BYU Preview: Offense

LonghornDigest.com takes a long look at the BYU offense.

It's almost impossible to accurately gauge BYU's offensive strength in that the Cougars' first game, at Virginia, was played in a torrential downpour, on a field with standing water, after a two-hour delay. That has a tendency to make even the most crisp offensive teams slog a bit. We do, however, have an idea for what the Cougars would like to get accomplished.

Speed it up, spread it out, but remain physical and pound the ball. That's an explanation that every Texas fan has heard about its own offense this offseason, and it also adequately describes what BYU is trying to accomplish. The Cougars are often in shotgun, and typically employ at least three wide receivers. But the strength of BYU's attack is likely the option game with an athletic quarterback in Taysom Hill and an excellent running back in Jamaal Williams.

Hill (6-2 221) has some traits as a runner that remind you a bit of Kansas State's Collin Klein. No, he's not as big as Klein, but Hill has outstanding feet and the ability to shift and change directions quickly for a bigger quarterback. Hill is also significantly faster in the open field … when he turns it on, he can run away from a secondary, as he did in putting up 143 rushing yards against Hawai'i a year ago. Hill isn't a polished passer, and he can struggle with touch throws at times. But that's based on last year's tape. Hill was 13-of-40 for 175 yards against Virginia, but again, that's not exactly a great tape to evaluate a passing attack.

Another part of the reason that the running attack is so deadly is the play of Williams (6-0 200). The sturdy back carried the ball a whopping 33 times against Virginia, racking up 148 yards in the process. He has some speed to him, though he isn't elite in that category, and he often shows toughness by scrapping for extra yards after contact. Paul Lasike (6-0 227) is a former rugby All-American who offers a bullish short-yardage runner. You have to bring your feet when you try to tackle him, because he lowers his pads and makes you feel every tackle attempt. BYU is deep at running back because Michael Alisa (6-1 220) also returns after starting the first five games last year, rushing for 222 yards before breaking his arm against Hawai'i. Over the past two seasons, he's carried 143 times for 677 yards (4.7 per carry) and four touchdowns, so he's capable.

There's certainly reason to fear the BYU passing attack, with a lot of that coming from a talented receiving corps. Cody Hoffman (6-4 210) is an All-America candidate after catching 100 balls for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. He certainly has Hill's trust: there are multiple clips of Hill throwing the ball up and letting Hoffman make a play in one-on-one matchups. Better locate him in the red zone: Hoffman has 28 career touchdown receptions, the most of any active player.Hoffman did miss the season opener with a hamstring injury, a smart move in such unsavory conditions. Will he be full-go for Texas?

But BYU is far from a one-man show at the position. The Cougars rotate pretty heavily at wideout. Mitch Mathews (6-6 206) is a high-potential guy behind Hoffman, while Skyler Ridley (6-0 182) and Ross Apo (6-3 207) hold down the other outside receiver spot. Ridley grabbed a team-high three catches against Virginia, while Apo is a downfield threat. J.D. Falslev (5-8 175) is a jitterbug in the slot who can get the ball in several different ways. He had three carries in three games in 2012, and also serves as the team's punt returner. When he needs a breather, Eric Thornton (5-10 180) rotates through.

Kaneakua Friel (6-5 261) is an interesting player in that BYU will use him in several different ways. He can catch the ball, though he didn't ever match his strong season-opener last year, when he had six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Still, you have to keep an eye on him. He had 30 catches for 308 yards and five touchdowns last year, while recording at least one catch in nine games. Friel, who is on the John Mackey Award Watch List, will flex out at times, but also has the size and strength to be a force as a blocker.

If there's a weak spot here, it's the offensive line, which struggled to execute a week ago despite returning three starters and adding a bunch of JUCO transfers to the fold. Left tackle Ryker Mathews (6-6 309) is probably the best of the bunch. A former U.S. Army All-American in high school, Matthews tied for the team lead in pancakes last year as a freshman. Left guard Solomone Kafu (6-2 315) was the other returning starter to hold onto his job heading into this week. Lanky Michael Yeck (6-8 292) holds down the right tackle spot next to right guard Brock Stringham (6-6 292). Center Terrance Alletto (6-3 292) holds down the center spot, and at one point was the No. 7 ranked center in the country, per Scout.com.

Here's where you really start to see the age difference that comes with mission work. BYU's starting offensive line doesn't have any seniors. In fact, the only senior listed on the two-deep is Manaaki Vaitai (6-3 317), a returning starter who will rotate with Stringham at guard. But Yeck, Stringham and Kafu, all juniors, actually came to BYU as members of the 2008 recruiting class, while Alletto, a sophomore, entered in 2009. So while the game experience might be the same as other sophomores or juniors, the players are a couple of years older than their school class would dictate.

Kicker Justin Sorensen (6-1 243) missed three extra points a year ago, and made six field goal attempts. His career long field goal is a 46-yarder he made against Utah as a sophomore, the same year he made all three of his attempts against Texas. Sorensen also handles kickoffs. Adam Hine (6-1 202) and Lasike handle the kickoff returns. Falslev is the punt returner.


Horns Digest Top Stories