BYU Q & A with Talo Steves

Coogfans.com was able to correspond with Talo K. Steves, the managing editor of Totalbluesports.com (the BYU Scout.com affiliate), for a brief ‘Q&A' for this Saturday's game in which the Cougars of Houston will host the Cougars from Brigham Young University. Game time is set for 2:30PM (CST) and will be broadcast nationally on ESPNews:

1.) After winning your past three games by an average of 20 points, and with games against the likes of Boise State and Wisconsin upcoming, what will head coach Bronco Mendenhall have to do to keep his team from overlooking this under the radar Houston team?

"How Coach Mendenhall prepares and keeps his team focused week-by-week is by practicing, preparing, and treating every game equally. He doesn't view one program any lesser than any other and stresses the importance of preparing each week the same, regardless of who is on the schedule. Coach Mendenhall and his staff always find the positives of each program and places an emphasis on those positives to his players to enforce a focus point each and every week."

2.) Tell 'Coogfans' a little about the type of player that BYU recruits.

"Pretty much like every college football program, BYU targets recruits to fit the program's system. However, there is one facet to that recruiting element that is strictly unique to BYU when it comes to recruiting. Like all other football programs, BYU recruits the big, fast and athletic players that can handle the academic standards of the university, but where BYU might differ is that the student-athlete has to live to a higher moral standard to even be considered. An athlete can be as talented as former USC Heisman winner Reggie Bush, or last year's winner Johnny Manziel, but if he doesn't meet a high character standard the coaching staff will pass on recruiting him no matter how talented he may be."

3.) Does the maturity of an older player coming off of an LDS (Latter-Day Saints) mission help the team on the field, or is that overblown?

"There are two major reasons why this is a bit overblown. First, throughout the college football landscape true freshman often play with redshirt seniors creating a situation where there is already a five year gap between potential players. So, there is naturally already an age gap element, where a fifth year senior could play against sophomores or even freshmen, already built within the college football system. Number two, taking two years off from any profession doesn't enhance the profession, especially when it comes to developing physical attributes. Football is about becoming bigger, stronger, quicker and faster while developing position mastery on the football field. BYU football players who chose to take a two-year hiatus from such development suffer greatly, especially offensive and defensive linemen, in comparison to those who don't take two years off from developing within the sport. BYU has found that most colleges that recruit LDS athletes discourage them from serving LDS missions to prevent the reversal in progression within the sport. This side of the equation is generally never discussed for the obvious reasons."

4.) Fans nationally are learning that BYU QB Taysom Hill is dangerous leading the Cougars power running game, but how dangerous is he in their passing game?

"Taysom Hill is an incredible athlete who is currently developing as a young quarterback. While the ground game is often the easiest to develop, the passing game is a little more difficult to polish and BYU's offense is currently trying to match the passing performance to that of the ground game. Hill might be listed as a sophomore in class, but in reality he's still a freshman in terms of experience given the amount of games he's actually started. BYU is known as 'Quarterback U,' and developed the modern day passing game under Legendary Coach Lavell Edwards starting back in 1971, so while Hill might not be where he and the current coaching staff wants him to be, the expectations are that he'll eventually get to or surpass the level of past BYU quarterback greats. It's only now that the passing attack of Taysom Hill and the BYU offense is beginning to emerge."

5.) Who else on offense should Coogfans be on the look-out for?

"RB Jamaal Williams (#21) nearly owned the freshman rushing record, set by Harvey Unga as a 16 year old true freshman. On 17 carries he ran for 86 yards, averaging around 5.1 yards per rush against the 22nd ranked defense of Georgia Tech (this past Saturday). Earlier in the season, and against then 15th ranked Texas, Williams rushed for 182 yards with a 6.1 yard average (per rush). He provides another rushing element to compliment Taysom Hill's rushing ability.

As far as receivers go, Cody Hoffman (#2) could become BYU's all-time leading receiver. He just needs one more reception and two more touchdowns to beat out Austin Collie and become BYU's all-time leader in both of those categories. Complimenting Hoffman at the receiver position is 6-foot-6, 210-pound receiver Mitch Mathews, who while only a sophomore, is beginning to emerge as an offensive threat down field while providing a big target for Taysom Hill."

6.) Everyone knows, or is learning, about outside linebacker (and potential future first round draft pick) Kyle Van Noy, but who are the other BYU defenders that Coogfans should be leery of in the Cougars 3-4 scheme.

"BYU's defense was ranked in the top 5 last year allowing an average of 266 total yards of offense per game. This year Coach Mendenhall's defense arguably fields one of the best linebacker groups he's ever had in his head coaching tenure. Aside from Kyle Van Noy there is Alani Fua on the opposite side who plays the Sam linebacker. Fua intercepted a pass from Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee last Saturday and returned it for a 51-yards touchdown. Van Noy once told Fua that he felt he could be better than him one day if he works hard enough. In the middle of the defense there are two very good linebackers. Coach Mendenhall told the local media that Mike linebacker Uani Unga was the best middle linebacker he's ever coached. Against Utah State two weeks ago, Unga recorded 16 tackles and had a forced fumble. Against Georgia Tech, Unga recorded 10 total tackles. Next to him at the Buck linebacker is Spencer Hadley who is being looked at by NFL scouts as well. In the secondary, BYU fields two very good safeties and a cornerback (Robertson Daniel) who are very good. One safety is senior Daniel Sorensen (#9) and the other is Craig Bills (#20), who are hard-hitting safeties and being looked at by NFL scouts. Bills however, might not play in the Houston game due to suffering a concussion against Georgia Tech."

7.) What is your final analysis of the game?

"I expect the BYU vs. Houston game to be an outstanding one. I expect the Cougars of BYU to play well on the road and expect the Houston Cougars to play well at home being 5-0. The undefeated Houston Cougars have a lot of momentum having just beat Memphis 25 to 15 and will be playing at home and in front of a friendly crowd. While BYU is starting to find its passing game on offense, it won't be an easy task defeating Houston on the road. If BYU wants to come away with a win it will be through ball security and a solid ground game in order to set up the pass. However, Houston has some very good defenders in Efrem Oliphant, Trevor Harris and Derrick Mathews so it won't be easy. Executing ball security against a tough Houston defense prone to causing turnovers will be key for BYU. Houston will look to start out much faster than it did against Memphis, and BYU's defense will have to keep wide receiver Deontay Greenberry and QB John O'Korn in check. It will be a good matchup and an exciting game overall."

 

Much thanks to Talo for his input on the Cougars from Provo. Don't forget to check out totalbluesports.com for more news and information on BYU and continue logging onto Coogfans.com as later in the week my official game preview will be published.


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