Friel talks Utah coverage

Cougar tight end Kaneakua Friel will face Utah one last time. BYU has beaten Utah once during his years in the program, and he would love for it to happen again. BYU's pass-catchers have been preparing for what they expect Utah to do defensively.

BYU hasn't beaten Utah the past three years. Those losses came in large part because of BYU miscues and turnovers. Cougar tight end Kaneakua Friel feels his Cougars need to get back to beating Utah.

"Well, with this being the last year playing Utah, in my time being here we've only had one win," Friel said. "That's definitely saying something about how they've been playing in the past and how we're doing now. We need to change that up because when I was first being recruited by BYU we were the dominant football team. In the past we had guys like Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, Jonny Harline, Andrew George, and I feel like we've kind of gotten away from that."

Coach Mendenhall has placed an emphasis on ball security, with his team knowing that turnovers have played a decisive role in the past. Emotions run high during rivalry week, and Friel feels the Cougars have to play with composure.

"What I think we need to do is settle down, play our game, and execute the offensive game plan under Coach Anae," Friel said. "We have a new offense now and everyone has to buy into what Coach Anae is about. If we do that – and it showed that we did last week against Texas and it's going to show again this week – people can't stop this offense."

Behind the legs of Jamaal Williams, Paul Lasike and quarterback Taysom Hill, BYU is proving to have a formidable rushing offense. If the offense can complement that by getting back to what BYU is famous for – throwing the ball – then the offense will have another formidable element to contend with.

"Yeah, I think it's definitely going to be important for us to be able to throw the ball," said Friel. "They're going to man us up and put an extra man in the box to try and stop the run, knowing what we can do with that. So, it's going to be critical for us to throw and catch the ball downfield in that sense, because if we can't do that they're going to put that extra guy in the box.

"That means they're going to have an even greater chance to try and slow us up in the run. They've seen what we can do in the run and it's going to open up more opportunities for guys like Cody [Hoffman], Ross [Apo], Skyler [Ridley] to get downfield, especially Mitch [Mathews]. It's going to be man-to-man defense and I think our guys can beat that."

There is a natural progression offenses generally take when a new system is installed. The run game is what generally takes shape first, followed by the passing game. Throughout fall camp and the season, the offensive coaching staff has placed an emphasis on further developing the passing game. In preparation for Utah, that emphasis has been curtailed towards beating man coverage.

"We've been making more of an emphasis on playing against man-to-man," said Friel. "We've seen them play that coverage this year, and, believe me, people can't stop us in a zone coverage, so they're going to have to man us up and try and stop us that way. They're going to go man-to-man against our guys, but Cody is a great man-to-man route runner. Seeing their players, and players around the country, people can't stop it when he's healthy and strong. He's good to go and he's unstoppable. When people man him up, he's unbeatable deep."

The linebackers of Utah have been suspect this season, making the slot and tight end positions a potential mismatch. However, the tight end position at BYU hasn't enjoyed as much success as it had in previous years.

"I have great respect for their outside linebackers, especially [Trevor] Reilly, number nine," said Friel. "He's a tough guy and all that, but he's going to be man-to-man against us, and if not him, their safeties [Eric Rowe] and [Michael Walker] are going to be against our inside guys.

"We have a good group of inside guys. I feel like Brett [Thompson], J.D. [Falslev] and Devin [Mahina] are going to have opportunities to get downfield. My role has been more limited to blocking to give Taysom more time to throw, but I feel that Devin's abilities to beat man-to-man coverage with that big body and athleticism [will be big]. I watched [Utah] this past week against Oregon State and they're the same as they ever were, well, maybe not as good as in the past. We have as good a chance as anyone to dominate them this week."

With the idea that Utah will stack the box in an effort to stop BYU's rushing attack, the key will be for BYU's receivers to beat man coverage.

"All around and across the board, I feel we can beat man-to-man coverage," Friel said. "If we can just throw the ball, pass and catch, run it half as well as we've done, it will be a blowout."

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