
Braden Hansen went on his two-year mission and now should be a star on the outside ... eventually. The 6-6, 286-pound freshman won't push Matt Reynolds out of a job, but he's one of the team's most talented linemen and should eventually work at one of the tackle spots. He's not a guard, but he might see time on the inside just to get him on the field.

The top backup guard should be Jesse Taufi, a 6-4, 302-pound junior who saw time this offseason at tackle to show off his versatility. He'll start out the year as the backup at right guard behind Brown, but he could easily work at left guard if needed and is listed as the top backup option at right tackle. There isn't much of a drop-off from the projected starters to him.

Watch Out For ... Brown. For a player as huge as he is, it'll be hard not to want to pound away behind him with a big back like Harvey Unga over and over again. The talent of the line is on the left side, but Brown is a good one who should grow into an all-star over the next four years.
Tackles. Reynolds deserves All-America consideration and Alleto is a good-sized pass protector who's equally good against speed rushers and strong ones. Taufi and Hansen could start on the outside without a problem.
Overall experience. As good as the line should be, it's never a plus to lose four starters and talents like Dallas Reynolds and Ray Feinga. The line was fine this offseason, but it might be a lot to ask for a good start to the year with Oklahoma looming in the opener.
Outlook: The line was fantastic last year (against everyone but TCU's Jerry Hughes), allowing just 19 sacks while paving the way for 134 rushing yards per game. The line might undergo an overhaul with four new starters, but this is a very big group that should be fantastic by the middle of the season. It might not look pretty against the Sooners, but it'll turn out to be good and should be phenomenal going into next year.
Rating: 7


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