Open practices and scrimmages are two such windows that tempt us into doing just that. In reality, though, a scrimmage is probably football’s greatest irony; at least as far as evaluating an overall team.
You’re only as good as your competition allows you to be.
The point is that a scrimmage is not meant to display a team’s ability, but rather give each player an opportunity to train and display what they got. And then to allow the coaches to teach and make adjustments accordingly.
Hence, there can be no true “Our offense and/or defense is good,” the best we can do is only evaluate each player and position individually.
Now that this fall’s open scrimmage is over and done with, just which players and positions are raising the most questions?
Let’s start with the quarterback.
The performance of the quarterback may be BYU’s biggest question, but who that quarterback will be is not. Taysom Hill will be BYU’s starter. He was first on the depth chart after spring practice, he outperformed the other quarterbacks during scrimmage today, and he is looking just as healthy as ever. Add that to all the experience he already has and he's the best man for the job.
Hill’s performance today was trademarked by his ability to move out of the pocket, look to throw or run it, and generally keep the play alive. But his performance was tainted with losses of level-headedness when pressure was collapsing around him, resulting in many overthrown balls.
How all this will translate when the season starts is again the big question surrounding Hill, but it’s not in question as to whether he will be the one to start.
Now let’s talk about the offensive line. This group of big boys gave BYU fans a lot to moan about this past year with perhaps the poorest showing of an offensive front in many years. Countless times we saw a barrage of opponents bust through the line while poor Riley Nelson did the best he could to scurry away from it.
Fans will be holding their breaths once again this year as the line brings another young and inexperienced group to the table.
Led by Ryker Matthews, this line will not only have to try to make up for faulty play from last year, but also do it while breaking in Robert Anae’s new fast-paced offense. And while this doesn’t give coaches and fans a lot to be optimistic about, the scrimmage today might at least have garnered some hope.
This offensive line was lining up against a nasty defensive front in Bronson Kafusi and Eathyn Manumaleuna and held their own against them. There were no obvious bluffs or miscues that would add to the questioning of this offense. Either the defensive line is getting weaker or the offensive line is getting stronger. For the sake of our breathing let’s hope for the latter.
Now the less exciting, but perhaps even more crucial role we must question is the kicking game. We don’t need to remind anyone of the abysmal performance of BYU’s kickers from last year, but 7 total points was the difference between BYU going 11-2 instead of 8-5.
Mendenhall has taken special interest in focusing and working with his kickers this offseason because of what last year did to his team. With that much said we should notice at least some improvement. Between Justin Sorensen, Vance “Moose” Bingham, and Trevor Samson we have seen a lack in consistency; not in individual kicks, but from day to day. Last week we saw a day where each kicker was 100% during practices, while today’s scrimmage all three had their struggles.
Bronco Mendenhall usually allows his players to battle over starting spots to increase work ethic, but here it seems he has no choice; he couldn’t pick a starter if he wanted to. This kicking season will see improvement from last year, but we will once again see two or three kickers trading off in an effort to find the consistent one. But hey, there’s nowhere to go but up, right?
Quarterback, offensive line, and the kicker; these will be BYU’s do or die positions for the season. Wide receivers are set with Cody Hoffman being set to go with talented Ross Apo and Mitch Matthews ready to contribute, running backs looking good with breakout star Jamaal Williams anxious for another season and Michael Alisa hungry for action, and a defense that will be just fine with All-American Kyle Van Noy and coach Mendenhall who won’t let this defense sputter.
With a good production from the offensive line, Taysom’s mind will be secure, and with Hoffman and Williams by his side, be able to stay calm and march his team to the endzone. And then if the defense does its thing then it won’t matter how bad BYU’s kickers are; the games will be won.
Again, this fall scrimmage does not tell us how good of a football team BYU is. But is has shown us is the recipe it needs to cook to become a good team.
So enough with our predictions and projections. Let’s let them work and practice, the games will do all the talking for us.
By Tanner Spear
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