The 2013 offseason has been a rollercoaster ride for BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.
It looks something like this: one new offensive coordinator, four new offensive coaches, one former offensive coordinator let go and a coach who was hired but then decided the next day to stay where he was. That all happened during recruitment and preparation for a 2013 season, a job this year that Mendenhall called “the most difficult in school history.”
With so much change this offseason, including the final two additions to the coaching staff announced last week, Jason Beck and Guy Holliday, Mendenhall and newly-appointed offensive coordinator Robert Anae have addressed why the changes occurred, where the team was before and where it is striving to be.
Mendenhall said any changes he makes organizationally will be to improve the program.
Anae’s return to the Cougars is one that Mendenhall feels will allow the team to progress to the next level, even with everything that happened in 2010.
Because of the media speculation about Anae’s exit in 2010 (many thought he was forced out by Mendenhall) both Mendenhall and Anae felt they should address the issue.
“Coach Anae was, and has been, the most fiercely loyal person to me professionally that I’ve ever worked with,” Mendenhall said. “I started acknowledging the results we had together, and that was basically a Top-25 offense and defense every year.”
Anae made it clear it was his decision to leave, even though Mendenhall wanted him to stay.
“It was clear to me (in 2010) as the offensive coordinator that it was a good opportunity for me to step down and let Bronco have a chance to adjust some things on the offensive side of the football,” Anae said. “Bronco didn’t want that to happen, but I took the opportunity as offensive coordinator to do that.”
After two years with an offense that couldn’t reach the prolific levels Anae had produced, Mendenhall felt it was time to bring Anae back. Although Anae was surprised initially at the request to return, he was more than eager to come back and help change the culture of the BYU football program.
Anae wasn’t the only major change for the Cougar coaching staff. Mendenhall also gave Anae the opportunity to mold the offensive coaching staff to his strengths and comforts. He has done just that with the hiring of Garett Tujague, Mark Atuaia, Holliday and Beck.
Anae expects to see an offense that will play fast and hard and plans to make a few changes to the offense that was so successful during his first stint at BYU.
“I’ve felt this go around that the biggest transformation on this offense should start with the line,” Anae said. “One of the things I’d like to do different is to utilize the quarterback in the run game, which I did not do the first six years.”
Mendenhall has also made two things clear. He likes where the program is, but there is still room for improvement.
“The intent has been to design the most complete program,” Mendenhall said. “That is specific to the standards that are asked of me here at BYU.”
A key ingredient to a “complete program” is the football players themselves.
That complete program includes helping each young man develop spiritually and intellectually. It also means Mendenhall is tasked with helping his players develop character and provide service to the world. Mendenhall was “asked to be really, really good at football.”
After eight seasons as BYU’s head coach, it seems as if Mendenhall is staying true to what’s been asked of him.
The Cougars are one of 16 teams to be in the Top-25 in five of the last seven seasons. In the past two seasons, only eight teams have been seen more on TV. The Cougars haven’t missed the postseason since Mendenhall arrived. They’ve won six of those eight bowl games, including four in a row, which is something that has never been done in program history. Mendenhall has also stressed the importance of serving a mission, which explains why 70 percent of the current roster has served LDS missions — the highest percentage in team history.
With a new staff and a difficult schedule that allows the Cougars to play some of the top college football teams in the country, Mendenhall still wants the team to achieve more.
“There’s a Hall of Fame head coach here at BYU,” Mendenhall said. “I’m talking about Coach Edwards. Anyone that follows Coach Edwards should strive to do on the field and have similar success to what he set the mark to be.”