I could begin with plenty of redundant statements about BYU’s offense the last two years under Brandon Doman, particularly the recently completed 2012 season. Without elaborating too much, it was terrible. Absolutely terrible. It also made a gut wrenching appearance into the BYU record books. The worst offensive performance since the 2003 3-0 Holy War against Utah: A 7-6 loss to Boise State, and the Cougars defense didn’t allow a single point.
Brandon Doman was expected to be gone, and his position as the offensive coordinator has been replaced by a former BYU offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, who spent the last two seasons at the University of Arizona. There was word Doman would retain his position as Quarterbacks Coach, but according to sources, and likely to no surprise, his office has been completely vacant this past week.
Doman took over for Anae after the 2010 season, and he left as a scapegoat. The Cougars began that season with a quarterback controversy that led to embarrassing losses to Florida State, and Air Force. But the pivotal moment was the loss to in-state rival Utah State for the first time in generations. The offense was stagnant and the defense lacked effort, to put it lightly. The team was also young. Jake Heaps, Joshua “Juice” Quezada and Cody Hoffman were all freshman. There was also a logjam at the Tight End position.
It was an expected rebuilding year for the Cougars as the offense had to replace the schools all-time winningest quarterback, the all-time leading rusher, and best wide receiver the school has ever had. Also, an NFL tight end. With the talent they boasted, the season ended on a positive note as they won six of their last seven games, including a bowl victory that pointed to a positive future.
The pieces seemed to be in place, but head coach Bronco Mendenhall nearly cleaned house on the offensive staff, and Anae, who boasted a top 25 offense at BYU for several seasons, had been “let go” in a very unorthodox way. As stagnant as the offense may have been, things were looking up.
So, Doman took over in 2010 as the offensive coordinator with nearly an entire brand new offensive staff to work with as well. He had still kept his role as Quarterbacks Coach, and, off the field, had become a local bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had his work cut out for him as the quarterback controversy wouldn’t only continue, but get worse.
Off field and locker room division between quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson attributed to poor play on the field. Nelson seemed to be the savior of the team as he replaced Heaps in a comeback victory to save the Cougars from losing to the Aggies of Utah State two years in a row. Nelson became the starter and Heaps transferred to Kansas.
Then 2012 happened. A season full of so many “what if’s” that it will sting for years to come. Nelson played the entire year with a broken back, despite news that he was going to, and should have, ended his football playing career. Nonetheless, he remained the starter, even incoherently on pain meds. It is hard to believe he was the best guy on the roster. Especially now that the season is over.
So why were coaches so set on him playing? Well, it was only one coach. The one that mattered. Coach Mendenhall had stepped on Coach Doman’s toes by keeping Nelson in so many games, despite he being so ineffective. That didn’t give Brandon much to work with. How was he supposed to call the right plays when there’s a guy he knows was incapable on the field? A guy that he had been ready to bench, but was overridden on numerous occasions? Coach Mendenhall had a very head scratching obsession with Nelson where at times it seemed he cared more about him being in the game, than actually winning the game. It was an obsession that led to 13 of his 27 losses as head coach, in the three seasons Nelson was in the starting quarterback picture.
This continued throughout the season, until the very end and coach Doman takes over the role as scapegoat for this BYU team, while the previous takes over, getting his old job back. The problem was with the head coach, who cleaned house, then didn’t allow the offensive coaches to have 100% control over the unit. Of course, what the head coach says goes. It’s a head coach who, according to sources, is unlikely to renew his contract at the end of the 2013 season.
The future of BYU football of course remains in questions. Can Anae pick up where he left off? Can he again turn this offense into a top 25 threat? Unlike Coach Doman, Coach Anae has yet to face an independent schedule, which in 2013 looks to be rigorous but the weapons are there. While the decided future awaits Coach Doman, he leaves Provo with so many “what if’s” on his plate that he wasn’t completely responsible for.