Five Top 2006 BYU Football Stories

With just about six weeks until the start of BYU's 2006 season, there are many questions surrounding the program: Has Bronco Mendenhall turned the program around and gotten it back on track? Are more losses still in store for Cougar fans? Is the drought against Utah finally over? As the BYU faithful prepare for the season opener, here are five stories to keep an eye on.

1. Curtis Brown and BYU's Rushing Record. For a school known for passing, it might seem odd that the biggest individual accomplishment this year could come from a running back. Currently, Brown ranks seventh in all-time yards rushing with 2,211 – just 759 behind Jamal Willis. He should eclipse that mark during the second half of the season. He is also tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns with 24. Luke Staley holds the record with 41. Brown scored 14 last year, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could get that record as well.

2. John Beck 2nd All-time Passer. Beck will start the season in ninth place on the all-time passing yards list. He has 7,139 yards. He could pass Steve Sarkisian for eighth when the Cougars play Arizona – he is just 325 yards behind. To reach second place he will need to throw for at least 2,397 yards. And unless he averages 658 yards a game, he is unlikely to catch Ty Detmer. Other great quarterbacks he will pass this year include: Marc Wilson, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Jim McMahon. Unfortunately, for Beck he is viewed as not belonging among those quarterbacks, that he is just a system guy who played a lot of games. Mainly this is because he is just 12-14 as a starter. A 10-win season would go a long way to solidifying his spot in BYU lore. Beck also has 47 touchdown passes. Bosco and John Walsh are tied for third with 66 so he should pass them easily. McMahon is second with 84 – a reachable (with 37) target albeit more difficult.

3. Young Defensive Line. There is both talent and experience at linebacker, and while the talent level might be less at defensive back there is experience. There are cornerbacks, linebackers, and safeties who started and/or saw significant time last year, but the defensive line is nearly entirely unknown. From the outside and based on film from high school games there appears to be talent. With really only one player who was on the two-deep last year back, it will interesting to see how quickly this unit gels and adjusts to Division I football. If the adjustment phase is short, it could mean good things for BYU. If the transition takes a while, something akin to last year's defensive performance is possible.

4. The 3-4 Formation. In 2005, BYU ran the 3-3-5 defensive formation, but despite having the extra defensive back the Cougars gave up 25 passing touchdowns and 270 yards passing a game. One reason they struggled was the inability of the front six to get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. BYU averaged fewer than two sacks a game. The new formation should address some of these issues. The size and speed of the linebacking corps – not to mention the sheer number of them – led to this change. The linebackers coming off the edge are quick enough to get by offensive tackles. An increase in pressure should mean less time for wide receivers to get open. Plus, the additional inside linebacker should help shore up the run defense, which gave up 147 yards a game – including 659 in the last three games (220 per outing). If the formation proves to be a little more stout than 2005, BYU could be on their way to a 9 or 10-win season.

5. McKay Jacobson. He was the number one receiver on the number one high school team in the nation last year. His highlight reel makes those chasing him seem like they're in slow motion, but then when you see him in person, you realize that he is all highlight. He has great speed downfield.; he has a quick burst off the line; he has all the jukes and jives needed; he runs crisp, tight routes and catches darn near everything thrown at him. The pre-season MWC Freshman of the Year could make ease BYU fans' longing for Austin Collie. Jacobson could also electrify a return game that has become so stagnant that it has not returned a punt for a touchdown since 1997 or a kickoff since 1998. He is a playmaker plain and simple. One touch for Jacobson could very well be the difference between a win and a loss this year.

So, keep these five stories in mind as you watch the 2006 season. Some of them will be great moments in BYU history (Brown and Beck). Others will be interesting to see how they develop over the course of the year. Regardless, there will be plenty for Cougar fans to follow.

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