Five Reasons the Cougar Offense Will Not Offend

Cougar fans everywhere are preparing for what they hope will be a return to football glory days past. Based on observation of the Cougar's spring practice and summer workouts, TBS has five reasons that BYU's offense will meet high fan expectations.

Optimism abounds among Cougar faithful at this time of year. As the team preps for fall practice, fans want to believe that another season of vintage BYU offense is in store. Over the past three seasons, the Cougar hype machine has done an effective job of stirring up point-hungry fans, only to have those expectations dashed by ill-timed injuries and poor execution.

So should Cougar fans allow themselves to be worked into a frenzy one more? Is there something to be legitimately excited about, or are they just setting themselves up for another fall?

From our vantage point at TBS, we hope the 2005 campaign will be more pleasing to our readership than those in recent years, and we have more than a little reason to think our hopes will be realized. For starters, here are five reasons why we believe that hype surrounding Robert Anae's offense is justified:

1. Continuity and Experience on the Offensive Line

Everything on offense begins with the offensive line. No matter how talented the surrounding positions on offense may be, if the O-line cannot produce, then it is all for naught. A hallmark of just about every high-flying offense is a dominant offensive front. It appears that the Cougars will have such a line this season.

BYU returns four starters from a season ago which is huge considering that no other position on the football field depends more upon each other than the components along the offensive line. The five offensive linemen have to be on the same wave-length on every down. One hesitation or miscue by any one of the five often results in negative yardage.

BYU returns Outland Trophy candidate Jake Kuresa at right tackle. To Big Jake's right is Brian Sanders who will not wow you with his athleticism, but has proven as consistent as any offensive lineman on the team. His dependability is key.

Next to the right on the line is Lance Reynolds Jr. at center Reynolds made a remarkable transition from linebacker to center and more than held his own at his new position last season.

At the other end of the line is left tackle Eddie Keele, who is coming off of a very productive spring ball session where he proved consistent and dominant.

All four of these guys have at least one year experience playing with each other. During that time they have grown to know how each other think and react and have learned to respond accordingly. The vacancy to be filled was left by the graduation of Scott Young at left guard. The good news is that Travis Bright could easily be mistaken for Scott Young throughout this past spring. Bright took over at the starting spot right where Young left off and did not let up throughout the spring.

Bright broke his ankle toward the end of spring practice, but should be good to go by the start of the season. The primary backup duties on the Cougar offensive line will be performed by Terrance Brown, Jeff Rhea, Nick Longshore, Sete Aulai and Ray Feinga among others. If the front five can stay healthy, then this offensive line should prove to be a dominant offensive line in the conference.

2. Quarterback Experience

BYU returns two quarterbacks with two seasons of real-game experience in starter John Beck and Matt Berry. Jason Beck saw valuable in-game experience last season as well. Experience counts for a lot at the quarterback position and BYU will have it three strings deep going into the 2005 season.

Starter John Beck has literally taken his lumps since being thrust into the fray as a freshman. He has steadily improved since getting his bell rung at USC. Beck has shown flashes of brilliance and has settled down considerably in his demeanor on the football field and at practice heading into this season.

Beck was very impressive during spring practice. The quarterback position was open and although Beck was not the clear leader as spring practices began, he was the clear leader as spring practices concluded, and Coach Mendenhall named him the starter.

Effort and dedication should never be questioned in regards to Beck. He is the consummate football junkie who is more often than not the last player to leave the field following any given practice session. This dedication has paid dividends and Beck's prospects are promising heading into fall practices as he continues to grasp Coach Anae's offensive system.

If John Beck goes down, the Cougars have a very capable backup in Matt Berry. In recent seasons, BYU quarterbacks have had a difficult time staying healthy throughout the season. Cougar fans can at least take comfort in the knowledge that Matt Berry is poised to step in and flourish should John Beck be unable to perform.

3. Todd Watkins

Todd Watkins simply brought an aspect to the Cougar offense that it has never had before at the wide receiver position. Watkins has the combination of size (6'3"), speed (4.34 forty) and overall athleticism needed to beat any defense at any time from any point on the football field.

Watkins is not content to rest on his laurels from last season. He has been working out as hard as anyone since returning to full speed from off-season surgery. Watkins has added close to 20 pounds of muscle so as to increase his durability throughout the season. He is also focusing on his blocking and route running as he tries to become a more well-rounded receiver.

Todd Watkins is the leader of the receiving corps and the primary play-maker on the team going into the season. He is also arguably the premier deep threat in the country as he will provide the Cougar offense with the threat of taking it the distance at any juncture of the football game.

4. Running Backs

Coach Mendenhall stated in preseason interviews that the running back position, and specifically the tandem of Curtis Brown and Fahu Tahi, is the strength of this year's football team. Both, like John Beck and most of the offensive line, have loads of game-time experience.

While Brown was hampered by injury during spring ball, Fahu Tahi gave as dominant of a performance as anyone on the football team. He gained muscle while maintaining his speed, which proved a punishing combination on running plays. Tahi and Brown will prove to be as good a running back duo as there is in the Mountain West Conference.

5. The YR Position

The YR position is the new big inside receiver in the new offense which employs a four receiver sets for most plays. The YR position will be manned primarily by former tight ends Daniel Coats, Phil Niu and spring practice standout Jonny Harline.

While Coats and Niu have proven game experience, Harline snagged the starting nod heading into the fall as he was a primary target in every practice session this spring. He showed great athleticism with hands that catch anything.

Coats knows how to play and has quietly become one of the better blockers on the team. Coats struggled to consistently catch the football, but he has worked out hard during the off-season as he looks to regain his early freshman form.

Niu had a very promising season two years ago before missing all of last season due to a knee injury. He is healthy going into practice and should contribute this season.

In an offense that relies on quick reads and hitches across the middle of the field, the YR position becomes very important. Having a big target that a quarterback can check off to will be key for the Cougar offense. The big targets on the roster this season appear up to the task.

Yes, TBS is falling for it again and hoping to take a few fans with us. Are we justified in thinking that most of the parts and indeed the most important parts are there in order to produce a prolific offensive unit? Only time will tell, but at the very least, the prospects look more promising than at any time in the past three seasons.

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