Andrew George reflects on BYU's season

Last season tight end Andrew George was the hero in BYU's overtime victory over rival Utah. George caught a pass from Max Hall and split two Ute defenders before reaching the end zone, sealing a 26-23 victory. After a short stint in the NFL, George is back home in Colorado and has been able to follow the Cougars this season.

After signing as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers and then the Buffalo Bills, Andrew George is no longer on an NFL roster. With the 2010 NFL season winding down, he has yet to be picked back up. With the threat of an NFL strike looming in the horizon, George doesn't expect his pro career to pick up, and is now back in Englewood, Colorado working on the next phase of his life.

While home, he has followed his favorite college football team, the Cougars of BYU.

"The overall thing that I've seen is that they are really young," George said. "They're not just young, but they have a lot of inexperience playing, so early on in the season that showed quite a bit as I watched them play."

Much like BYU fans, George saw the team make some major improvements over the course of this season.

"Once Jake [Heaps] took over, and that was the biggest thing, I thought that was one of the biggest differences," George said. "With him being the only starter, it allowed a young player to develop by getting that experience, but offensively I thought that was the number one reason for the offensive turnaround. It looked like he really started to understand the offense and in reading the defense as time went on.

"The second big difference in the season turnaround was the play of the defense," continued George. "They really stepped it up under Coach Mendenhall for the second half of the season. You could really see how the defense came alive and became one of two biggest differences in the season for them."

One key position of interest to George, of course, is tight end. As a former player that has been through it all, George met with the young tight ends earlier in the season.

"I tried to put it into perspective for them when I met with them earlier in the season," he said. "It wasn't too much X's and O's, and they did have a few questions on a couple of routes. I basically just went and talked to them as someone who had experience with the offense and the coaches. I basically knew what they were going through and had been in the same situation that they were currently in.

"I could understand and sympathize with them a little bit, so I just tried to give them a little former-player coaching. I just said, 'Look guys, you're only a freshman. How many freshmen are playing in the nation right now? All of you are getting a chance to play and contribute right now.' I told them, 'When I was a freshman I played maybe 10-12 plays at the end of my freshman year, and it was all blocking and just to get me some experience.' This year all of these guys got a chance to go out and catch passes a lot more than I did."

George saw the merry-go-round that fielded five tight ends throughout this season, and it's something even he's somewhat familiar with.

"Yeah, I definitely went through it," said George. "The hardest thing as a player is being consistent. You may have a good play here and there, but the consistency isn't going to be there because you're not as familiar with the offense. A huge emphasis should be they're just not as experienced. For all of them to get some playing time this year will be huge for them next year.

"You know, there is talent there and the reason why I feel it was rotation by committee is because I think the coaches are just trying to figure out who is going to be the guy come game time. They're just trying to see who is going to step up and make a play. He basically gives them all a chance to play and contribute to see what they've got there. It's hard because I didn't see a clear-cut guy out of all of them. They all have some talent and are improving, but there wasn't one in my mind where I thought, 'He's the clear-cut guy.' They all have talent in different areas and that talent will only get better going forward."

George, a Second-Team All-MWC tight end, and Dennis Pitta, a First-Team All-MWC tight end, dominated defenses during the previous three seasons. When asked about the development of BYU's current tight ends, George said a little patience is in order.

"It's hard, I think, for the fans and for the freshman tight ends to be following Dennis and I," said George. "It's a little bit unfair for them as well because these young players are getting compared to us every game by fans, media and by coaches. It's not a fair comparison to compare two senior tight ends to the expectations and performance of five freshman tight ends.

"The tight ends are extremely young and had no experience in games whatsoever. It's tough because they're all still learning the offense, but more importantly, they're all still learning to read a defense and how to get open against the defense within their specific play. There are a lot of little nuances that have to be learned on how to get open from that position."

Pitta meanwhile has been busy working hard as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. George recently got to speak with his tight end counterpart about the heartbreaking Cougar loss to Utah last Saturday.

"Dennis had recorded it and just watched it," said George. "He knew the outcome and he knew everything that had happened, but he was just curious to watch a few things here and there like the big plays, the fumble that wasn't overturned and the blocked field goal at the end. He just called me up to talk a little bit about it and he feels similar to me. We had a chance to win the game and it was very disappointing to play so well for three quarters [only] to lose it in the end. To completely outplay your opponent and then to have one or two things that don't bounce your way and a couple execution issues, which you're going to have, was tough. That was something to be expected being that the team was so young, but despite that fact, this team has a lot of upside to it and they'll clean up those little execution things up. This team has a lot of potential and should be really good in the future. It's good to know."


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