Viewpoint: “2007: The Year of the Cougar”

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    By Joseph Simmons

    It has been brought to my attention that many readers think someone – an ugly, overweight someone named Joseph Simmons – thinks BYU football won”t be as good next year as they were this year.

    This is, for lack of a better term, the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my entire life. BYU will be good – verrrry good. By the way, this is the planned rebuttal to Thursday”s viewpoint, a fact that was cut from that piece and had dozens of you immediately filleting me by e-mail. One more time: I think BYU football will be better this year.

    To begin with, and perhaps all that needs to be said really, is one word: Bronco. That”s right, Bronco. Bronco will not let the team fail. He has established himself, above all other things, as consistent. There”s no way that Bronco will let the team have a letdown. This doesn”t mean that they will go undefeated from here on out, but it does mean that the Cougars will be led by Bronco”s best effort.

    Obviously, the biggest question mark is the quarterback position. However, it”s not fair to compare Max Hall or Jacob Bower or Cade Cooper,or whoever to John Beck when he started. Beck was part of a horrendous quarterback merry-go-round, which prevented him from developing the confidence and rhythm that all athletes need.

    These quarterbacks have all shown that they have talent. Hall led the scout team in practice and at times was able to pick the first-team defense apart. Cooper led Snow College to a 10-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking. The fact that they haven”t played Division I yet is inconsequential. The last time there was a similar situation, Ty Detmer was the result.

    According to my research on NCAA Football 2007, Hall will be the BYU starter, but of course that is only semi-scientific.

    The great thing about our 2007 Cougars is that even if our quarterbacks turn out to be only mediocre, it won”t matter. You may ask why, but the answer is simple: two words – Fui Vakapuna. You see, we have four of our five starting offensive linemen back. Losing Jake Kuresa hurts, but our O-line, which was great this year, will be able to thoroughly maul people next year.

    Vakapuna struggled with a high-ankle sprain for most of the latter part of the 2006 season, but still finished with a 5-yard-per-carry average. Vakapuna has already shown that he is capable of being an elite running back. In 2007, he”ll be getting the majority of snaps, and he”ll thrive with that. Additionally, Harvey Unga and Ray Hudson are both talented backs, and will be there too. Manase Tonga and Joe Semanoff are great blocking and running fullbacks, and both have shown they can catch too.

    The running game will be able to keep teams on their heels, and whoever the quarterback is, he”ll have some phenomenal targets to help him out. Receivers Michael Reed and Matt Allen were great this yea, and will only be better next season. Speedster Austin Collie will keep defenses stretched out as a deep threat. Vic So”oto will be a pleasant surprise at tight end, and even though he won”t be a Jonny Harline immediately, he”ll contribute.

    It won”t really matter who the quarterback is. Our offense will be so stacked that I could run it. It will be as potent as it ever has been, and we”ll be hanging 40 points just like we did in ”06.

    There is also the possibility that we will have impact freshmen. Our recruiting class was great. Look for J.J. DiLuigi to make an impact, along with Braden Brown and Marcus Matthews.

    Our defense, which many people doubted before this season, will be stellar. We did lose Cameron Jensen, yes, but thankfully, the team has ample talent at linebacker. This will be as talented a linebacking corps as BYU has ever had. Bryan Kehl, Aaron Wagner, David Nixon, Kelly Poppinga, Markell Staffieri, Shawn Doman, Terrance Hooks – the list is a long one. Wagner and Kehl were 2nd and 3rd respectively in total tackles in ”06. In fact, eight of the top 10 defensive players will be back.

    Our secondary will return everyone but Justin Robinson, but there are several players who are capable of filling his shoes.

    The D-line will return the bulk of its players who rotated, and Russel Tialavea will replace Hala Paongo at nose tackle. Also, I have been informed that Matangi Tonga will in fact be back, along with Ian Dulan. The whole defense will be quicker and stronger. Best of all, Bronco has showed that he will play whatever defense puts the most talent on the field. Many coaches are too proud to change their schemes, but Bronco is wise and humble enough to put the best players on the field no matter what it takes.

    This team could not be coached better. The players are disciplined, and have all bought into Bronco”s philosophy. The ”06 team set a high standard, but the ”07 team will meet and exceed it. Everything is set up for a run at a BCS game. The schedule is strong enough, and we play several key Mountain West games at home (TCU and Utah).

    Most importantly, the stars have realigned. BYU football really is back. The team and fans have confidence. Excellence has been set as the standard, and the guys are working as hard as they can to achieve it. Bronco leads his team and, even though he”s not perfect, he will not let them get lazy or complacent.

    The talent is there, and so is the work ethic. I hereby declare 2007 the year of the Cougar. Let”s take joy in what”s coming, because it”s going to be one heckuva ride.

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