Fast-forward to the present, and BYU is in possession of another innovative head coach in Bronco Mendenhall. Also a forward-thinking coach, he played an instrumental part in developing the 3-3-5 defense. Now BYU's staff is at it again, developing a new emphasis on how the wide receivers will play the game.
"O'Neill Chambers is playing both sides – both X and Z – and then if you look at McKay Jacobson, he's playing both X, H and Z and occasionally the Y position," said BYU quarterback coach Brandon Doman. "Luke Ashworth just recently here started moving inside towards the H, and so now we can basically move anybody anywhere as they learn and progress within those various positions."
The receivers are not just learning what others at different positions do within a given play call, but they have to be able to execute at a high level from each of those positions.
"What's good about this is we can now put anybody anywhere," Doman said. "In fact, what's great about this is if we call a play and out on the field if O'Neill happens to be at the X position, we can just leave him out there. If he happens to be out there at Z potion, we can just leave him out there. If Luke is more in when he happens to be more closer to the H, we can just send McKay out over to the Z. That way guys can line up quicker and we can get plays called and push the tempo."
"We have to be able to play every position in the offense," said Chambers. "I'm not just playing one position on the field, but now I've been playing both sides at the X and Z positions, so no matter what I can play both positions and know what I'm supposed to do regardless of where I'm at."
Coach Doman said that playing the receivers at all different positions in a new emphasis this year.
"It's because we can do these types of things because of experience and the type of talent we have in the program," he said.
"We have to be able to not only understand what each position is doing, but I have to now know how to play them," said Jacobson. "I could be on the outside or I could be in the slot, it doesn't really matter because I know both positions."
But can something like this be pulled off? Can receivers learn and play each position?
"This group is a lot smarter group and we've basically learned every receiver position route and understanding what the play is designed to do," Spencer Hafoka said. "When somebody goes down we can shift guys around easily because they've practiced or know the position. If guys are on a different part of the field, then they can line up and don't really have to shift too much."
"We're a pretty smart group of guys and have been able to pick this up," said Cody Hoffman. "It doesn't really matter what position a receiver is asked to play, we can do it."
When players and coaches evaluate opposing teams in the film room, they aim to learn their tendencies. This new receiver development at BYU will throw a major wrench in the machinery when it comes to scouting BYU's offense.
"It was interesting because I was talking to the defensive coaches the other day and they said, 'Good grief, have you guys installed more plays than you have in the past?'" Coach Doman said with a smile. "You know, it might feel like it but I think what it is is we have more talent. We haven't installed more plays or more stuff. We just have more weapons and can distribute the ball to that talent in different areas on the field. In comparison to the last few years where we had Dennis Pitta, Austin Collie or Harvey Unga, all of a sudden it's like a plethora of guys out here. You look around out here and the overall talent of the group might create what you're talking about."
"Oh yeah, it's going to make it even that much more harder to defend," said Hafoka. "It could create some match-up issues, and we have a high expectation as far as tempo with our offense. Coach Anae does a great job of keeping our tempo expectations high, so when you throw that part into the mix as well, it's going to be really tough. I think it would definitely be a nightmare. There is no way to know what's going to come because of who is lined up where personnel-wise. I think this is going to be a great plus and a good advantage for us as an offense."
Safety Andrew Rich has personally seen how a position change by the receivers, coupled with a fast-tempo offense, can be a real challenge for defenders.
"Yeah, I've noticed how they've had different guys in the slot and have changed it up," Rich said. "I think it's really good and it makes it a lot more difficult for the defense and really stresses a lot of defensive positions trying to figure out what's going on. It's been good for us as a defense to learn and get better and I think it will be good for our offense as well. When guys start moving into different positions, the first thing that comes to mind is, 'Okay, this guy is going to get the ball.' But that might not be the case. It can be tough and is definitely a change-up."