Tweaking the Cougar offense

Cougar fans are beginning to see the fringes of what could be in store for the future of BYU's offense. As Coach Doman becomes more seasoned and younger players become more experienced, the ability to widen and expand the offense's potential – making it more lethal – becomes available. Coach Doman is tampering with the next stages of his Cougar offensive vision.

With more experience, Cody Hoffman has become an offensive force for Coach Doman. He's even nominated for the Geico Play of the Year for his juggling circus catch against Oregon State. Hoffman places his success squarely by way of football maturity.

"For me, I have to say my biggest thing has been knowing the offense better and how the plays work," Hoffman said. "When you know what you're doing, then you can do it up to speed. You kind of start out slow and then as you get more comfortable it speeds up and becomes more natural. When that happens you do more things by being more involved in the offense."

And that's exactly what's transpiring with the offense as chemistry develops among the players.

"I would say the chemistry between the receivers and the quarterbacks in what Coach Doman is trying to do with our offense is getting a lot better," said Hoffman. "We're having more success and the coaches trust me and the quarterbacks trust me and I'm getting better as a receiver to where Coach Doman can do more things with us now."

"Yeah, I think we have a great passing game going and it's improving every week," said J.J. Di Luigi. "I think parts of the offense have increased as the year's gone by and we started executing at a higher level."

Now comes the next step. Coach Doman is now using the success of developing players to better suit his vision of what BYU's offense can become. This is evident with how he is going to further use Hoffman within the Cougar offense. BYU fans should see this development during the New Mexico State game.

"It's really starting to show with what we're starting to do now with the inside routes and it shows by how we're able to attack the linebackers and safeties," Hoffman said. "Coach Doman came to me and asked me if I wanted to try running some Y-receiver to further create mismatches and problems with linebackers and safeties. So far it's worked like a charm."

"You've got two big guys that can run, catch and jump now on the same side," said fellow receiver Ross Apo. "You now put Cody, who has been fun to watch all year, on the inside and it really creates some problems for safeties or linebackers at the Y-position and will open things up even more."

Against Idaho, Hoffman had six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Placing Hoffman at the Y-position next to Apo on the same side of the field creates a lot of problems for defenses and opens up new possibilities.

"They put in some new formations where me and Cody are on the same side," said Apo. "It's basically to our strengths and abilities now that we've become more of a threat within our offense to put DBs in a more of a bind."

"Now all of a sudden you're having Ross and Cody on the same side of the field and that poses some problems for defenses because those two guys are good," said Coach Doman. "How are you going to defend that?"

The added speed on the inside – go back and watch Hoffman on the slant and middle routes during the Idaho game – will further aid in the quick-strike offense while further isolating Apo as he continues to emerge as a speed threat on the outside in single coverage downfield.

"Most of the time you'll have Cody, who like I've said has really grown to be a threat in the offense this year, on the inside at the Y-position and he'll run something and clear everything out," said Apo. "Then I'll run something over the top.

"Coach Doman expects me and Cody, who are bigger, faster guys, to get across those DBs [on] our backs but still catch the ball. Cody is becoming that main guy who runs the slants and main guy who can get in his route quickly, then boom! Once he crosses a DBs face, there's nothing they can do, so we're taking advantage of that to put pressure on defenses in the middle and outside."

By having two big, capable talents like Apo and Hoffman complementing each other on one side, coupled with Heaps' matured chemistry, it becomes a case of pick your poison when defending BYU's faster paced offense.

"There will be times when I'll come in and take those middle guys away and force them to cover me as well," said Apo. "Then you have Cody able to do other things in the middle of the field or do a fade and things like that. It's been a lot of fun in practice because we're tough to defend. I've really enjoyed having him play next to me."

"The quick release of Jake and his arm strength allows us to use the entire field," Hoffman said. "It's effective if we want to run a 5-yard out to the wide side. We know he's going to have the release and the arm strength to get the ball to us, so what that does is it definitely broadens our passing game at a faster pace because defenses have to spread out and can't really cheat.

"We can run slants or attack the middle of the field and the ball will be out of Jake's hands before the defense can get their keys. If we're running the slant and the ball's already there as we get in and out of our breaks, they don't really have a chance. That's why we ran so many slants against Idaho, because now we're getting that chemistry and timing down within our new offense."

The goal is to make the passing game quicker, more lethal and more versatile. Placing Hoffman at the Y-position advances this objective.

"For me in the quick game, it's mostly 5-yard hitches or a quick screen," Apo said. "Having Cody on the same side as me helps it because we can get out into our assignments quicker, and because he's bigger he can help block for me and I can just take it up wherever.

"So we want to try and make our offense faster by taking quick shots, but we also want to be able to tweak things to where we can take quick shots downfield as well. Right now, Coach Doman wants us to work on everything and be all-around receivers, whether it's downfield, intermediate or in the quick game. It's good and a lot of fun."

The Cougar offense ran a total of 63 plays against Idaho. Coach Doman wants his offense to execute about 80 plays a game, and that's the reason for the continued tweaking of the offense.

"We want to run a lot of plays faster and I can imagine it would be hard for DBs and defensive coordinators when we get everything working like we know we can," Apo said. "I think it's going to be a nightmare to try and stop. Even if they do try and bring extra help over to the field side to try and stop me or Cody, Jake can read the defense and check down to a run or use the other side of the field. So far it's been working pretty good and I love it."

Coach Doman agrees with Apo's assessment.

"So, rather than trying to figure out how to defend those guys [Apo and Hoffman], they also have to try and stop the run," Coach Doman said.

What remains to be seen is how the flexed tight ends will be used if Hoffman lines up at the Y-Position. Some of the Cougar tight ends, like Dennis Pitta and Andrew George before them, have lined up at the Y-receiver position.

"Honestly, that's pretty much up to the coach wherever they want to put the tight ends," Apo said. "You know, in the past the offense has revolved around the tight end either at the three point or flexed out at the Y-position. I think with Cody having the success that he's having, this just gives the offense different options at the Y-position and for the tight ends as well."

"Tight ends are still playing the Y-position," said Di Luigi. "Certain plays we just want Ross and Cody on the same side or McKay [Jacobson] and Cody on the same side. It's just trying to get certain personnel in certain positions for certain plays now that the offense is starting to mature."

Apparently, the H-position hasn't been tweaked or advanced in any way. Well, at least not yet.

"They H-position is still there," Di Luigi said. "I mean, it depends on the formation. The H-position could be one of us running backs or it could be J.D. [Falslev] on the other side in the slot. They're just trying to mix it up and make it confusing for defenses."

The results of Doman's offensive dabbling has yet to be fully seen. The potential is now only being realized in small increments as players continue to progress.

"I think we can be great," Hoffman said. "We have a young but talented receiving corps, [as well as] tight ends and running backs. I think once we get everything working like how we want it to, over time we'll control our own destiny to do what we want when we want. You're seeing bits and pieces of it this year, and hopefully now we can get things developing and how we want for the rest of this year heading into next season."

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