From 22 Rows Up

Rob James chimes in with his take on the events of the annual BYU Blue-White game. While he sees a work in progress, he is optimistic that things are headed in the right direction for the Cougars and Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Since LaVell Edwards retired, it is not very often that you see a BYU split back formation. But there it was, in blue and white, split backs. There baaa-aaack! It was very cold, but the sight warmed my heart. It also made so much sense. Why didn't somebody think of it before? Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi in the game at the same time? Brilliant!

But that wasn't the only thing that reminded me of the old BYU offense. How about the improved, LEAN offensive line? That's right. I was so used to the "bulge over the belt" that the new waistline stuck out like a sore abdomen. I didn't see a perfect line, but I saw a pretty good one that looks like it can be dominant this year. I noticed the wider splits, but it didn't seem like too big a deal to me. I squinted my eyes, trying to guess a measurement between each mammoth, then shrugged my shoulders and went back to the nachos.

I came to a realization watching this revived offense go to work, that Crowton was probably a little bit too much on the impatient side. Methodically, the offensive teams marched up and down the field using quick slants, screens, traps and sweeps. I think I can count on my one hand (the one with the severed pinky) how many times the offense dropped back 5-7 steps and lofted a pass down field. Part of it is probably the fact that Watkins was a spectator, but still, you sensed that Anae is a patient coach, content to get his 1st downs 3-5 yards per down. There was no sense of urgency to make a big play.

Side Note: The other thing to notice, was that this offense still seemed a little watered down, and I'm personally aware of some plays and formations that we will see next fall, but didn't see today.

Offensively speaking:

The Good: The line looked SOLID to me.

The Bad: No touchdowns scored.

It's hard to watch only the line during plays, but I tried to concentrate on the line a number of times, and my opinion was… "Cool."

Defensively speaking:

The Good: No touchdowns allowed.

The Bad: Where was the Defensive line?

It's easy to see how an opposing defensive line can get very frustrated with this offense. The ball is out of the quarterbacks hands so quickly, that the D-line has little or no time to pressure the quarterback.

Offensive Star: Johnny Harline - Looked unstoppable.

Offensive Co-Stars: Curtis Brown – A lightning rod. Brian Sanders – My favorite play was watching him pancake an opposing blitzer. The poor defender was flailing his arms and legs about wildly under the massive Sanders, as he waited for the behemoth to finally get up.

Defensive Star: Quinn Gooch – Wow. I never knew. What a firecracker.

Defensive Co-stars: Aaron Wagner – This guy is an animal. KC Bills – I like his new position. He should be a star this year.


Just before kick off, Bronco laid down a ring that was about 10 –15 feet in diameter. The team formed a circle around the ring, but did not cross into it. Coach Mendenhall picked opposing offensive and defensive players to enter the circle and line up opposite of each other. On Bronco's mark, the players rushed violently towards each other and in sumo wrestling type fashion tried to force their counterpart out of the ring. After the match, Bronco would put a player on each side of him, and ceremoniously raise one or both of the players hand into the air to declare a winner. The results of each match were met with raucous roars of approval and appreciation from the on-looking players gallery.

The Quarterback Derby:

The coaches have their reasons for still not naming a front-runner, but let me put it this way… My 11 year old was able to point out to me that Beck was the superior quarterback after only a few series. Beck not only had the smarter stats, but he was also putting his work in against the ones, and had some key passes dropped.

That's not to say Matt looked awful. He showed well at times too. But Beck proved he was much improved in his short passes, and seems more confident in his throws over the middle. In my opinion, this is clearly John Beck's job to lose. Only John Beck and Matt Berry will be in the running for the starting position.

Adjectively speaking:

Coach Mendenhall – Intense Coach Anae – Patient Johnny Harline – The Real Deal Quinn Gooch – Hyper…Active Cameron Jensen – Monstrous Aaron Wagner – Passionate Curtis Brown – Fanatical John Beck – Accurate Vince Feula - Animalistic Kayle Buchanan - Sharp

Overall perspective:

This seemed to be as close to a practice as you can get with it being a fan-attended scrimmage. Both the offense and defense seemed to be running water-downed versions of their schemes.

In my opinion there is still work to be done, especially on offense. But I also would say that this is about where you expect them to be at the end of spring practice. The defense was dominant, but the offense was able to show enough to prove they are not far behind. Defense will historically be more dominate in the spring, especially while installing a new offence. Speaking of which, I'm ready to stop calling it the Texas Tech offense. This is the new BYU offense and is a relative of the old BYU offense.

The defensive backfield surprised me. It looks much more talented and effective than I thought it would. Again, still, they need work. There are a lot of new names out there.

This is not a good offense to try to showcase your defensive line with. The lines true colors will shine when they aren't trying to make an impression against 2.5 second drops.

My greatest and most positive impression was the unity of the team. It was a different feel in that regard this year (Despite the 2 or 3 healthy player assembling altercations.) Bronco has this team working as a team, thinking as a team, and it should only get better.

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