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August 10, 2012The single factor that will help BYU more than anything else this season is also the first thing you see when you see the Cougars walk onto the field. The team as a whole is more athletic this year than any season in recent memory. Michael Alisa wasn't trying to put on weight this offseason, his goal was to get quicker. And get quicker he did, but with BYU's new offseason training program he also put on 7 pounds while cutting fat at the same time. Every player on the team looks more muscular than they did last year, and most of them look faster too. Bronco said in one of the first days of camp that the team was in better shape than he thought they would be, and surely he thought that they would be in good shape after contracting the services of nutritionist Dan Wilcox and the Athlete's Performance Institute. The results surpassed his expectations, and the team looks really good because of it.
The second thing I noticed were the quarterbacks. Riley's ball does look a little better than it did last year. There's a little more velocity on it, and he is more accurate on his throws right now. He still has some ducks that he throws where you wonder what happened, and he did throw an interception in drills on one of those kinds of throws. The biggest development during the offseason for him is his increased patience and ability to check down to the open receiver, and the tight ends were the primary beneficiaries during the scrimmage. Riley did a really good job of finding Holt in space in the middle of the field when nobody else was open. He has always been good at buying himself time in the pocket with his feet, but now he's looking for receivers downfield instead of running lanes.
James Lark looks really good. He throws the best ball out of all of the quarterbacks, and he does well on his reads. He made a really nice throw on a corner route from the pocket, and another perfect strike to Collie on a 15 yard out while Lark was rolling out. Collie got a foot in, made the catch and there was nothing that the defense could have done about it. Lark and Riley are two very different quarterbacks, but just like Doman has said over and over again, Lark is very capable. If Riley were to go down, there's no reason to believe that there would be any drop off of production from the quarterback position. The only perceived drop off might be from the loss of Riley's leadership in the huddle and a consequent lack of production from the other players on the team.
Munns has dropped some weight and is in good shape right now. He has a long wind up however, and he seemed to struggle with his reads. He threw the nicest deep ball of the day but Adam Hogan made an impressive play by knocking it out of the receiver's hand while the receiver was bringing in the catch. You couldn't have asked for a nicer throw on the play from Munns. The way that the coaches are distributing reps it appears that Munns is currently the third string QB, but he has a long ways to go to get to Riley and Lark's level.
Taysom Hill's mechanics on his throwing motion are great, he has a quick release, and he generates a lot of power on his ball with a tight spiral. He seemed to have some jitters today with two dropped snaps, but he looked pretty good otherwise. Hill really appeared to have a good feel for the pressure in the pocket as in two different occasions he stepped up in the pocket to deliver a throw while the pressure came from the outside. On the second throw that resulted in a 40 yard touchdown pass to Houk he just flipped his wrist effortlessly and Houk made a great catch over Hanneman on the coverage. The contrast between how much effort Riley has to put into delivering his throws to how much effort Hill puts into his is pretty stark.
Both of the balls Taysom completed to Houk were a little underthrown and Houk just elevated and made the catch over the defender in both circumstances. Houk made two of the nicer catches of the day on those two plays, he would certainly have to be considered a stand-out player at the scrimmage. Collie also looked really good, he did drop a punt, and others have said that he dropped a pass, but I think that was the ball that Reilly (FS) got a finger on and would have been a vey tough catch to make. DeQuann Everett felt the wrath of Collie's route running on one play where Collie got him to bite on a quick stutter and go and all DeQuann could do was try to slow him down while Collie ran by him. The refs missed the call and the ball was overthrown because DeQuann had slowed him down enough, but that was a good representation of how difficult it is to cover Collie. In his recruitment he wasn't represented as being very fast but he looks pretty quick out there and seems to have pretty good speed.
Pretty good speed isn't Jamaal Williams speed though, Williams is fast. He's noticably thinner than the rest of the running backs, but he does have some good lean muscle on his upper body. He didn't seem to have the break tackle ability, but he didn't need to break many tackles because defenders had a hard time getting a paw on him. He's very fast out of his cuts, and he's definitely faster than Hine who I thought would be equally fast. Hine is bigger, he has really hit the weight room hard and he has put some muscle on his upper and lower body. Hine was more agile than I anticipated him being, and he showed great balance on a number of occasions breaking tackles. Hine didn't have the burst of speed out of his moves that Williams did however, and his top speed couldn't compare either. Hine seems to me to be running a little more deliberately, he looks like he's reacting to the defenders instead of making them react, which is how Williams runs. They were both very effective in the scrimmage.
Alisa's burst is great, Alisa is very quick, and his vision is fantastic. His combination of speed, size, instincts, and experience make him the primary back by a good margin. It's really no surprise either, for him to be as good as he was last year after having just gotten back from a mission and changing positions from LB to RB, he was bound to be really good this year. The first team offensive line didn't participate in the scrimmage, so it was the second team that did a really did a good job of opening holes for the running game. They struggled more in pass protection but we'll cover that more in tomorrow's article about the defense.
Foote is the second back on the depth chart right now and he had a number of really nice runs. This has to be the deepest backfield BYU has had in recent memory. Foote is a slasher that breaks tackles, has put on some muscle, and has good agility as well. He cut back on one run that looked like it would be snuffed in the backfield and he turned it into a nice gain. He's really effective in-between the tackles, and I like that they lined him up in the slot as well as he was a really good receiver in high school. Lasike didn't get very many carries, but he is stocky, and he ran hard and fast when he did run. Pritchard was used more as a HB than as a fullback in the scrimmage, and more often than not there were two HB's in the game rather than a FB and a HB. Pritchard is big, powerful and very agile for his size. Zed Mendenhall is big. He trucked a poor linebacker on a reception that he took down the sideline for a nice gain.
Based on Marcus Mathews not participating in the scrimmage, and based on how much muscle he put on while maintaining his speed, he appears to be the number one TE. The TE's had a nice amount of balls thrown their way today, but unfortunately Wilson dropped his only ball in the endzone and Holt dropped an easy catch near the sideline. Holt had a couple of other nice balls thrown his way that he caught.
Overall the offense looked really good when Lark and Riley were running the show, and the running game was very impressive against a very deep linebacking corps. Expect this years offense to be much more balanced than last years, and don't be surprised if the offense is back to the days of putting points on the board against the better teams they face. Riley will likely still have a turnover or two per game against stiffer competition, but improved balance on offense should really take pressure off of him and his need to make a play out of nothing. With how good the Cougar defense is bound to be, this Cougar offense will be the difference between a win and a loss in the tougher games on this year's schedule, and there's reason for optimism in CougarNation.