A monumental month lies ahead of the BYU football program this September. It’s an opening slate that the Cougars may not have ever seen before, but something that they should get accustomed to in independence. With national powerhouses and recognizable programs in their sights, BYU has the chance to do something extremely special. However, with Nebraska, Boise State, UCLA and Michigan due up first, there is little room for error.
In my not-so-humble opinion, there are just a few things BYU has to do in order to pull off the “September-To-Remember” this year. If they can accomplish this, it could also lead to a season for the ages. Here’s what the Cougars need to do:
Protect Taysom Hill
The offensive line has not been spectacular for BYU since, well honestly since Max Hall left in 2009. Last year BYU quarterbacks were sacked 36 times for a loss of 211 yards. That’s an average of 3 sacks per game for -16 yards. Sacks kill drives for offenses. Taysom is an excellent scrambler and makes a lot of out of nothing, but if he is continually relied upon to bail out poor offensive line play, this puts the Cougars’ super-star in harms’ way too much. If Taysom goes down, the season will take a turn for the worst, just like 2014. Every snap starts with the freshman All-American, Tejan Karoma. If Karoma can be accurate with the snaps, and effectively direct the line, this offense can do some serious damage this year.
Protecting Taysom, however, doesn’t end with the offensive line. Protecting Hill in the play-calling scheme is just as important as the front five guys doing their jobs. Taysom will get his yards on broken plays; that can’t be entirely avoided. What can be aboided, though, is the number of called plays for Taysom. Getting the ball out of Taysom’s hands is vital, whether that be through the air or on the ground. The loss of Jamaal Williams is where this will hurt a bit, so the crew of running backs needs to step up. Giving Taysom fewer carries and getting the ball to other play makers will elongate his season and therefore increase BYU’s chances for success exponentially.
Limit Big Plays
In order to be successful this year, BYU’s defense needs to strongly stand by the adage “bend, don’t break.” This has been the philosophy of every Bronco Mendenhall defense since his arrival at BYU. The Cougars will never have the athletes to go one-on-one on the outside very play. This is why BYU’s safety play over the past 20+ years has always been stellar. In 2014, Craig Bills was banged up most of the year, and the defense suffered because of this. This year’s defensive secondary is still shuffling around and needs to settle into its assignments in order for the defense to run smoothly as a unit. The safety is the last line of defense for over the top plays. Last year, there were way too many spots of confusion and disarray that allowed for big plays in big spots. The re-opening of Troy Warner’s recruitment could help BYU in their future secondary issues too. In order for BYU to have any bit of success this year, BYU has to keep everything in front of them and minimize downfield plays.
Pressure Opposing QBs
The last few years have been abysmal in the pass rush category for the Cougars. Last year, BYU only registered 27 sacks, which is a little better than 2 per game. That number should have been way higher. If BYU can get pressure on the quarterbacks, and early, the second factor in this breakdown becomes less likely to hurt the cougars (giving up big plays). The secondary’s success is highly dependent on the front seven’s ability to pressure and disrupt the timing of opposing quarterbacks. This will fall heavily on Bronson Kaufusi, who, in large part, has under performed. Part of that has been his misuse, and injuries to boot. However, this year the BYU defense needs him more than ever, given the talent they’ll be up against.
Its not an accident that two of the three vital keys to success this year come from the defensive side of the ball. BYU’s offense last season was good enough to win 8 games without Taysom hill for 75% of the year with an awful defense behind it. Therefore, if Taysom can stay healthy and the defense improves, I don’t see why this tough schedule can’t be overcome. There’s too much talent on this squad for another mediocre season.
Going 10-2 in the regular season isn’t unobtainable. In fact, I don’t see why BYU can’t get to that at all. They have an extremely favorable stretch after a brutal September including four straight home games. I believe they can go at least 2-2 if not 3-1 in September.
Yes, 8-5 against this schedule I would still consider mediocre.