Nobody knows for sure how synergy works. We'd be millionaires if we could bottle it.
When defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall powered his troops to a Top 15 national ranking, we had synergy there, but not enough to offset poor offensive production.
When Utah, the 2003 Mountain West Conference champion beat BYU 3-0, with walk-on quarterback, Jackson Brown – who started the season as the scout team quarterback – playing the majority of the game, the score suggests BYU was not that far away from the MWC's No. 1 team. Close, but no cigar – and no excuses.
As BYU lunges headlong into spring practice and its much-anticipated spring game, we are not far away in several critical areas. Allow me to be so bold as to suggest that if the Cougars put together solid, consistent performances in several areas of offense, coupled with an improved defense, BYU may achieve 8 or 9 wins this season. To reach 10 wins, they must maintain great offensive production from Day 1 of the season.
Like most fans, I am focused on where are the offensive improvements will come from? I don't know the man, but I already trust Mendenhall will have his defense ready and raring to play.
Count me among the overly optimistic for this season. I expect to see some of BYU's offensive synergy return for the following reasons:
- Awesome slate of superior wide receivers from junior college and high school
- More experience at the quarterback and offensive line positions
- Addition of Jeff Grimes brings a proven offensive line coaching talent with fiery intensity
I think coach Grimes' addition as offensive line coach; Lance Reynolds return to running back coach; and Paul Tidwell's singleminded focus on Special Teams will put square pegs in square holes or round pegs in the round holes, according to your perspective or persuasion.
It's interesting that Grimes' job at ASU was both as offensive line and running back coordinator. Other than having a once-in-a-generation back like Staley, BYU's philosophy hasn't emphasized the run much. Could that be why Cougar blockers in the two years may have struggled in the run-blocking department?
It's also interesting to note that Grimes offensive line unit was ranked in the Top 4 in the Pac-10 in that department. It is also noteworthy that four of his offensive line players were after his first season there. Though Grimes didn't groom them from their freshmen years, he still deserves a lot of the credit.
Furthermore, it will only strengthen BYU's excellent recruiting track record in landing top-notch offensive linemen. Grimes' record of producing NFL drafted linemen becomes another strong selling point and he was considered on the the better recruiters at Arizona State.
There is a lot to be said for having a coaching staff that stays together for years. However, if times and methods change, that kind of staff may need an injection or infusion of new ideas or formations.
Mendenhall provided that immediate, national-ranking impact on the defensive side of the ball. More importantly, he won the hearts, minds and effort-driven commitments of players, fellow coaches and impatient Cougar fans.
Offensively, the Cougars have been downright offensive at times. Injuries to critical players at the most inopportune times was a big factor.
I believe that not only will Jeff Grimes bring new ideas to the table, but his strengths will also allow BYU head coach Gary Crowton, wide receiver coach Todd Bradford, tight end coach Mike Empey, Reynolds and Tidwell to function more effectively as a cohesive offensive brain trust.
When the coaches sat down for a post-mortem, er, um post-season evaluation of the 2003 season and reviewed film, they identified problems and solutions. Coach Bradford must have made the best case to plug gaping holes in the receiver ranks immediately. We'll know how good a receiver coach he is now that they have lassooed some of the better horses to gallop into Provo. I don't think anyone in the know questions his recruiting skills now.
I would love to be a fly on the way when coach Grimes sits down with his new offensive line for a first real heart-to-heart on his expectations for the season. Maybe he said something like, "You can become the king of the Mountain West Conference mountain again and get yourself drafted higher by NFL teams, but this is what you must do … This is the weight you need to be at … Your strength level should be at ... You need to work on your quickness and technique … Let's make sure you maximize coach Omer's program and prepare you for the NFL ... I'll show you how, but you do must put in the time, effort, commitment, desire and do the rest."
Having four players drafted from his ASU offensive line in the same year takes all this out of the realm of theory. Grimes must know what he's talking about. Production is proof.
It doesn't hurt that Grimes has roots in Texas for recruiting or that he played at UTEP and lettered four years. He certanly knows what BYU crowds and teams are all about. I'd say he already has the vision of BYU football.
Welcome aboard, coach Grimes.
What's cool is that some, not all, upcoming improvements in the Cougars offense will be a direct result of his timely hiring and he will contribute immensely and immediately to BYU's synergy-producing offensive machine again. The only unanswered is when will it all come together?
Hopefully sooner than later.
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