Signing day has come and gone, but as Brian has shown us with the series of posts on winter workouts, the college football season never really ends. As we move into a pretty dead period in terms of football news, unless your starting middle linebacker gets in a fight or has an unfortunate traffic stop, I'd like to take a look at how all of our 2012 opponents look starting with BYU. The Cougs trip to LaVell Edwards stadium on September 1st, will be a pretty big game in a lot of respects as it will be the return of a
hopefully healthy Jeff Tuel and the first game of the Leach era. So let's take a look at what those other Cougars look like after Signing Day.
BYU signed the 59th rated class in the country, according to Scout, six spots behind WSU. That ranking however, is a little misleading as BYU only brought in 16 players, ten less than WSU's 26. Their average star ranking was 2.88 compared to WSU's 2.58. The two highest rated players in the class are 4-star defensive end Troy Hinds and 4-star quarterback Tanner Mangum. Hinds is listed at 6-5 225lbs and will probably play outside linebacker in Head Coach/Defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall's 3-4 scheme. It's unlikely the Cougs will see Mangum or 3-star QB commit Taysom Hill in the September meeting as Senior Riley Nelson returns for BYU.
Class Breakdown: QB- 2, RB- 2, WR- 2, TE- 1, OL- 0, DL- 3, LB- 3, S- 3, CB- 0, Specialists- 0
In 2010 BYU signed the top quarterback in the country, a kid pretty familiar to most of us Washingtonian's legendary Skyline (Samammish, WA) QB Jake Heaps. After splitting time with current BYU starter Riley Nelson in 2010, Heaps won the job outright out of fall camp in 2011. However, the BYU offense sputtered as Heaps struggled early in 2011 and Heaps was eventually replaced for good by Nelson mid-season. After the season Heaps transferred to Kansas to play for new KU coach Charlie Weis.
Another loss for BYU are running backs JJ Di Luigi, and Brian Kariya who combined for 882 yards on 190 carries (4.64 ypc) and 40 catches for 362 yards. The pair combined for ten touchdowns.
Other key losses include: Starting O-lineman Matt Reynolds and Terence Brown, Backup wide receiver McKay Jacobson (25 catches, 323 yards, 1 TD), Linebackers Jordan Pendelton and Jameson Frazier, and Defensive Backs Corby Eason and Travis Uale.
The 2011 Season:
BYU left the Mountain West after 12 seasons following the 2010 season to become an independent. Last season they had a 10-3 campaign including an Armed Forces Bowl win over Tulsa. Unlike WSU, BYU was much more balanced offensively averaging 245 passing yards per game and 160 rushing yards per game. BYU averaged a solid 30 points per game and played stellar defense allowing only 20 points per game.
The raw stats and record don't tell the entire story however. In 2011, BYU did not exactly play a Pac-12 caliber schedule. BYU fattened up on WAC and other lower conference opponents. Eight of BYU's ten wins in 2011 came against WAC or Conference USA opponents as well as WSU's favorite FCS cupcake Idaho State. BYU went 2-3 against BCS conference opponents and TCU. The wins both came on the road against SEC cellar dweller Ole Miss, and Pac-12 disappointment Oregon State. The losses came against a pair of also ran BCS teams, a heartbreaking loss in Austin to Texas and embarrassment at home at the hands of arch rival Utah. The Utah loss can be best summed up by this Benny Hill moment from Jake Heaps. They also were hammered in Cowboy's Stadium by perennial BCS party crasher TCU.
Overall, BYU was a pretty good team for most of the 2011 season but not at the level of excellence that one would usually expect from a team that won ten games.
Coaching Staff and Schemes:
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall returns for his eighth season at the helm for BYU. Under his watch BYU has had plenty of success although it has been overshadowed at times by former conference rivals TCU and Utah. Under Mendenhall's watch the Cougars have posted a very good 56-21 record which is a winning percentage of .727 a number slightly higher than legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards, who lead BYU to the 1984 National Title. Interestingly that title is only really disputed by one school in the country, our favorite rival; the University of Washington, who finished second in the polls that year. This shouldn't really surprise you given they did this. Anyway, back to the present. Mendenhall also took over defensive coordinator duties in 2011 after a disappointing 7-6 campaign in 2010, and will remain in that role in 2012. Mendenhall implements a 3-4 defense and under Mendenhall, BYU has made a strong reputation for defense. Mendenhall has matched up with Mike Leach one time. It was during the 2001 season when Mendenhall was the defensive coordinator at New Mexico and Leach was at Texas Tech. In a bit of good news for WSU fans Leach's Raiders rolled the Lobos 42-30 and QB Kliff Kingsbury throwing 364 yards and 3 tds. Not that you should read anything into that since it happened 11 years ago with different everything.
As I mentioned above BYU struggled offensively during the early part of the season, that could be attributed to a tougher strength of schedule or a struggling Jake Heaps. After switching to Nelson BYU became more of a run oriented team. Nelson only attempted more than 30 pass attempts in two of his seven starts. Meanwhile Heaps averaged nearly 37 attempts in his six starts. Nelson isn't a great passer but he has solid numbers when he does throw. He completed 57.4% of his passes last year with 8.5 ypa and threw 19 tds to only 7 interceptions. However Nelson is more of a dual threat running 88 times for 392 yards. Nelson's abilities make BYU's spread more run oriented and they give several backs carries. Nelson probably isn't good enough to beat you with his arm, which is good given our secondary, but if BYU gets the ground game going he can be very effective.
BYU is by no means a great team and this is a game WSU can win. BYU should and probably will be favored given the state of the two programs in recent years and the fact that BYU will be playing at home. This will be a strong early test for our new look Cougs. I'm not saying this is a game WSU should win but there isn't anything BYU does that should strike fear into WSU fans. As of right now I'd call this game a toss-up as BYU seems like a pretty known entity and WSU is a wildcard in a lot of ways. However, if they can win this game on the road it would send a strong message that the program is continuing to move in the right direction and will be right in the thick of things when it comes to earning our first bowl bid since 2003.