2010 BYU Preview
BYU RB  J.J. Di Luigi & QB Riley Nelson
BYU RB J.J. Di Luigi & QB Riley Nelson
Posted Jun 29, 2010

BYU has been terrific under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, but is it finally time to get to a better bowl than the Las Vegas? Maybe next year when the team will be loaded, but this year's version has enough talent to make plenty of noise. Check out the CFN 2010 BYU Preview.

BYU Cougars

Preview 2010

- 2010 BYU Preview | 2010 BYU Offense
- 2010 BYU Defense | 2010 BYU Depth Chart
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bronco Mendenhall
6th year: 45-15
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 45
Ten Best BYU Players
1. OT Matt Reynolds, Jr.
2. SS Andrew Rich, Jr.
3. NT Romney Fuga, Jr.
4. WR/KR O'Neill Chambers, Jr.
5. CB Brian Logan, Sr.
6. LB Jordan Pendleton, Jr.
7. OG Braden Hansen, Soph.
8. WR McKay Jacobson, Jr.
9. QB Jake Heaps, Fr.
10. CB Brandon Bradley, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Washington
Sept. 11 at Air Force
Sept. 18 at Florida St
Sept. 25 Nevada
Oct. 1 at Utah State
Oct. 9 San Diego State
Oct. 16 at TCU
Oct. 23 Wyoming
Nov. 6 UNLV
Nov. 13 at Colorado State
Nov. 20 New Mexico
Nov. 27 at Utah

If two years ago was about the "Quest For Perfection," then this season might be about the Quest For 2011.

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who had the Perfection T-Shirts printed up last year, has succeeded with a lot less than he has to work with this year, and while there are some major holes to fill, and a rough schedule to deal with, next year is when things should really rock. Maybe.

The good and the bad for BYU has always been the church missions, which on the one hand allow players to go off for two years, do the work they need to do, and then come back far more mature, but on the other hand, it's a problem for consistency. If most of the pieces are back, then it'll be time to be truly fired up. But in the meantime, the pressure is off, everyone will be expecting TCU and Utah to be the stars, and the chances will be there to shock the Mountain West world.

BYU will be able to pull out the "nobody believes in us" cliché, because it'll really be true. From the likely low preseason picks to the defection of Utah to the Pac 10, BYU has a right to feel a little bit grouchy. Yeah, going to Las Vegas for a bowl game five years in row might have a certain charm, but not when Utah and TCU are battling for BCS slots. Mendenhall has his program on the cusp of that level.

With four straight ten-win seasons, the Cougars have been terrific highlighted by an opening day win over Oklahoma last year, a victory over arch-rival Utah last season, and with wins in three of the last four Las Vegas Bowls. Can this year's team get out of Las Vegas and into a stronger bowl? Yes, if it can find answers in four key areas.

Can the quarterback situation work itself out in a hurry? The talent is there, but super-recruit Jake Heaps has to be ready for primetime, or else Riley Nelson will add more of a rushing element to the BYU offense.

Can the ground game overcome the loss of Harvey Unga, who left the team for a violation of school code? There are four speedy options, but there isn't anyone of Unga's caliber.

Can the passing game, already worrying about the quarterbacks, replace two NFL-type tight ends in Dennis Pitta and Andrew George? Safety valves are a must for the new starting passer.

Can the defensive line overcome the loss of Jan Jorgensen and find a pass rush? There weren't a lot of hits on the quarterback last year even with the school's all-time leading sacker wreaking havoc.

If at least two of those four areas are fine, with one of them being the quarterback situation, then everything else should work out with a great defensive back eight in place, tremendous special teams, all the wide receiving talent back, and with four starters back on the offensive line. And, of course, there's Mendenhall.

The true believer in BYU football, Mendenhall has been able to make the program a powerhouse again. And now the goal is to make it a true national superpower, and eventually that will come … next year.

What to watch for on offense: Jake Heaps. BYU has been a factory for quarterback talent over the last three-plus decades, and while it's way, way, way too early to put Heaps in the rare air of Jim McMahon, Steve Young, and Ty Detmer, at the very least the super-recruit, who many considered the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect, and possibly the nation's top prospect, has the talent to be the program's best quarterback in a long, long time. Heaps isn't being handed the job, with three other good prospects in place including former Utah State Aggie, Riley Nelson, but if the hype is for real, BYU has a franchise player who can take the program to another level.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rushing in the 3-4. The line is expected to get into the backfield on a regular basis, but the two new starting ends, Matt Putnam and former star tight end recruit, Vic So'oto, have to prove they can produce. The linebackers are fast and athletic, but three starters have to be replaced and they're going to be asked to make plays behind the line, too. The defense was great against the run last year, and now the front seven has to dominate once again.

The team will be far better if … it keeps teams to under 30 points. For all the firepower and all the offensive skill Mendenhall's teams have had, it's the defense that has dictated the success. BYU has lost 15 games since Bronco Mendenhall took over, and it allowed 30 points or more in 12 of them. Mendenhall has gone 4-12 when his teams have allowed at least 30 points, and have gone 41-3 when allowing fewer.

The schedule: It's a bear both in non-conference play and against the top teams in the Mountain West. The Cougars will be good enough to win most of the tough games in September, but it's asking a lot to get by a rejuvenated Washington in the opener, a trip to Air Force, a date at Florida State, and a showdown against Nevada without at least one slip up. It'll take a major upset to blow a layup against the UNLVs and Colorado States of the Mountain West world, but having to go to TCU and Utah (along with a date at Air Force) means this won't be the year the program finally gets into the BCS.

Best offensive player: Junior OT Matt Reynolds. Already considered to be the No. 1 NFL tackle on the board for the 2012 Draft, he might be the top tackle prospect if he chooses to come out this year. He's ready. At 6-6 and 329 pounds, he has prototype size and great feet, and now it's salary drive time with the potential to be a top three overall pick if he can continue to shine.

Best defensive player: Junior SS Andrew Rich. The junior plays the KAT position, which is a strong safety in BYU's 3-4 defense, and he acts like a fifth linebacker. A stat-sheet filler, he led the team last year with 85 tackles and he tied for the team lead with four picks. At 6-3 and 223 pounds, he's a big defender, a huge hitter, and a tone-setter for the veteran secondary.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Vic So'oto. The starting quarterback will be the key player for the 2010 Cougars, but the offense will produce no matter who's under center. However, the defensive front three has to find someone who can get into the backfield, and So'oto has to prove he can finally play up to his prep hype. A superior tight end recruit, he moved to linebacker and didn't do much. Now a senior, it's time he shows off his 6-3, 253-pound size and great speed to be a force.

The season will be a success if … BYU wins the Mountain West. Yes, with road trips to TCU, Air Force, and Utah, the league's three other top teams, winning the league title might be a reach, and yes, it's going to take a lot of luck and a ton of new talents to be in the race, but this is BYU; it's about winning championships. Another ten-win season is a more realistic goal, but no one around the program is going to shoot for anything less than a title.

Key game: Oct. 16 at TCU. Of course the Utah showdown is the one that truly matters, but that might be for second place (at best) if the Cougars can't take care of business earlier in the season against the Horned Frogs. TCU has whumped BYU each of the last two years by a combined score of 70-14, and the games haven't even been that close. With home games to follow in three of the following four before facing Utah, a win in Fort Worth will mean a big, big run before the season finale in Salt Lake City.

2009 Fun Stats:
- 3rd Down Conversions: BYU 94-of-169 (56%) – Opponents 72-of-188 (38%)
- 2nd Quarter Score: BYU 161 – Opponents 64
- Average Yards Per Play: BYU 6.2 – Opponents 4.9

- 2010 BYU Preview | 2010 BYU Offense
- 2010 BYU Defense | 2010 BYU Depth Chart
- BYU Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006