Passing game becomes a focus

It was obvious what Utah was going to do to defend BYU's offense. They were going to stack the box to defend the run, and this could be a blueprint for future opponents. BYU has to develop the passing game, but all that is needed to do so just might be having more time to work out the kinks with a young quarterback in a new system.

Maybe there were higher expectations for the passing game than there would be at most universities, thanks to BYU's history. But although Taysom Hill is a sophomore, he didn't have a full freshman season.

"Well, I think what happens is we're a young football team on offense in a new system," said Coach Holliday. "And we haven't experienced a lot of success offensively over the past couple of years. Let's be honest. Let's call a spade a spade."

As far as mechanics, Hill does have a few aspects of his technique that does need further development. His release when throwing on the run isn't as crisp as needed, resulting in the ball not being on time or on point.

"You know, he'll make some really impressive throws on the run," said Coach Beck. "Like, on average I would say he's better than most when throwing on the run, but it is more of a challenge throwing on the run. So, it is easier [for the ball] to get away from you, to be off-balanced, because you don't have that luxury.

"The biggest thing we talk about is when he gets to the top is just be balanced. Sometimes if you're moving within the pocket, or if timing-wise if you're not on time, that's when you tend to get a little off-balanced and the ball can get away from you. So just being balanced at the top of his drops when he's throwing will help out."

When throwing on the run, a quarterback often doesn't have the luxury of being squared to his target, and is thus off-balance.

"So, when you are on the run you so have to be really precise in your release point, even though you're moving [and] getting yourself squared to the target," said Coach Beck. "So, you know, if you're moving this way and your target is there, you have to get yourself square and releasing on time, so it can be more challenging throwing on the run, but [Hill's] generally really good at it, moreso than most guys are."

The chemistry between the receivers and quarterback is lacking. The timing is off and that's apparent. With receivers being rotated in and out, that could partly be the cause. However, Coach Holliday feels the primary chemistry issues lie within the need for more time to develop.

"This past week we really wanted to play three guys, as far outside guys, and that's my main focus," said Coach Holliday. "Coach Anae works with the inside guys, as well as I do. I could say, 'Well, the timing aspect of it is maybe we're playing too many guys.' I think those are all just excuses.

"The timing aspect of it is Taysom is new. Taysom is a freshman quarterback [in terms of number of games played], and, you know, people don't realize that. It all comes through repetition and that's what we're trying to do. I think you will see the offense in the passing game improve. Nobody is more disappointed in the passing game than I am. No fan is even close to being as disappointed as I am. It's my responsibility to fix it and I'll get it fixed."

Coach Holliday is presented with some unique challenges. He has to get his more experienced receivers to help their young quarterback, but he also can't overwork them.

"We're doing some things personnel-wise to try and take advantages of mismatches, you know, but if somebody tells me we're going to sit Cody Hoffman, I would say they're insane," said Coach Holliday. "And then Mitch Mathews caught three [passes] for 54 [yards against Utah]. But we run 90 plays. There's not a receiver in the NFL that runs 90 plays, so the bottom line is we all have to step up, whether it's Cody, whether it's Mitch, whether it's Ross Apo, whether it's Skyler Ridley, Kurt Henderson, J.D. [Falslev], Terenn Houk. We all just have to play better. I think we know that as a unit. We're going to do that."

It's a matter of developing a young quarterback within a new system. Going fast and hard might make it a challenge to achieve the desired results, but these are natural growing pains that come with installing a new offense.

"It's a little of everything as far as a new system, a young team developing, just being early [in the throws], but we like where we're at as far as the improvement and getting better and where it's headed," Coach Beck said.

While 260 yards were gained through the air against Utah, the pass efficiency rating was only 78.83. BYU's offense is rated dead last in the nation in pass efficiency.

"Yeah, I mean, we pay attention to that," said Coach Beck. "We obviously want to be efficient, but within the whole system with all 11 guys and just getting better and improving."

Having played the quarterback position at BYU, Coach Beck feels the weight of responsibility more than most. He understands that BYU is Quarterback U.

"There is a long tradition and legacy of guys that have come through here, so you definitely feel that excitement about being great at that position and playing at a high level," said Beck. "So, yeah, we're just working and improving and getting better and moving forward with developing the quarterback position to reach its potential. It's coming along but it will take some time."

BYU fans want results now – which is the case with every fan base – and the lack thereof has led to some open criticism. In the end, it might come down to patience and realistic expectations rather than instant results.

"No, everybody wants to win," Holliday said. "Every place I've worked wants to win. Obviously, the social media here is as intense as a Southeastern Conference school, and, hey, everybody's got an opinion and that's why they're great fans."

For Coach Holliday, the criticisms have been something expected.

"No, I mean I'm not ashamed or intimidated by the scrutiny," he said. "That's what I expect. I mean, when they praise – if they want to praise me – I'm not the one to praise. Praise the players. I'm the one here to take the criticism, and when we win games it will be because of our players. It won't be because of us, so that's just the bottom line. No, I mean, I welcome the criticism, you know? And I also welcome anybody who wants to walk out, and [if] they think they can do it better than I can, I respect that. I mean, that's their opinion. Heck, I've had six knee surgeries and I think I could do it better than one doctor that did surgery on me. So, that's my opinion. No, I really appreciate it and it's not a problem."

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