In 2005 and 2006 I covered BYU football over at Bloggernacle Times. But since that blog is now defunct, the Thang is launching a new sports category so I can keep my sports blogging hobby going.
2006 Season Recap
BYU started the 2006 season with high hopes but lost two of their first three games in heartbreaking fashion. (They lost at Arizona on a last second field goal and a Boston College in double overtime.) The Cougs then went on to rattle off 10 straight wins including beating top 20 TCU in Texas and crushing the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl. This Spring graduated senior quarterback John Beck was taken early in the second round of the NFL draft by the Dolphins and looks to be the QB of the future in Miami. Several other graduated Cougs are vying for permanent spots on other NFL teams now too.
In 2007 the Cougs return most of what proved to be a very good defense in 2006. The defense lost team leader and middle linebacker Cameron Jensen to graduation but the coaches reportedly believe that their linebacking corps is deep enough to make up for that loss. With 8-9 starters returning on defense there is reason for optimism on the defensive side of the ball. BYU switched from a 3-3-5 defense in 2005 to a more standard 3-4 defense in 2006 with excellent results. With a full year of experience using the 3-4 defense under their belts the odds of BYU being a truly excellent defensive team in 2007 seem pretty good.
The biggest obstacle the defense faces is overcoming injuries suffered over the summer. The starting nose tackle (Tialavea) blew out his knee a few weeks ago and two of the projected starting safeties (Gabriel and Tafuna) were lost for the season to injuries as well. The team hopes to simply reload those positions with other players but only time will tell how much those losses will hurt this year.
There might be cause for concern in the kicking game this year. The team has a new and unproven kicker and as well as a new punter this season and reports from camp indicate their performances have been spotty. You never know when a shanked punt or botched field goal or two will cost you a game…
In theory the coverage teams should be fine, but with the kickoffs starting 5 yards deeper this season there will be fewer touch backs so kickoff coverage will be more important than ever. (With any luck the Cougs will benefit from the new rule in their returns rather that suffer from them in the coverage…)
Opposing teams are no doubt thrilled that the Cougars no longer have now-NFL-QB John Beck, BYU’s all-time leading rusher Curtis Brown, and All-America tight end Johnny Harline. Those three accounted for something like 85% of the offense in 2006. But opposing teams may find themselves disappointed with the replacements the Cougs have in place 2007. BYU has three bruising running backs ready to rumble this year in Vakapuna, Tonga, and Unga (pictured above). Averaging about 230 pounds, these three Polynesian pounders are likely to deliver the hurt to some unsuspecting opposing db’s this year. Likewise, BYU has three impressive tight ends ready to break out and show their stuff in 2007. Most of the steady 2006 receiving corps is returning and former freshman All-America receiver Austin Collie is back from his mission and looking to pick up where he left off a few years ago. Sophomore quarterback Max Hall will surely not be as good in 2007 as John Beck was in 2006; but odds are that Hall will be better than Beck was as a sophomore. And with what promises to be one of the best offensive lines BYU has fielded in many years, Hall might not need to be great to win a lot of games.
I’m sold on head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s approach. Under his leadership the Cougs have come a mighty long way from the downward spiral the program went into at the start of this decade.
So Cougar fans — what has you excited or nervous about the 2007 football season?
(Next post — Season predictions)
[Associated Radio Thang Songs: Fishbone – A Mighty Long Way (Because of the comeback BYU football is making) and Fishbone – Sunless Saturday (In honor of college football game day. (I dig Fishbone — so sue me!))]