Offense's top priority is the running game

The passing game was revolutionized in Provo, Utah by LaVell Edwards and his staff, and with that the Cougars were able to rise through the college ranks as a top tier program. BYU will do what it does best this year and that's throw the ball, but so far in fall camp the run game has become the number one focus, and for good reason.

With the arm of quarterback Jake Heaps, the Cougar passing attack will be a force to be reckoned with. There's no doubt about that. However, the number one focus of BYU's offense is of a different matter.

"The run game compliments our passing game," Heaps said. "It's our number one focus, running the football. In our offensive philosophy, the number one thing we want is to insert our run game and to have a great run game."

Even more of a priority than the passing game? Well, according to Heaps, yes.

"Yeah, yeah it is for every football team," he said. "If you look at what the number one goal of a defense is, it's to stop the run. The reason that is is because you want to make a team one-dimensional. That's what a defense wants to do, they want to stop the run and force an offense to become one-dimensional to pass. When you become one-dimensional in the passing game, you become predictable.

"Then, it becomes easier for a defense because now they can do more things against a one-dimensional team. It becomes easier for them because now they can dictate their will more against that one dimension. They can bring more pressure and doing different things like that to attack you, but when you're balanced and doing everything the right way to attack a defense from multiple aspects, then they have to always adjust to you. Now we can put them on their heels by doing so many different things to throw them off with run, play action and our passing game."

Being a high-powered, attacking team is a theme often heard by new BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman.

"If you listen to Coach Doman, he always says we're going to be a balanced football team and we're going to get great in the run game," Heaps said. "What he's saying is we're not going to give up on the run game, but we're going to keep on going with it because eventually we're going to be very good on the ground. The key to a great offense is a great run game."

Is it a fair assessment to say that BYU's offense will be a run-first offense?

"You have to have balance and the run game is a huge part of it," Heaps said. "I think that's a fair assessment. You have to run the football."

For Cougar fans, that might seem a bit strange.

"For a BYU offense, yeah absolutely," Heaps said. "The quarterback is still going to get 30-40 throws a game, but we're going to run the ball 30-40 times a game too. We're going to stay very consistent in that scheme of things."

Don't worry BYU fans, Coach Doman won't be switching from a pass-happy offense to a wing-t any time soon, but the running game will be more of a factor than most realize.

"Yeah, I think the run game is a huge part of our offense," Heaps said. "When you're talking about a pro-style offense, and if you go to anybody in the NFL, what do they say? They say you have to run the football. You have to have a great offensive line and great running backs to run the football, and then that opens up other aspects of your offense up. It opens your passing game up more, it opens up your play action.

"In our offensive scheme, we want to run the football and assert our will on the other team and be able to run the football," Heaps said. "If we are able to run the football, it opens everything up in the playbook more effectively. Don't get me wrong, we're definitely excited about going out there to throw the football, but the run game is a very huge thing to us. How you win championships is through a balanced offensive attack."

It makes sense. The complexity of today's game won't allow offenses to be one-dimensional any longer. In order to be considered an upper-echelon team, a great run game must be balanced with a great passing game.

"Of course we can pass the ball because we have great schemes," Heaps said. "The great teams are not one-dimensional but two-dimensional and dominant at both things. If you take a look at some of the things we did last year, we were able to get through some games because of our run game and through our offensive line.

"Our number on thing is to be able to run the football, and we have a great offensive line. We have a nasty group that will be physical and get guys out of the way to allow our running backs to run through some bigger creases."

The three backs that will carry much of the load will be J.J. Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya and Joshua Quezada. Michael Alisa is showing that he can also be a ball-carrier and a fullback prospect, and the emerging Iona Pritchard is another option at fullback. The key will be to use the backs in a way that's unpredictable.

"We have three great running backs and it's really up to our coaches in how to manage their abilities on the field, and I think if we manage them right and not be predictable in what we're doing, I think we're going to have an awesome run game that's going to really complement our passing game. I think we need to just be careful that we're not putting in certain guys in for certain plays, because then we fall back to being predictable. In order to be a good passing team, we have to have good runners and that's how we approach it. We're going to go out there and sling it, but we're also going to go out there and run it as well."


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