Bigger. Faster. Stronger. Better. These and other adjectives were the buzzwords for the 2012 BYU Football Media Day at the BYU Broadcast Building where coaches and players talked about the upcoming season.
Even though BYU won eight out of their last nine games of the 2011 season, and finished ranked no. 25 in the final standings, the Cougars feel that they are able to improve in every category to finish even better.
“Last year, we were overly confident with our offense,” junior running back Michael Alisa said. “We thought our offense was going to carry us to the promised land, but we didn’t have the work ethic to back it up. This year, everyone’s here, everyone’s united. Going into this year, we have a confidence that can only be attained through hard work.”
The offense is bolstered by the return of senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who finished 2011 as the No. 16 most efficient passer in the country, with a rating of 152.93 to go along with 1,717 passing yards and 19 touchdown passes compared with just seven interceptions. However, the offense feels it can get a lot better.
“Our goal is to be the number one most efficient passing team in the country,” offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said. “That’s 35 passes a game, 23 or 24 completions, 300 yards a game, three-to-one touchdown to interception ratio or better every game. That’s our standard, and our players know that.”
Nelson, now having a full offseason of practice as the starting quarterback under his belt, said that he is prepared to lead the team forward.
“My mental approach was always the same,” Nelson said. “It’s not an indication of my position on the depth chart, but just that we’re seniors. That’s what happens in good college football programs. It’s more than the starting quarterback to have a position to raise the level of other guys where we keep the program moving forward.”
Offense is what most think about when they hear the words “BYU Football.” With football legends such as Ty Detmer, Steve Young, Jim McMahon and Austin Collie ingrained into the football tradition, the defense loses its luster. However, it was the Cougar defense that shined last season led by the mind of head coach Bronco Mendenhall, which finished ranked 13th in the country. And it appears to be the same focus going into this season.
“You got to hit people in the mouth,” junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “You’ve got to go about every game with a prepared defense. Preparation has to be stronger and faster and better than anyone else in the country. That’s how we approach it.”
The team faces a much tougher schedule this year, with several more notable teams matched up. The Cougars kick off both their own and the entire college football season with an Aug 30 home game against Pac-12 opponent Washington State. They also face rival Utah, Boise State, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame all on the road.
“Credibility as a football team comes from scheduling tough teams, and usually going on the road and beating them,” Mendenhall said. We are consistently a top-25 contender. But we keep looking up. We want to be a top-10 contender. We can look up and see that there’s something else we can achieve.”
Many college football experts and the normal college football fan might be astonished by Mendenhall’s assertion to their potential in the elite ranks in the country, but that doesn’t deter him one bit.
“There were guys here that won the Heisman. They won the National Championship. (Others) said it couldn’t be done at BYU. (These guys) showed that it could, and they set a precedent that it should be done again. It’s mentioned to our players often.”