It seems like every year, sports fans in Utah hit a point during the summer where there is a lull in meaningful sporting events. This year, it was prolonged a month or so with the 2014 World Cup. However, that is over now and with BYU media day behind us and the rest of college football conference media days in full swing, football is on the horizon.
Every year, college football fan bases believe they are in for a special year or have high hopes that the teams they love and follow can conjure up a little magic and contend for conference championships or go undefeated. As an independent, BYU has the latter in mind as do the fans. Some would say temper your expectations. There has been evidence under Bronco Mendenhall that the first few weeks of the season are BYU's kryptonite. 1-2 starts have been the norm with a few exceptions. So why is this year different? Here are a few reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season for BYU.
There are plenty of reasons for fans to be optimistic for this upcoming season. First is the development of Taysom Hill. Last season Taysom was busy rehabbing his knee and was unable to give his full attention to throwing and being with the team to sharpen his skills. Having an offseason to throw and concentrate on throwing should do wonders for his accuracy this year.
Losing the sure-handed Cody Hoffman will be a blow to the team, but all is not lost. BYU has done a good job bringing in talent to replace the the productivity of the all-time receiver, and possibly with more speed. Three transfers could give the passing game the jolt it needs. Nick Kurtz, Jordan Leslie, and the burner Devon Blackmon could change the passing game immediately. Not to mention Michael Davis, who turned some heads in spring along with a healthy Mitch Mathews and Ross Apo. Then there are the tight ends. Some wonder what has happened to the tight ends that BYU has been so well known for.
Devin Mahina is back and looks to be healthy along with Terenn Houk, Bret Thompson and Bryan Sampson-who received some praise in spring as well. It's up to these four to prove themselves and restore the strength of the tight end position. This may be the deepest and most talented wide receiving cores BYU has ever had which would make the BYU offense very, very dangerous.
If the passing game can come together, then the running game will benefit greatly. With another year of experience in the system the offensive line should be better. Also, another year of learning under coach Tujague and Robert Anae should lead to improvement. If the offensive line play is better, that should lead to the running game being better. Jamaal Williams (J Swagg Daddy) should have a huge year along with Adam Hine, Paul Lasike, Alge Brown, and now throw Harvey Langi into the mix which should help contribute to the success of the running game. What about Taysom Hill? He will still be a part of the running game, but maybe not to the extent that he was last year, which should bring a smile to the faces of cougar nation. That would mean his passing has improved and his arm becomes the weapon it needs to be for this offense to explode and be as dynamic as Robert Anae expects it to be.
Some would say the schedule is reason to be optimistic, but no matter what the schedule is the talent needs to be better and BYU may have more all-around talent than they have seen in a while. To accomplish the things BYU wants, they will need to rely on the depth they have on the team on both sides of the ball.
Lastly, one factor that seems to have been missed is the enormous chip on the shoulder of Bronco Mendenhall. Ben Criddle has mentioned this on his radio show after a conversation he had with Bronco. This may be the year that Bronco does not call off the dogs and instead runs up the score on teams BYU plays to prove a point. There should be games that BYU blows the doors off their opponent, and Bronco may have come to a realization in the off season that being on ESPN numerous times during the season isn't enough to get the attention BYU so desperately wants.
It was out of character for Bronco to come out in the interview he gave to Brian Davis in the Austin American-Statesmen about a month ago where he said, "I would love to be part of the Big 12. I think that would make a lot of sense." That was his reaction to where college football is heading and he does not want BYU to be left behind. BYU already meets the metrics to join a power 5 conference, but there is a more powerful way of showing they belong: winning. There may be a different approach, and a different attitude in Provo this year and that is the best reason to be optimistic for this upcoming season.