Bronco Mendenhall spends much of BYU practice silently observing both sides of the ball.
Mendenhall is a defensive guy, always has been. But as his head coaching gig has developed over the years, he’s delegated more and is spending more time with the offense.
He wants the big picture.
After practice, Mendenhall will note to his assistants that a certain player needs more reps, or another needs the ball more.
Getting noticed by Mendenhall means a lot.
That whole process got me thinking about BYU football and how it wants to be recognized as a player in the college football landscape.
The program wants to be noticed.
BYU is in a unique place in college football history, an independent with its own television network seen throughout the world. It’s made scheduling agreements with Notre Dame, Nebraska, UCLA, Michigan, West Virginia, Arizona and Wisconsin.
Safe to say, no program has ever been in the same position as BYU right now.
Of course, unique also has its drawbacks, like walking the razor-sharp edge between staying relevant or fading to black on a national scale. BYU doesn’t want to get left behind and every day the Power 5 conferences are thinking of ways to become more elite.
Should BYU join a conference? Can BYU join a conference? Will BYU ever join a conference?
The picture in my mind is of a guy in a BYU uniform, jumping up and down and waving his arms: “Hey, notice me! Notice me!”
So how does BYU get noticed in 2014?
First, the obvious: Win. Win on the road against a team it should beat (UConn) and against teams that are looking for revenge (Texas, Houston and Boise State). BYU needs to win games it should win, and pull off victories in toss-ups. It needs road wins. It needs to win a bowl game.
Even though there will be grumblings about scheduling, if the Cougars run off a string of wins to start the season, they will be in the conversation.
Second, it wouldn’t hurt if Taysom Hill has a star-spangled awesome year. He was pretty good in 2013 – and stayed healthy – but he can improve. Better than 60 percent passing would be a good start. He won’t have his security blanket, Cody Hoffman, this year. But Hill will have plenty of opportunities, both with his arm and his legs, to impress.
Hill as a Heisman candidate? It could happen, and that will get you noticed.
Third, BYU’s style of play – high tempo offense, hard-hitting defense – is fun to watch when it’s clicking. ESPN has made an investment in the Cougars and a lot of college football fans get to see BYU play nearly every weekend in the fall.
I often ask my boys about their long-term plans. I would think BYU has a hard time making long-term plans because college football is changing so much. Where does the BYU athletic program – football specifically – want to be in five years? Ten years?
Wherever the college football elite is headed, BYU wants to be there.
So focus on 2014. Control what you can control. Run off a bunch of wins in a row. Score lots of points. Play well on ESPN. Have Hill make a Heisman run.