BYU football coaches, players and legends gathered to discuss the upcoming season at the 2015 BYU Football Media Day earlier this week with news fans have hoped for: quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams will return healthy and ready to play this fall.
Athletic director Tom Holmoe and coach Bronco Mendenhall discussed the state of the program. “We both love this game, and we love this school. We’re really looking forward, and as much as we love to talk about the past, I know that it’s the future that really counts,” Holmoe said.
Mendenhall, entering his 11th year as BYU head coach, also talked about looking forward. “Man, I love our team. A lot of things have to come together for any one particular team to have that great season. If you look just possibly at what some of the key ingredients might be: our quarterback is back and healthy and a senior. That gives you a better chance. A senior running back back at the same time is back and healthy, so you put those two pieces together. An offense that scored the most points, I think, since 2001 comes back basically intact, only missing three players. A defensive tradition with myself back involved to give us our best chance that way.”
In January, Mendenhall announced he would be returning as the defensive coordinator. He assumed this role from 2011 to 2013. “For the current team and the current resources we have, and the current personnel, I think it gives us the best chance,” he said.
Regarding the upcoming schedule, Mendenhall said, “We’re interested in progress, and we’re interested in challenge. It’s not a time to be safe. It’s not a time to be complacent. We’re going after anyone that will play us wherever they’ll play us on the biggest stages, and we have the team to do it, I think.”
“This is BYU, and we’re capable of playing and beating anyone that will schedule us, and that’s the intent,” Mendenhall said.
Since moving to league independence five years ago, BYU has had opportunities to play all over the country. “I don’t know how long independence will last, but again the thought that any spot that doesn’t have a team that we’re playing, if we’re going independent, we might as well cover them all,” Mendenhall said.
Fans were dismayed at the number of injuries players suffered last season, and players are hoping to put that behind them. “My health is good. I’ve been fully cleared to do everything,” said Hill, who is set to play his senior year as quarterback. “I trust my doctor, and once he gave me the go ahead, that’s all I really needed.”
Williams said his injury was “like the love of your life broke up with you.” But now he’s feeling good and is preparing to play in the season opener in 10 weeks. “I’m just grateful to put on a uniform again,” Williams said.
Mendenhall is happy to have Hill and Williams back on the field. “Not only are their positions important, as people, they’re important,” he said, adding that with Hill and Williams on the field and contributing, the team as a whole is more confident.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said the offense’s plan has been to “find the best quarterback in your program and then do the things that he does best as your starting point. Taysom now is coming back as a three-year starter, so the starting point has already been established, so we’re ready now to go into other portions of the offense that highlight the players skill set.”
When asked about how much he will utilize Williams, Anae said, “One hundred percent. He’s a very important part of the offensive scheme.”
The offseason training has been assisted by the new strength coach, Frank Wintrich. “Love this place, love this school, love the kids, love the staff. It’s a special place; that’s why I wanted to come here, and it has not disappointed one bit.”
In his first year at BYU, Wintrich is getting praise from coaches and players alike. “Coach Wintrich likes guys to try hard as well as he likes them to do things exactly the way he asks them to do it,” Mendenhall said. “What’s happening is my job just got a lot easier because of the level of preparation not only physically, but mentally.”
Broadcast times for two fall games were announced. BYU will play Boise State Sept. 12 at 8:15 p.m. (MDT) and UConn Oct. 2 at 8:15 p.m. (MDT). Both games will be broadcast on ESPN2.
BYU’s season opener is at Nebraska on Sept. 5.
For more information about 2015 BYU Football Media Day, visit byucougars.com and follow @BYUcougars on Twitter for regular BYU football updates.