Is Gary Crowton to Blame? And the Surveys Says ...

In the ongoing fan debate of how much BYU coach <b>Gary Crowton</b> is to blame for the last two consecutive losing seasons, many ignore the fact the best MWC or WAC teams over the past 30 years came from teams dominated by experienced juniors and seniors on the two deep chart – with only a few quality freshmen and sophomores thrown in.

This doesn't mean all teams dominated by juniors and seniors were automatically the top or elite teams in the league on any given year.

Some teams don't perform well regardless of seniority. San Diego State usually looks good on paper and after the annual recruiting wars, and then often find ways to implode.

If you look at the top four teams in the MWC or WAC each year, they are ALWAYS dominated by experienced juniors and seniors on the two deep chart.

This year's league-leading team, Utah, team is no exception – as was last year's Utah's team. The Cougar team last season so lacked in experienced junior and senior leadership across many positions that they got thrashed by three teams with senior quarterbacks at Colorado State, Air Force, Boise State and Wyoming.

As a general rule, freshman and sophomore dominated teams make more mistakes, no matter who the coach is. Execution is hit or miss on too many plays.

On offense, each of 11 players may have three possible reads or options for each play, depending upon how the defense lines up. Inexperienced teams tend to have more penalties, although some experienced teams lack discipline. As the Cougars get more games under their belts, penalties seem to be dropping by about half – compared to last year.

There is no doubt that depth and experience matter, but it takes time to build depth.

The Div. 1 game is too fast and physical for most fresh-from-high school freshmen. Utah's potent offensive this year is far more experienced at the skill and the offensive line positions than BYU, but that difference is probably not as pronounced this year as it was last year.

Here is this year's two deep lineup on the Utah offense:

UTAH OFFENSE (1st and 2nd string):

QB – Smith-Jr (6-4, 205); Au-Jr (6-1, 216)
TB – Johnson-Sr (6-0, 225); Johnson-Fr (5-7, 185)
WR – Savoy-So (5-11, 187); Madsen-Jr (6-4, 220)
WR – LaTendresse-Sr (6-1, 199); Wright-Sr (6-0, 179)
WR – Warren-Sr (6-1, 214); Gueck-So (5-8, 182)
TE – Clark-Jr (6-4, 225); Sao-So (6-3, 260)
OT – Tupola-So (6-4, 299); Boone-Fr (6-3, 284)
OG – Dahl-So (6-5, 358); Pettit-So (6-3, 294)
C – Johnson-Jr (6-2, 300); Boone-Jr (6-4, 305)
OG – Kemoeatu-Sr (6-4, 334); Arquette-So (6-4, 307)
OT – Aalona-Sr (6-4, 300); Dirkmaat-Jr (6-7, 300)

Overall, eight of 11 Ute offensive starters are juniors or seniors, with three sophomores.

BYU OFFENSE: The Cougars' offensive skill players include two freshmen (Austin Collie and Dennis Pitta); three sophomores (John Beck, Curtis Brown and Daniel Coats); one junior (Todd Watkins); and one senior (Jason Kukahiko).

Moreover, the BYU starting offensive line includes two sophomores, two juniors, and and one senior – and both the junior and single senior starters had never played that position in Div. 1 prior to this season.

BYU routinely goes with six freshmen and sophomores in its starting offensive rotation whereas Utah only as three – a big difference if you are facing tough defenses that can force you into multiple mistakes.

For anyone to say this kind of experience does not make a difference in the MWC, name one top team in the last 30 years in the MWC or WAC that was not dominated by juniors and seniors?

Those who expect Crowton to deliver consistent winning records when his offensive troops lack experienced upper classmen are asking for what no MWC or WAC coach has ever done.

It's no secret that experienced players generate execute better and make fewer mistakes.

Meanwhile, on the defensive side, the Cougars and the Utes are more balanced in experience personnel.

UTAH DEFENSE (1st and 2nd string):

DE – Ledbetter-Jr (6-2, 242); Williams-Sr (6-3, 238)
DT – Pouha-Sr (6-3, 324); Tamasoa-Jr (6-0, 305)
NG – Fifita-Jr (5-11, 309); Kemoeatu-Sr (6-2, 307)
DE – Fanene-Sr (6-4, 290); Castaldi-Fr (6-2, 236)
RLB – Toone-Jr (6-2, 232); Hackenbruck-Sr (6-1, 220)
MLB – Bryant-Sr (6-1, 232); Jiannoni-Fr (6-0, 227)
SLB – Dodds-Sr (6-2, 225); Puccinelli-Fr (6-1, 222)
CB – Weddle-So (5-11, 194); Fletcher-Sr (5-9, 167)
CB – Harper-So (5-9, 179); Nagahi-Sr (5-10, 193)
SS – Casco-Sr (5-10, 196); Young-Jr (5-11, 194)
FS – Scalley-Sr (5-10, 192); Marshall-Jr (5-11, 205)

Overall, nine Utah starters on defense are juniors or seniors, with two sophomores.

BYU's defense has five juniors and five seniors starters, with one sophomore.

Every coach has to play the hand he is dealt. Since no MWC or WAC coach has ever produced a top freshman-sophomore dominated teams, it's not reasonable to expect Crowton to play with and win consistently with cards (players) he doesn't have yet.

This narrowly focused analogy does not suggest that Crowton has not made some obvious coaching mistakes because he has. The key is whether he has learned from them.

Crowton's detractors and defenders may point to the Air Force game last week as a tale of two opposite halves to highlight Crowton's strengths and weaknesses. In reality, Crowton called both halves with similar plays, but his young team simply did not finally execute until the second half – their best offensive showing in the last two a half years.

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