Tag:Utah State
Posted on: March 14, 2011 12:03 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: BYU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at BYU , who opens spring camp today.


Spring Practice Question: Can the BYU offense catch up with its defense?

Pop quiz, hotshot, and no cheating: was it BYU's offense or their defense that finished some 42 spots behind the other in national total yardage and managed to get its coordinator fired midseason?

If you said "defense" you're ... partially right. It's a trick question, since Bronco Mendenhall dismissed previous defensive boss Jaime Hill immediately following the Cougars' embarrassing 31-16 capitulation to traditional in-state punching bag Utah State on Oct. 1. But in the wake of that move, the Cougar defense improved dramatically, holding six of their final eight opponents to 21 points or fewer as BYU rallied from a 1-4 start to a 7-6 finish. When the dust had settled, the Cougar defense had posted a perfectly-respectable 24th-place finish in the FBS in total defense.

That should tell you, then, that despite the program's longstanding (and Steve Young/Jim McMahon know we mean long) reputation for aerial circus offenses and broken scoreboards, it was primarily the Cougar offense that kept BYU from getting over the .500 mark until a waltz past UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. Behind the platoon of true freshman Jake Heaps and junior Riley Nelson -- and eventually just Heaps, after Nelson was lost for the year with a shoulder injury in late September -- the Cougar quarterbacks finished 100th in FBS with a miserable 115.09 quarterback rating. Though often-overlooked Cougar running game wasn't terrible (42nd in rushing offense, earning 4.2 yards per-carry), it wasn't nearly explosive enough to offset the ugly, flailing passing attack through the season's first half. Though Heaps eventually got his feet underneath him, the Cougars scored just 16 points or fewer six times--and lost all six. Their final finish in total offense? 72nd, a 52-spot drop from the top-20 unit of 2009.

The good news for Cougar fans is that if the secondary can be rebuilt -- three of the four 2010 starters have graduated, including first-team All-Mountain West safety Andrew Rich -- the defense should be able to maintain the gains of late 2010. Mendenhall took over the defense himself in the wake of Hill's departure and will stay in that capacity this season; with his oversight and five members of the starting front seven back, BYU should be particularly stout against the run. (The two losses in that front seven, all-league defensive end Vic So'oto and leading tackler Shane Hunter, aren't insignificant. But up-and-coming talents like sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy, junior tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna and junior linebacker Brandon Ogletree should keep things intact.)

So what about the offense? There's several big reasons for optimism:
  • Start with Heaps. After his rocky start, he looked every part the prototypical BYU quarterback down the stretch, putting together a 13-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his final five games and averaging a robust 8.2 yards per-attempt in that span. Not coincidentally, BYU went 4-1 in those five games with the loss by a single point to Utah and the wins by an average of 37 points.
  • Four members of the 2010 starting offensive line return, including two-time first team All-Mountain West selection Matt Reynolds. With a future NFL left tackle to build around, the second-fewest number of sacks allowed in the MWC a year ago, and an abundance of experience, the Cougar line should be poised to improve by leaps and bounds in 2011.
  • The return of all three of the Cougars' top rushers from 2010, including senior J.J. DiLuigi (917 yards) and sophomore Bryan Kariya (537). BYU may also get a spark from sophomore Joshua Quezada, who averaged an impressive 5.1 yards a carry as a freshman.
  • The top three receivers return as well in another dynamic sophomore, wideout Cody Hoffman (527 yards), DiLuigi (443 out of the backfield) and senior McKay Jacobson (410). Though the Cougar wideouts will have to do more to stretch the field (no receiver with more than 8 catches averaged more than Hoffman's 12.6 yards per-reception), Hepas won't lack for options to target.
  • Though it will be his first season calling plays, new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman has enough of a pedigree at BYU to believe he'll be able to continue the Cougar high-flying offensive tradition.
So things look promising ... on paper. We'll find out this spring practice if Mendenhall and the Cougars can actually put that potential into, well, practice. Is Heaps ready to take the next step into stardom? Can DiLuigi (or Quezada?) find that extra bit of explosiveness that would make the Cougar running game really hum? Is the line ready to perform to expectations? Is Doman fully up to the task?

With this being BYU's first season to prove their plan for football independence can work ... and the defense in position to turn this into a special season if the offense pulls its weight this time ... and the schedule kicking off with a challenging at Ole Miss -at Texas -vs. Utah slate for the first three weeks that will leave little time for adjusting on the fly ... there may be no better time for the answers to those questions to be "yes."
Posted on: February 3, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Indiana struggling to hang onto coaches

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Here's some good news for the beleagured Indiana fans out there: your highly-respected new coach, Kevin Wilson, has shown a keen eye in assembling his first Hoosier coaching staff, hiring the kinds of hot up-and-coming coaches that bigger-name programs would be happy to have.

Here's the bad news: those bigger-name programs didn't even wait for the ink to dry on the new Hoosier coaches' contracts before proving exactly how happy to have them they'd be. Wilson was forced to spend part of his Signing Day press conference announcing that two more assistant coaches have taken other jobs, bringing the total up to three after new offensive coordinator Brent Pease returned to Boise State to take the same position following Bryan Harsin's departure to Texas.

One of the two new ex-Hoosiers we mentioned already today : cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond, who appears all but set to coach the secondary at Nebraska. The other is defensive tackles coach Jerry Montgomery, who will now coach the defensive line at Michigan instead.

Both are young coaches that appear to have bright futures, with Raymond a former LSU star and NFL veteran who'd coached the corners at Utah State the past two seasons; Montgomery is a former Iowa player who's gone from Northern Iowa to Wyoming to Indiana and now the Wolverines in just three seasons. But Wilson isn't wasting time mourning his losses, having already filled one of his vacancies with Air Force running backs coach Jemal Singleton, another with Nebraska program intern Brett Dierson, and not exactly shedding tears over the departures:
Wilson explained that he initially wanted Dierson from the beginning, while co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler liked Raymond.

“We’re kind of flip-flopping, one of the guys I wanted they didn’t get and vice-versa. Of guys we went after, we’re going to land on our feet in great shape,” Wilson said.

He concluded that he would rather have a coach at Indiana who wants to be here.

“If it’s better for a guy to be somewhere else, it’s better for his family, better for his career, it’s better he go there than be here,” Wilson said. “I only want guys who really want to be here, are excited about being here.”
That's the right thing for Wilson to say. But more helpful than anything he says will be just keeping the likes of Michigan, Boise, and Nebraska away from what's left of his staff.
Posted on: January 26, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2011 7:02 pm
 

No change in Mountain West TV contracts

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There's been plenty of news to come out of the Mountain West's presidents meeting this week, most of which are covered here by the Idaho Statesman's Chad Crippe following a discussion with commissioner Craig Thompson. To recap: the TCU-Boise State game will be moved to Boise; the conference won't invite Utah State and San Jose State to join, despite reports to the contrary, and looks set at 10 teams for the foreseeable future; and various scheduling details have been ironed out, like placing the TCU-Boise marquee matchup at season's end and giving each team two rivalry games that won't rotate off the eight-game schedule.

But one detail from Crippe's report shouldn't escape notice, even among the expansion madness and TCU-Boise brouhaha:
[Thompson] did not collect bids from the TV partners based on an expanded league. “Because I didn’t know specifically who we’d be talking about,” he said ... The Mountain West is talking only with its current TV partners. Colorado State president Tony Frank told The Coloradoan that he doesn’t expect the TV money to change significantly from the current $12 million per year.
So no new television partners, and no major changes to a contract that runs through the 2015-2016 season? That's not what fans of the Mountain West want to hear, not when that contract offers the entire conference some $3 million less than ESPN is paying Texas by itself for the forthcoming "Longhorn Network."

The lack of television exposure (despite MWC games airing weekly on the excellent CBS College Sports, now in 94 million homes !) and, more importantly, television money is explicitly what's driven league mainstay BYU into football independence, and severely hampered the conference's efforts to keep other departed members Utah and TCU. While the MWC doesn't appear to be in any further danger of having its current 10 teams poached by larger leagues, that San Diego State and the Big 12 have had some measure of contact shows that that danger isn't entirely passed.

And besides: every year the MWC accepts relative peanuts while the Texases of the world get fatter and fatter on their TV deals, the gap between the conference and the BCS gate they want so desperately to crash will only widen. In short, a new, richer TV contract will be a key part of the MWC's long-term success ... and if it's not on the immediate horizon, it's fair to question how high the ceiling on that success can rise.
Posted on: January 26, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: January 26, 2011 10:13 am
 

Did Big 12 consider adding San Diego State?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

San Diego State president and Mountain West board of directors member Stephen Weber didn't drop any bombshells when it came to discussing why the league declined to extend the expected invitations to Utah State and San Jose State yesterday. "We got into the generic question of, 'Do any of these teams that have been talked about add value?'" he said of the board's discussions, "[and] right now we didn’t see any."

So that's pretty straightforward, if even a little more straightforward than the apparently value-less Aggies and Spartans would like to hear. But when discussing his own school's potential conference affiiliations, Weber got a lot more intriguing:

“The issue gets to be interesting when you start looking at an increasingly successful athletic program and a large TV market,” Weber said of SDSU. “I know others have looked at exactly those issues. When it’s something that will be attractive to them, if ever, I can’t guess.”

Asked if the Big 12 , now down to 10 members, had expressed interest in SDSU, Weber said, “I can’t talk about that.”

He did say no other conferences have approached SDSU about membership.

Contrast Weber's two responses here. When asked if any other league had made any sort of overtures to the Aztecs, he flatly says "No." When asked if the Big 12 had made any sort of overture to the Aztecs, he says "I can't talk about that." The conclusion is obvious: someone in the Big 12 has talked to someone at SDSU about possible membership.

Equally obvious is that any firm invitation hasn't yet been extended, or SDSU would have jumped in with both feet. But it would make sense for the Big 12 to already be doing its due diligence on either re-expanding to 12 (conference championship-staging) teams or possibly replacing current members looking to jump ship. And it would make sense -- given the huge San Diego market and their recent football and men's basketball success -- for the Aztecs to be on that due diligence shortlist.

Don't expect any of these discussions to lead anywhere concrete anytime soon; both the Big 12 and the MWC seem firmly committed to the "membership configuration already established" in their respective leagues (to use the term from the MWC's non-expansion confirmation statement yesterday). But if the Big 12 does go hunting for new blood in the near future, we now have a pretty good idea of where they'll turn their attentions first.


Posted on: January 25, 2011 3:46 pm
 

MWC expansion appears unlikely after statement

Posted by Chip Patterson

We really should have learned our lesson already when it comes to expansion talks.  The first time we think anything is going to happen, it likely will not.  It doesn't necessarily mean that won't down the road, but it seems that as soon as any move is brought up it is quickly put to rest by one of the sides involved.  

On Monday, the Deseret News reported that the Mountain West Conference was expected to vote "yes" on expansion, and "yes" on that expansion including Utah State.  That vote was supposed to take place late Monday or early Tuesday, and an official statement from the Mountain West Conference makes it seem as though the Aggies won't be making a jump anytime in the immediate future.

The official statement from the Mountain West Conference Board of Directors:
"Over the past two days, the Board of Directors has engaged in a very thorough discussion of several key topics pertinent to the future of the Mountain West Conference. This has included, but not been limited to, issues related to television, the Bowl Championship Series and membership. The Board feels strongly the membership configuration already established going forward creates outstanding prospects for future success. In addition, we are continuing with our strategic initiatives related to our television partnerships and the MWC's efforts to effect change in the BCS structure. The Board is excited about what is undoubtedly a bright future for the Conference."
If the board feels strongly about the "membership configuration already established," then they do not feel like the time is right to offer an invitation to any other schools, including Utah State.  One of the main reasons for expansion is to increase the conference's membership to 12 teams, securing the right to host a potentially lucrative conference championship game.  But with membership already in flux, it seems like the Board of Directors would like to see what kind of luck they will have with their current lineup, as the MWC will make a case for a television deal and an automatic berth to a BCS bowl game.
Posted on: January 25, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: January 25, 2011 10:37 am
 

Report: Utah State to get MWC invite

Posted by Tom Fornelli

People generally show allegiances to certain stores when shopping. Folks may get all of their groceries from one store, or maybe all their electronics from another store. There's a myriad of reasons for it, but at the end of the day it's just the fact that they're comfortable shopping there. It seems that this is the case with football conferences as well, because if you asked the Mountain West where it did its shopping, the Mountain West would tell you that you can't go wrong at the WAC store.

The Mountain West has already picked up Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii in previous trips. Now it sounds like the Mountain West has hit the WAC store one more time in hopes of grabbing some Utah State.
School officials from the Mountain West Conference are meeting in Las Vegas today and tomorrow and are expected to vote on several conference issues ranging from TV deals, to scheduling, to conference expansion. The conference has been looking at expanding from 10 schools to 12 in order to secure a lucrative conference football championship game. Adding a conference championship game could add millions of dollars of revenue to the conference in the form of a TV deal and ticket sales. If the money gained from the championship game offsets the money lost by splitting the revenue sharing between an additional two schools, then the conference is likely to expand.
The final vote for expansion was expected to take place Monday night. Sources said prior to the vote that expansion was likely and Utah State would then likely be asked to join and would accept the offer. No exact timetable was given for the announcement, but it is expected to be official in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Utah State has been on the Mountain West's radar since last August when the conference put in a call to gauge the school's interest in jumping ship from the WAC. Since then, current conference members Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii have all made it known they will be leaving the conference effective July 2012.
Odds are that if the Mountain West does add Utah State to the fold, it won't be the conference's last trip to the WAC store. If the conference wants to expand to 12 teams, adding Utah State would leave them with only 11 schools, as Utah, BYU and TCU are all leaving the conference by 2012. The next target would likely be San Jose State, which has also been mentioned in expansion talks over the last couple weeks.
Posted on: January 19, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 12:48 pm
 

San Jose State is a target of the Mountain West

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Who knew that an entire conference could disappear right before our eyes?  That seems to be exactly what's happening to the WAC.  The conference has already lost Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West -- which has been hemorrhaging teams of its own -- and now it seems like the conference could be about to lose another school.

According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, talks have begun within the Mountain West about extending San Jose State an invitation.
San Jose State has emerged as a potential expansion target of the Mountain West Conference, according to sources familiar with discussions between SJSU officials and their counterparts in the MWC.
A longtime member of the Western Athletic Conference, San Jose State is one of several schools that could be invited to join the more prestigious MWC if the 10-team league expands by two in order to stage a football championship game.
The Mountain West’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Monday in Las Vegas. Expansion is on the agenda, but the league isn’t expected to issue invitations.
The other teams reportedly in consideration are another WAC school in Utah State, and three C-USA schools in UTEP, Houston and SMU.  Though, according to the source in the story, it's unlikely either Houston or SMU would leave C-USA.  Which makes San Jose State an attractive option to the Mountain West in the same way that the lone girl at the bar looks more attractive because she's the only girl there.

Though the Mountain West will tell you it's because of the television market that San Jose State brings for the Mountain West's television network, as well as the fact it'd be joining fellow California schools Fresno State and San Diego State in the conference.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:18 pm
 

Mountain West mulls expansion options

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

BYU may have wanted out, Utah may have wanted out, TCU may have wanted out, but the continuing expansion drama surrounding the Mountain West Conference has proven that there's still plenty of schools that would be happy to be in. The Honolulu Star-Advertister reported yesterday that Hawaii officials were in Colorado this week, speaking with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and ironing out the final details of what appears to be a done deal to bring the Warriors aboard as a football-only member. (UH's other sports will join the California-based Big West. )

But the MWC may not stop there. According to this AOL Fanhouse report , Utah State officials have also been making a face-to-face plea to Thompson and Co. this week, asking for a MWC invite and a lifeline out of the lame-duck WAC . The Aggies won't bring much to the table in terms of football pedigree, but at least they've taken steps forward in recent years under coach Gary Andersen (including beating BYU this season for the first time in 10 tries) and can claim a sterling men's basketball program and solid academics.

USU's interest gives the MWC several options when it comes to expansion. Running them down:

They could stand pat at 10 teams . There seems to be little downside to bringing Hawaii aboard, especially in football alone -- the travel costs of visiting the islands are easily offset by the NCAA provision allowing teams a 13th scheduled game if they travel to Hawaii -- so it seems unlikely the MWC will suddenly stiff-arm the Warriors and stay at 10 teams. But few other immediate options will do much to raise the league's football profile, and weaker members on the gridiron could put the league's dream of a BCS automatic bid in jeopardy.

They could expand to 12 teams and start a championship game . A title game could be an excellent carrot for the MWC to dangle when they start looking to finally get out of the less-than-lucrative current television contracts that drove BYU into football independence. Utah State might be the most obvious candidate, but Conference USA member SMU would bring the highly attractive Dallas media market back into the league after TCU's defection, and under June Jones the Mustangs have made major strides on the field as well. With C-USA's chances of ever snagging a BCS bid set at "nil," the Mustangs would likely jump at the chance. The same goes for Houston , which is an even more distant geographical fit but features an even-better established football program and a similarly-lucrative market.
Other potential WAC refugees like Idaho or New Mexico State would also be options, but probably only in the event the BCS bid was already off the table and SMU and Houston had turned the league down.

They could merge with C-USA. This seems like a terrible idea from the MWC's perspective, but nonetheless the Orlando Sentinel reported today that Thompson and C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky have had prliminary discussions about "a variety of potential collaboration options." But it's hard to see what, other than potentially a push for a joint TV contract, the C-USA can offer the MWC; the latter is the stronger conference top-to-bottom, has more brand recognition (compare the profiles of Boise State and even, say, Fresno State to C-USA powers like East Carolina and Southern Miss ), and already has the BCS bid process underway. If the C-USA is looking to create a full merger, it would seem to eliminate any chance of the league being powerful enough to wrangle a BCS bid; if all they want is an end-of-year title tilt, that's likely just one more obstacle in the way of a Boise or, well, Boise and a BCS at-large berth.

Butit's on the table, along with a lot of other possibilities for the MWC. Thompson has some very big decisions to make, decisions that will help shape the future of college football in the West for years to come.
 
 
 
 
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