Once the 2012 season ended, all attention turned to who was staying and who was going. That referred to both players and coaches.
Juniors Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman both could have forfeited their senior seasons and entered the NFL Draft and heard their names called. Both, however, quickly decided to stay. The Poinsettia Bowl was on December 23, and before January 1 they had announced they would be back. That wouldn't be the case with the offensive coaching staff.
There was no doubt that changes would be made with the offensive coaching staff. Athletic Director Tom Holmoe made that known during the season. What wasn't expected was that Bronco Mendenhall would clean house.
Early in January, Mendenhall announced that Robert Anae would return to be the offensive coordinator. He had held that position on the BYU staff from 2005-10. The rest of the process was not so quick. Mendenhall and Anae worked slowly and deliberately to build an offensive coaching staff. It resulted in none of the 2012 offensive staff returning. Long time assistant Lance Reynolds retired ending a playing and coaching career at BYU that spanned five decades. Former BYU wide receiver Aaron Roderick was announced as a new hire only to have Roderick change his mind a day later.
Eventually, the offensive staff was finalized and everyone was on the same page adopting Anae's new mantra.
Go fast, go hard
"Go fast, go hard" was the new catch phrase for Anae. He spent the last two seasons at Arizona. His last year was on Rich Rodriguez's coaching staff. The go fast, go hard mantra comes from Rodriquez who has been successful at Tulane, West Virginia, and Arizona.
BYU went fast and hard during spring practices. That marked the return of Taysom Hill from his season ending knee injury. Hill appeared capable of going fast and hard. At the conclusion of the spring practices he was officially named the staring quarterback. That came as no surprise, but the post-spring depth chart did have some surprises.
Skyler Ridley was listed as a starting wide receiver ahead of Ross Apo, and Tyler Beck was listed as a starting middle linebacker over Manoa Pikula. Brett Thompson was listed as a co-starter at the tight end position, as well.
At the same time, a lot of attention came BYU's way as Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah rose of the draft boards of NFL teams and scouts everywhere. In this age of information, it is accurate to say that Ansah garnered more attention and generated more draft talk than any other Cougar. He was drafted no. 5 overall by the Detroit Lions. Never before had BYU fans had the joy of hearing television and radio pundits glowingly speak of one of their own. It made loyal fans everywhere proud to be Cougar fans.
Ansah's high draft position was added to the excitement that fans were rediscovering. Two years ago, fan excitement was at an all-time high. The Cougars were coming off a strong finish to the season, and independence was beginning. Failing to meet expectations had drained most people's emotions by November 2012.
The events of the offseason have helped rejuvenate the spirits of Cougar fans worldwide.
The long promised "best schedule in school history" was releasd in February. While it is aggressive, it is well laid out. Fans who once feared that BYU wouldn't be able to become bowl eligible, now think the Cougars will easily reach six wins and 9-10 wins isn't inconceivable.
Media day included some major breaking news, which wasn't the case in years past. Although the breaking news didn't directly relate to any part of the 2013 season, It helped people feel BYU was surviving in the college football world as an independent.
Since then, news has broke that the 2013 season will feature some uniform adaptations, just like 2012 did. For the first time since 2009, BYU will wear royal blue throwback jerseys for the Utah game. BYU hasn't beat the Utes since that season when the royal blue's were first worn against Utah. The 2012 Homecoming game featured all black jerseys, and the 2013 Homecoming game will see the player's names replaced with "Tradition," "Spirit," or "Honor" to emphasize the three major tenets of the program.
Even with the excitement, there are still several questions that fans are dying to get answers to in just a few days.
1. How much drop off will there be on defense?
The 2012 defense was the best in school history. Besides Ansah, other key leaders on that side of the ball are gone. It is crazy to expect the 2013 D to be as good. However, Van Noy and other very talented guys will fill in.
2. Will anybody block for Taysom Hill?
While many have a lot of confidence in Hill being able to lead the offense, he can't do it without an offensive line blocking in front of him. Many new linemen have been brought in, but will they get the job done?
3. Can Hill develop as a passer?
Hill may be the fastest quarterback the Cougars have seen, and that is saying a lot. He is, however, still a little raw throwing the ball. How much has he improved and can that element of his game be relied on for offensive fireworks this season, especially when BYU needs to score in a hurry at the end of a game or half?
4. What will Kyle Van Noy do for an encore?
KVN ended the 2012 season with one of, if not the, greatest defensive performance of all-time in the Poinsettia Bowl. When talking about an encore by Van Noy, it means much more than just that performance. The last two years he has been a playmaker on defense that has rarely been seen. Blocked punts, a score of sacks, and an abilty to take over a game have defined him. It is hard to imagine what he can do to top his previous feats, but that is exactly when he blows everyone's mind away with something never dreamed of.
5. Cody Hoffman's assault on the record books.
The Hoff is poised to rewrite nearly ever receiving record in the BYU history books. Just five years after Austin Collie wrote his name at the top of every list, Hoffman can make Collie's records footnotes. How high will Hoffman push these records, and will they ever be broken?
6. The weak link getting weaker?
The secondary was the weak link on the BYU defense last year. Injuries have decimated that unit this offseason. This is making the process of improving a lot trickier. Can the experience of safeties Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills help compensate for the troubles at cornerback?
7. Will Bronson Kaufusi be the next Ansah?
Kaufusi's play last year has helped soften the blow of losing Ansah. Like Ansah, Kaufusi presents a size mismatch and has above average athleticism. The most impressive part of Kaufusi's play in 2012, however, was that he was a solid contributor after returning home from his mission just days before fall camp started. Now that he has his feet fully under him, how much disruption can he cause?
8. Will BYU win a "big" game?
The biggest failure in the first two years of independence has been the Cougars' inability to pull out a big win. A very good Texas team will visit Provo early in the season. BYU will visit defending Big Ten champ Wisconsin, as well as pay another visit to nationally ranked Notre Dame. A win in one of these three games could generate some national buzz, and build respect with fans nationwide. The Boise State game also looms large since BYU is still yet to beat the Broncos.
9. Setting things straight with Utah.
This is the last time BYU will play Utah until 2016. The last three games were heartbreaking losses. A fourth consecutive loss that will hang over BYU's head for three years will blemish the 2013 season no matter what else the Cougars accomplish. IT IS A MUST WIN GAME.
| || |