Fan Speak with Coach Crowton

BYU head coach Gary Crowton answers questions from TBS subscribers. Topics covered by the coach this week include: correcting execution problems, preparing players for a big rivalry game, the future of developing receivers and the development of the offensive line.

Welcome to another edition of TBS' "Fan Speak," where the most rabid of BYU fans from all across the country get their questions answered by BYU head football coach Gary Crowton.

Kicking off this season's final edition of Fan Speak, is local Utahn John Hulet from Spanish Fork who asks: "Coach Crowton, how do you take young, talented players and teach them that it is unacceptable to make mistakes over and over again while playing at this level? Like a player who is prone to fumbling or missing blocking assignments for example."

Crowton responded: "Well that's a good question. When you have younger players, especially ones that are extremely talented, sometimes they think it's going to be like high school where they think they are going to run all over guys.

"It sounds like the question is about skill players, and when they make errors you correct those errors and you have to teach him how. Instead of just saying hang onto the ball, you have to teach him how to hang onto the ball: how to cover up, how to hold it, how to hold it high and tight, cover up in a crowd, where your hands are and those kinds of things. If it continues to happen, there's a point where you have to sit them down and say look, ‘until you've got this error corrected, you're not going to be able to play.' Some of positions like receivers where they drop a ball here or there, that's going to happen.

"Especially in the course of the season were you don't want it to happen during critical times, but if that happens too much and there is someone else on your roster making those catches, then you let them play. The hard part is, if you don't have anybody any better, and then they make a mistake and then that becomes tough. We‘ve had some years where that's been the case in a couple spots, but right now we feel like we have enough talent where we feel they have to compete and if they don't someone else will beat them out. "

All the way out in sunny California, Mike Yancey of Mission Viejo asks: "Coach, Should I bring my jacket down to Vegas for the Las Vegas Bowl?"

Crowton chuckled and said: "Right now we're focused on Utah and that's all I'm going to talk about, because, right now, the team has to use every bit of their energy into this game because they're [Utah] a good football team. I like how they're [BYU] practicing. I feel like they are confident and I feel that they believe in themselves, and that's a good start going into this game."

Next up is James Stout from Kaysville, Utah who asked: "Coach Crowton, there were a lot of dropped passes against New Mexico. Was the cold weather a factor? If so, since the weather will be colder against Utah, do you envision a change in game plan to more of a power running game to avoid the dropped passes?"

Crowton responded: "That [New Mexico game] was the most passes we've had dropped all year. I don't think the weather was a factor at all. I just feel like it was, a couple of times, a lack of concentration. Todd [Watkins] was hurt and he was focused on his foot and not the ball. We had a couple of other drops throughout the game, but our team is usually pretty good with passing and catching. I don't expect it to be an issue and I'm hoping it won't, but we are working on our power run game also."

Garry Montierth of Fremont, California asks: "What does the coaching staff do, or can they do, to help the players handle all of the pressure and hoopla of a very high profile game? How do you ratchet up the emotion, or ratchet down the emotion, to get to an optimal level for each player with so many different personality types involved, both players and coaches?"

Crowton said: "The emotions are high because of the rivalry anyway. Everybody knows it a big game because of the media attention and the fan attention for players wherever they go and for coaches wherever they go. What we try to do is at the very beginning of the week is talk about it. Talk about what's going to happen. Talk about where we want their mind set to be and where we want their preparation to be.

"As the week goes on, then we start introducing more and more what game day is going to be like, and, just from the experience from the other players who've been through this, what their emotions will be like. I feel like if they understand that, they will be able to deal with it better, but no matter what the adrenaline on game day, when everyone is screaming and yelling because of this rivalry, will be very excitable."

Mike Olsen in Murray, Utah asks: "I've been a huge Antwuan Harris fan since I saw his high school highlight tape. With Austin Collie leaving on an mission, will Antwuan move to the outside to take his place or will he stay in the slot? In either case, do you expect big things from him next season and his seasons to follow at BYU?"

"I do expect big things from Antwuan [Harris] in the future," Crowton responded. "He's very capable and he's maturing as a freshman getting valuable game time experience. Whether he goes inside or outside just depends on some of the other receivers we have. We have Michael Morris and Joe Griffin who are injured that will be battling. There might be a new recruit or two coming in, it's just hard to say. Whether Antwuan stays inside or outside, time will tell, but he's definitely part of the big picture and in our plans for the future."

Coray Neilson from of Gilbert, Arizona of the Grand Canyon state asks: "Have you heard from Ben Olson recently? What are the chances he will come back to BYU? How good are his physical abilities compared to the other college and NFL qb's you have coached throughout your career?"

Crowton said, "Right now Ben [Olson] is a recruitable athlete so all I can say is we are recruiting Ben Olson, and I'll have to leave it at that."

Jim Barrus from Meeteetse Wyoming would like to ask a question and give a comment:

Barrus asked: "Coach you have coached several quarterbacks that have gone to the pros. Would you comment on the comparisons of these quarterbacks to John Beck. What attributes does Beck have that these quarterbacks have."

Crowton replied: "Well, John [Beck] is a sophomore in his early stages of his career and he's developing nicely. He's got a long ways to go, but he's moving in the right direction. I've been very proud of his work ethic. His physical abilities are good and he has a good arm. Mentally he's tough and he's moving in the right direction. Really only time will tell and he's just got to keep developing and keep working and growing in our program before he can think about anything else."

Barrus' Comment: "I would like to take this time to express my deepest appreciation for the love and dedication that you have for the BYU football program. Also, especially for the unconditional love that you have for this Great University. That said, BYU needs you!!! Coach, good luck in whatever the future brings to you and your family."

Crowton replied: "Good things are going happen to this program. I can see it in who's coming here. I can see it within our recruiting, our good coaching staff and I feel a lot of support from the fans. I've even felt the support from the administration, so we are going to move on and move forward and get better."

Barrus asked, "Talo [Steves], just tell Coach what ever happens I hope that he keeps the Cougar that my son Scott and I gave him in showing our personal appreciation! Thanks."

Crowton replied, "Tell him I've got that [cougar] in my living room right now and I appreciate that."

Scott Paul from Potomac, Maryland asks: "Coach if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Coach I hope you answered that you would be an Oak because although they grow a little slower than other trees, once they set root and add a few rings to their trunk they aren't going anywhere!"

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Again a word of explanation, this is an allusion to a question Barbara Walters, in a fit on journalistic foolishness, asked of the Queen of England. She has never lived it down and it is now a running joke in news media circles]

Crowton replied, "Well, first of all with the tree, you shouldn't have given me your answer, but the one you've given me was a very strong sounding answer. That's the direction I want to be as a head football coach, one that is strong and sound, and we are moving in that direction."

Scott Paul asked, "Also, what do you have to do to get four consecutive quarters of execution out of this team on both offense and defense?"

Crowton replied, "As far as what do we need to do to get four quarters, we just need to keep practicing, keep trying and working because it will come."

Ken Lovell from Tulsa, Oklahoma asked these questions: "Can you give us your thoughts on the impact that Coach Grimes has had with the offensive line?"

Crowton said, "Coach Grimes in one word, outstanding!"

Lovell asked, "How is Ofa doing and will he play next year?"

Crowton said: "Ofa, he's still developing. His potential is great and his opportunity to be great all depends on him. Right now we are waiting to see what his decision is, but we do love him and we want the best for him."

Lovell asked: "Are you happy with their [the line's] progress and what are your expectations for next year from this group?"

Crowton said: "I am happy with the progress and the expectations will be greater next year than this year, and most everybody will be back except for Scott Young who we will miss. His leadership has helped get these guys pointed in the right direction, him and Hanale Vincent our other senior up there. The expectations will be great because their abilities will be better, and their understanding of what we need will be much better."

Garry Montierth from Fremont, California asked: "I have heard that Tahi is a good blocker. Are there situations where it would make sense to have Peaua and Tahi in the backfield together along with Brown [or Hudson/Mahuika] at the same time [other than maybe deep in the red zone]? Maybe you could let Fahu and Curtis block for Moa."

Crowton chuckled: "Moa is the best blocker because he weights 280. Fahu Tahi is an outstanding blocker, and we are going to use him to block a little bit. He plays our tailback and rotates in at fullback. He's kind of both. Curtis Brown right now is our starting running back and I like Ray Hudson and Bryce Mahuika. Both those guys are going to contribute more and more as their careers go on."

Paul Pocock from Castle Rock, Colorado asked: "Coach, forgive this question from a terminal stat geek, but do you place a lot of importance in the passing efficiency statistics, and if so, do you have any specific season or game goals centered around that measurement?"

Crowton said: "Here is the interesting thing about passing efficiency. The fewer times you throw the ball and the more times you throw it deep, your pass efficiency will be high. If you throw the ball often and throw it underneath, you're pass efficiency wont be quite as high. There are some numbers that we want to get and there are some parameters that we give our quarterbacks for percentage completions, interception ratio to touchdowns. Those are things we look for in our quarterbacks. One of the other things I look at very hard is third down conversions and those are areas we will improve on and we are improving on, but there is room for us to continue to grow."

And the best question of the day award goes to Steve Smith of Roseburg, Oregon who asked this of coach Crowton: " Coach do you ever check out the TBS website? If yes, what do you think?"

Crowton smiled, chuckled and said, "I like the TBS website. I don't check it out because there's too many things on there. It's hard for me to deal with them all. My focus is with the team, but I have many friends and family that do read that website and they are appreciative of all the positive things that promote the growth of BYU football."

I wish to thank coach Crowton for taking the time to answer the questions on the minds of BYU fans from all across the country.

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