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LLOYD: Top 10 things BYU football will need to again win a national title

2014-01-06T14:00:00Z 2014-03-03T22:09:47Z LLOYD: Top 10 things BYU football will need to again win a national titleJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
January 06, 2014 2:00 pm  • 
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  • With another college football season wrapping up with the national championship game Monday, one team will again lift the title trophy while every other squad across the country wishes it could be celebrating.

    Like most people outside of SEC country, I’m pulling for Florida State to end the smug, insufferable reign of the conference who has won seven straight but in the end it doesn’t matter all that much to me.

    In Provo, it has now been 29 years since BYU brought a national championship home.

    Many Cougar fans now weren’t even alive when the Robbie Bosco-led team pulled off the greatest surprise in the sport by not just going undefeated but by earning enough respect to be awarded the crown.

    There are still those who emphatically deny that BYU didn’t deserve it (many of whom wear red) but their arguments can’t change the reality:

    In 1984, the Cougars were the best team in the country.

    Since then, 18 different teams have earned the title of national champion, most being traditional powers like Alabama, Nebraska, Miami and Florida State.

    None of the non-power league schools have even gotten a shot, although teams like Utah, TCU and Boise State have had some pretty special seasons during that stretch.

    But with the end of the BCS era, that might be changing — although no one knows for sure.

    After the 2014 regular season draws to a close, four teams instead of two will compete in a two-round playoff with the victor becoming a less-controversial national champion.

    Another aspect is the addition of a selection committee, instead of the old, sometimes-disastrous computer/poll model of the BCS.

    So a special season (or more likely two straight) could possibly get a team like BYU in position to be awarded one of the playoff spots.

    But, just like in 1984, everything will have to fall just right.

    With that in mind, scroll through the slideshow to see the Top 10 things Cougar football will need to earn a chance to again be crowned as the best in the nation.

  • It’s almost impossible for a college football team to be a national title contender without having been successful the year before. Before 1984, BYU was ranked No. 7 to end 1983 and that made the country aware of who the Cougars were. It’s a lot easier to move up when you start out ranked.

    Potential for 2014: Not good

  • In 1984, BYU’s wins over a No. 3-ranked Pitt squad and a Michigan team ranked as high as No. 2 were diminished by the failure of those teams to get a lot of wins. It won’t work that way any more, so the Cougars need teams it beats to continue to be solid in conference play. This one is actually easier with BYU being independent, since conference teams won’t beat up on each other as much.

    Potential for 2014: Not good

  • The Cougar system helped Bosco, a junior who had never played much, be able to step in and perform at a high level. Now BYU needs players at quarterback, running back, safety, defensive line and middle linebacker who know what they are doing and can be confident, no matter the situation.

    Potential for 2014: Good

  • The Cougars aren’t getting all the five-star recruits and everyone knows it. That means BYU will always have a disadvantage against the nation’s elite when it comes to depth. If the Cougars can have a year where most of the starters can stay healthy, it gives BYU a shot to be great. That’s easier said than done in the rough, physical game of football, however.

    Potential for 2014: Not good

  • Experience is one thing but having athletes turn into top-level performers is something else. Cougar fans have gotten to see that potential with Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman, but BYU needs those types of guys to develop in the future for them to have any chance at being an elite team.

    Potential for 2014: Good

  • Some might put this at the top spot, since it was probably the key factor in the 1984 national championship run. Most of the teams in college football simply weren’t that good that year, as evidenced by the next three teams in the final AP poll having records of 11-1 (Washington, whose best regular-season win was at Michigan), 9-1-1 (Florida) and 10-2 (Nebraska). If teams like Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Oregon are undefeated, BYU has no chance, no matter what they do.

    Potential for 2014: Not good

  • This probably sparks memories of beating Pitt in 1984, Miami in 1990, Texas A&M in 1996 and Oklahoma in 2009. For a team like BYU, it has to take on a high-caliber opponent and take them down to make pollsters, computers and the selection committee take notice. The chances are pretty good that if the Cougars had gone undefeated in 1990, 1996 and 2009, they would’ve been right in the middle of the national-title discussion.

    Potential for 2014: Good (at Texas/at UCF)

  • In 1984, BYU was only held under 20 points once (in an 18-13 win at Hawaii). The high-flying Cougar attack had the ability to put the pressure on opposing defenses, something that also caught the attention of the nation. We now live in a college football world where shootouts are common, so the Cougars have to prove they can compete in those types of games. In order to approach that level, the BYU offensive line has to improve exponentially.

    Potential for 2014: Not good

  • The offense will get the accolades but it’s the defense that has to be incredibly consistent. The Cougars only allowed opponents to break the 20-point mark twice in 1984 and that excellence kept BYU on track, even when the offense was faltering or turning the ball over. In order to be in the mix for a championship, the Cougar defense will have to make the big stops and force the big turnovers, something it will have a tough time doing in the near future unless other stars emerge.

    Potential for 2014: Not good

  • Since being undefeated is the only possible access route to the playoffs for BYU, the Cougars are going to need some breaks to go their way. Every team has games where they aren’t as crisp on one side of the ball or the other. But BYU in 1984 got some lucky bounces, just as Auburn has this year and Notre Dame did last year. The Cougars got some bad breaks with crazy weather in 2013, so maybe the pendulum will swing back their way.

    Potential for 2014: Good

  • As Thursday night’s game against Pacific started, some BYU men’s basketball fans on Twitter noticed the smallish crowd at the Marriott Center and didn’t sound very optimistic about it getting any better.

    The announced attendance was 14,262 but a lot of the seats at the 20,900-seat arena were filed with nothing but air.

    @Y4LYFE said, “Sadly I expect attendance to continue to dwindle,” while @CougarDen1 added, “Why would people pay to watch this fiasco?”

    When I responded to @CougarDen1 early in first half of the 88-78 Cougar win over the Tigers that Tyler Haws was worth watching (the junior had nine of his 38 points), he replied, “I'm watching from home and is fun. But it's FREE.  And if it gets bad I can change the channel.”

    The fact is that both @Y4LYFE and @CougarDen1 are right.

    BYU right now is a 14-9 team who set some big expectations earlier in the year with narrow defeats to elite opponents. Since that point, disappointing road losses have piled up and the Cougars now look all-too-similar to last year’s NIT squad.

    So is it time to give up on BYU men’s basketball for 2014?

    I say no.

    And I’m going to back that up with five reasons why I think BYU hoops is still worth watching (in person, when possible)

  • While watching a game on TV can be more comfortable (plus there is that channel-changing option), one of the best things about basketball is being able to be right there for all the action.

    It’s the ROC student section welcoming opponents with the “Hi, Joe” chant during introductions of the starting lineups, then hearing them leap and shout in unison when trying to distract a foul shooter.

    It’s the halftime show with Special Olympians having a great time playing in front of a roaring crowd. It’s the Kiss Cam and the contests and yes, even the booing of the officials.

    For those of us that went to the games when BYU was a lot worse in the late 1990s, the atmosphere had to be a lot more important than the outcome.

  • If you are passionate about basketball, then you appreciate that the game isn’t played just on offense.

    While Halford (10 points) and Sharp (no points) didn’t provide the offensive fireworks, they provided plenty of effort worth appreciating at the other end.

    Those two guys cover a lot of ground on defense and battle for everything. Sharp had five offensive rebounds against Pacific, while Halford’s frenetic pace kept the Tiger offense scrambling.

  • Many observers, myself included, have been vocally critical of Carlino’s inconsistencies. But that’s not the same Carlino we are seeing now.

    He’s a guy who has been not just huge coming in off the bench but also a big presence in keeping the team organized.

    And then there is Collinsworth, who has developed into a versatile, all-around guy who can drive, distribute, play defense and rebound. Both need to keep getting better but it’s a side of them I’ve been hoping to see since the beginning of the year.

  • I understand that the 2014 team isn’t elite. This isn’t a squad that will wow the nation and be considered for national honors or tournament recognition.

    But it also has no seniors. Zero.

    That means that while missions might impact the lineup (most notably center Eric Mika, who tied a career high Thursday with 20 points), most of these guys will be back on the floor next year.

    So watching them now could be a glimpse of the future for the Cougars, particularly if the guys previously mentioned continue to get better.

  • He will probably always be in the shadow of Jimmer Fredette and his jaw-dropping performances but Tyler Haws is still an amazing player in his own right.

    He has a silky-smooth jump shot, the ability to score around the basket and, of course, his stellar free-throw shooting. Now 10th on the BYU all-time scoring list, it’s not implausible to think Haws might some day pass the Jimmer himself.

    In a lot of ways, Haws has to work harder to get his points because he doesn’t start with the ball in his hands. Just watching him fight through all of the physical defense he battles every game is pretty impressive by itself.

  • It's March ... it must be time for college football.

    Yes, the really important work and, of course, the games are still months away but spring practices are when the groundwork is laid for what will happen in the fall.

    The BYU football team kicks off spring camp Monday and for the next month, players and coaches will be on the field building the team.

    Some will be at new positions, others will be looking to earn playing time, while others will simply be looking to become better in their current spots.

    The only thing that may have a clear impact on the upcoming season is serious injuries but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to pay attention to as the Cougars get back to practicing.

    Scroll through the slideshow to see 10 stories to watch during the 2014 BYU football spring camp.

  • This may be the most intriguing change heading into next season. Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced a month ago that junior Bronson Kaufusi would be taking his explosiveness and athleticism from the defensive line and looking to utilize it at outside linebacker.

    But will he stick as the replacement for Kyle Van Noy?

    His ability and potential are impressive, but he’s been a lineman for most of his career. Linebackers are asked to do a lot more than just pass rush and run stop in BYU’s defensive scheme, so Kaufusi’s ability to drop into coverage and be a playmaker off the edge will be something to keep an eye on.

  • The addition of a number of wide receivers to the Cougar offense was well-documented on Signing Day. Mendenhall talked about needing guys who can make plays and who can stretch the field.

    One of the names BYU fans have been anxious to see in action is Kurtz, a junior-college transfer whose highlight reel shows a lot of talent.

    This spring will be the first chance to see Kurtz step on the field with Cougar junior quarterback Taysom Hill and show whether they can develop the chemistry necessary to increase the success of the passing game.

  • The BYU offensive line took a lot of heat in 2013 for its inconsistencies but the reality is that those guys were being asked to do things they’d never done before.

    With the speed of the Cougar attack ramped up dramatically — and with no indication it will slow down in 2014 — Garett Tujague’s unit now has a clearer idea of what is needed to be successful.

    If that group can build on its experience and show they are in incredible shape, BYU could be looking at much greater production this fall.

  • Mendenhall has already expressed guarded optimism for what Trammell might be able to do this year, saying he was showing some impressive athleticism during offseason workouts.

    But workouts are one thing. It’s much different to step on the field and prove you can make plays.

    After going down with an injury on the first day of spring in 2013, this will be the first chance he will have to really prove himself at this level.

  • With the transfer of Ammon Olsen, the current Cougar roster has just three quarterbacks listed: Hill, Christian Stewart and Billy Green. While the starting position is not up for grabs, the role of backup is an intriguing battle.

    Stewart, a former Timpanogos star who enjoyed a lot of success at Snow College probably has a slight edge with his experience but Green ran the scout team and has shown some flashes himself.

    This is one contest that probably won’t be settled until late in fall camp but the competition begins here.

  • Van Noy and receiver Cody Hoffman probably were the seniors with the most name recognition but the loss of Sorensen also leaves a vacancy.

    Senior Craig Bills comes in with a lot of experience under his belt but there are a number of guys who saw some time on the field who hope to benefit from the opportunity.

  • The BYU offense has one year of Robert Anae’s signature offensive mantra under its belt, so now the question becomes how big of a jump will there be heading into Year No. 2.

    The Cougars had mixed results last season, ramping up the yards but struggling with scoring in key games. It will be intriguing to see if there have been tweaks to the overall tempo or if the hope is familiarity will lead to greater execution.

  • BYU kicker Justin Sorensen made 21-of-26 field goal attempts and all 45 PATs in 2013, but now the Cougars have to find the next kicker to take his place.

    Already on the roster vying for the job will be Vance “Moose” Bingham and Trevor Samson, both of whom Mendenhall said did well in camp last year. Now it’s their turn to step forward and take the job.

  • The D-line looks to be another work in progress with Eathyn Manumaleuna graduating and Kaufusi moving to linebacker.

    That leaves junior Remington Peck as the only consistent starter coming back. That said, Marques Johnson played a significant role and other guys will be ready to get more playing time.

    Still, defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi will once again have a building job to do.

  • Mendenhall talked on Signing Day about a number of guys who will be back with the program for 2014. Some won’t return from LDS missions until after spring but many are getting set to return to the field.

    The big question is with the new tempo demands how long will it take for a returned missionary to get back to the point where he can regularly contribute? This spring will give a clearer indication of that as some of them will get the chance to prove they can be ready to go.

  • This is just one list of story lines to follow during BYU football's 2014 spring camp.

    But there are certainly others that could be worth paying attention to.

    What will you be paying attention to this March as the Cougars get back to work?

    Comment here, on Facebook at BYUCougarBlue or send me a message.

    Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

  • After the way I lit into the BYU men’s basketball team after the loss in the West Coast Conference tournament title game, you might be surprised that I’m pretty proud of how the Cougars played in the NCAA second-round loss to Oregon Thursday afternoon.

    Without their most complete player, BYU battled on the boards, its shot selection was solid overall and it hung tough with the Ducks for three quarters of the game.

    Yes, I know the Cougars fell apart down the stretch and got blown out, 87-68, but I thought BYU did some really nice things, things they can build on.

    That’s what this was about the whole time, in my opinion.

    Even though the Cougars had some solid showings against good teams earlier this year, this wasn’t a team that was going to make much of a run in the tournament. It was far too streaky, had far too many holes in its game and didn’t have enough depth for that type of performance.

    But with no seniors and freshman Eric Mika as possibly the only guy who won’t be on the floor next season, this experience could be invaluable for BYU looking toward 2014-15.

    If the Cougars want to avoid another loss on the first Thursday (which has been BYU’s fate in eight of its last 10 appearances), they have to buckle down and zero in on improving some specific things.

    Scroll through the slideshow to see my Top 5 things the Cougars must do better next year.

  • Sometimes teams can get away with being offensive or defensive specialists when the rest of the squad has the ability to make up for whatever is missing. BYU, however, isn’t good enough for that.

    The Cougars often only had three scoring options on the floor against the Ducks because juniors Nate Austin and Josh Sharp and freshman Luke Worthington aren’t threats to put the ball in the basket. Conversely, junior Tyler Haws and freshman Frank Bartley IV could get a lot better on defense and rebounding.

    More versatility would make it much more difficult on opponents at both ends of the floor.

  • I don’t know how many times BYU picked up ticky-tack fouls against Oregon because they started out in the wrong position to make a play but it happened far too often. It played a big role in the Cougars getting all four post players in foul trouble early on in the game.

    BYU’s style of play, which generally fits its personnel really well, means it’s probably never going to be a lockdown defensive-minded group. That’s why it is so important for the Cougars to have a firm grasp of being in the right spots and playing the angles.

  • The Ducks lived off being able to get into the lane and then make good interior passes to guys for open baseline jumpers or shots at the rim. I can’t recall BYU getting very many — if any — similar plays.

    Usually when junior Matt Carlino, Bartley, Haws or even sophomore Kyle Collinsworth (before he got hurt) get into the lane, they either go to the rim, shoot it or kick it back out to the perimeter. The result is few easy looks by catching the defense out of position.

    I’d like to see them develop better interior movement, positioning and passing, which would force defenses to be more wary inside and thus free up better outside looks.

  • The fast-paced Cougar attack can be devastating, particularly when BYU is making shots and getting stops. It’s like an avalanche, rolling over opponents.

    But too often I see the Cougars rushing things and putting themselves in bad situations instead. That’s because they trying too hard to increase the speed of the game without getting anything out of it.

    There is a time and a place to attack quickly, to make an opponent pay for not getting back quickly enough and to create early offense.

    But you also have to have guys with enough experience and game sense to know when the risk of getting out of control is too great and the team will be better off looking for something better.

    Hopefully having been on the big stage and seeing how quickly things can get away from them will help the Cougars recognize when better to be more methodical and less helter-skelter.

  • Does Haws get fouled on every possession? Probably. Does frequently talking to the referee about it make any difference? Yes, but in a bad way.

    I see this phenomenon on every level and it drives me crazy. Players and often coaches — frequently with the aid of “supportive” fans — get so caught up in what they perceive as missed calls or inconsistency that it gets in their head. Instead of thinking about playing the game, they are thinking about officiating.

    Almost without exception, the team that ignores the refs and just focuses on doing everything in their power to perform at a higher level is the more successful team. They may not always win because of other factors but their attitude allows them to be at their best.

    I think the Cougars (players, coaches and fans) would be much better across the board if they did their job while on the floor and didn’t try to tell the officials how to do theirs, no matter how wrong they may think the referees are.

  • Now you've seen my short list, so what specific things would you add?

    I'd love to get your thoughts on where BYU needs the most work, so feel free to comment here or on Facebook at BYUCougarBlue.

    You can also shoot your thoughts my direction on Twitter (@JaredrLloyd), on Instagram (@JaredrLloyd) or just send me an email (jlloyd@heraldextra.com).

    Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

  • Does Haws get fouled on every possession? Probably. Does frequently talking to the referee about it make any difference? Yes, but in a bad way.

    I see this phenomenon on every level and it drives me crazy. Players and often coaches — frequently with the aid of “supportive” fans — get so caught up in what they perceive as missed calls or inconsistency that it gets in their head. Instead of thinking about playing the game, they are thinking about officiating.

    Almost without exception, the team that ignores the refs and just focuses on doing everything in their power to perform at a higher level is the more successful team. They may not always win because of other factors but their attitude allows them to be at their best.

    I think the Cougars (players, coaches and fans) would be much better across the board if they did their job while on the floor and didn’t try to tell the officials how to do theirs, no matter how wrong they may think the referees are.

  • Everyone knows the BYU women’s basketball team enters Saturday’s Sweet 16 contest in Lincoln, Neb., against top-ranked undefeated Connecticut as the big underdog.

    Not only are the Huskies the prohibitive favorites to defend their national title but no No. 12-seed has ever made it to the Elite 8.

    But so what?

    You know the line from “Miracle”: Great moments are born of great opportunity.

    You don’t get to the top without overcoming some big hurdles and this could be considered the biggest of them all.

    For the Cougars to pull off the upset of the year (the upset of the century, really), everything needs to go right.

    Scroll through the slideshow are five things I think BYU has to do to have a shot at defeating UConn

  • The Huskies play very confident basketball at both ends, but sometimes a team can be thrown off stride when something happens they don’t expect. Against Nebraska in the second round, the Cornhuskers settled for a lot of outside shots in the early going because they didn’t want to challenge Cougar senior center Jennifer Hamson.

    If Hamson, and others, can get some deflections in the first few minutes, it might set UConn back a bit. An edge like that could keep BYU in the game.

  • When playing a team that is as deep and solid as the Huskies, you have to find a way to keep your best players on the floor.

    There are times when a foul is worth taking but the Cougars have to curtail the “nickel-and-dimers,” the reach-in fouls on the perimeter, the pushes on rebounds, the offensive charges and other ticky-tack calls.

    If they make UConn earn their trips to the line and have few players who have to sit due to fouls, their odds of victory increase dramatically.

  • As a senior with years of experience, Beeston can be a steadying influence and has played a key role on defense in the first two rounds.

    But she’s only scored nine points in the first two games of the NCAA tournament, going 2-of-15 from the field and 2-of-11 from the 3-point line.

    But she’s a better shooter than that. She’s due for a breakout game and this might be the opportune time for Beeston to get locked in.

  • One of the things the Huskies do well is score in bunches while stifling an opponent. A relatively close game can get out of hand in a hurry if UConn gets on one of its rolls.

    In order to prevent that, BYU has to minimize the minutes it goes without getting the ball in the basket. A four- or five-minute stretch without scoring could really put the Cougars in deep trouble and multiple stretches like that would almost definitely spell doom.

    If BYU can consistently score, it would at least give them the ability to stay close.

  • The temptation against a good team can be to try to get lots of points quickly, which is often accomplished by knocking down a bunch of 3-point shots.

    But the jump-shooting trap can be very costly as well as it results in empty possessions.

    With Cougar post players like Hamson and junior Morgan Bailey, BYU needs to get them involved and force the Huskies to limit the paint, it will open up things for the shooters — and it’s always easier to hit when the ball is coming inside-out.

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