One such unknown commodity last season was Dennis Pitta, then a recently returned missionary. Pitta recently explained why the offense has progressed so far from where it was last year.
"We've been together for a whole year now," said Pitta. "We also didn't lose many guys during the offseason. We all now know what to expect and we trust one another, so those things have really helped us out a lot in being able to click this early on is spring practice."
Okay Mr. Pitta, I'm not quite buying it. Being together for a year now and having become better acquainted with the offense, better conditioned, and more in tune with your teammates will make the offense better?
"This offense is very balanced with the caliber of talent we have coming back with all the receivers and running backs," Pitta said. "Obviously Max [Hall] knows this offense and is doing a great job in distributing the ball around at the right time. We have a lot of experienced weapons, and on top of that we're a balanced team.
"We can run it and we proved that last year. We can throw the ball and did that a lot last year as well, even though we lost a lot of key players. Whatever defenses take away, we've got the weapons to expose them somehow."
Well, that makes sense. Last year many fans and media pundits questioned the potential of BYU's offense after it lost John Beck, Jake Kuresa, Daniel Coats, Jonny Harline, Curtis Brown and Zac Collie, among others. However, the Cougars managed to finish the season with another MWC championship, a victory over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, and a No. 14 national ranking.
"Last year we replaced a lot of key players," said Pitta. "We built upon what was accomplished and it showed last year. Now we're building on what we accomplished last year, and it's showing early."
For the first week of spring practice, the Cougar offense was as sharp as a steel surgical blade cutting its way downfield with ease. Although most of the first week involved THUD offensive and defensive plays, making it very difficult to gauge entirely how well a unit can play due to the limitations of not being able to hit, the practice was still one of the more highly effective weeks seen on the Cougar practice field in a long time.
"Last week was more focused on getting our execution back," said Pitta. "It's always a little tougher putting the pads on for the first time. That's when it gets a little tougher and you start making mistakes because the dynamics of practice change a little. The first week is about cleaning that stuff up before you put the pads on. As we begin to transition towards the later weeks of spring, we'll be more polished up and will be better as a unit."
Pitta talked about what the team is focusing on now that it's the second week of spring practices.
"It's still early in spring, so the focus is still pretty much the same," Pitta said. "Also, a lot of it is insertion now and learning new things and being able to mesh together as a unit."
With the talent coming in behind the more seasoned players, the meshing between the new and the old is vital for continued success. A few players looking to make a splash on this year's team are wide receivers Luke Ashworth and Spencer Hafoka, as well as running back J.J. DiLuigi.
"They're competitors and they're pushing us," Pitta said. "It's exciting to see these guys coming up."
So these guys are truly pushing the more experienced players from last year's team?
"They are," Pitta said. "It's always good to have guys that want to compete, and these new guys want to compete with us and get better. We have to take them under our arms because they don't know the offense as well, so we help them along."
"As older guys it's kind of our job now to take in the younger guys under our wing," said Pitta. "Many of us have been in this system now for a while, and so we know what we are doing. It's our job to help them along. When they don't know what they're doing, we help them know what their route is to help them along as best we can."
Pitta said he expects the team to be successful regardless of who is on the roster.
"We pull in great talent each year," said Pitta. "The coaches do a great job in preparing and developing the talent that they bring in here every single year. Not only that, they also help develop the talent year after year that's currently here. Whoever they bring in here into this program is going to be successful year after year."