Taysom Hill, BYU offense lead way into brutal early schedule

Taysom Hill leaps over Utah State players into the end zone during last season's game. (Elliott Miller)
Taysom Hill leaps over Utah State players into the end zone during last season’s game. (Elliott Miller)

There is no lack of confidence in BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. And there’s a sense of urgency mixed in for the senior who watched two of his three college seasons end in serious injury.

Those things combined could give defensive coordinators nightmares this season as the Cougars hope to put together the most prolific offense in school history.

“The opportunities are really endless in what we can do as an offense, throwing the ball specifically,” Hill said.

Both Hill and Coach Bronco Mendenhall have said this offense could be the best the school has ever produced. Hill is back and healthy after a broken leg and torn ligaments ended his season in the fifth game last year. BYU was 4-0, including an upset of No. 25 Texas, and Hill was in the Heisman conversation before the injury.

Hill is now 100 percent and should be a better passer since the injury forced him to polish his pocket skills during the offseason. But he still has the mobility that led to 1,344 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013.

The Cougars are loaded at receiver with seniors Mitch Mathews, Devon Blackmon and Terenn Houk and juniors Mitch Juergens and Nick Kurtz all back. The first four combined for 132 catches, 1,717 yards and 15 touchdowns. Kurtz missed the season with a foot injury.

Depth is a concern on the offensive line and the running game took a hit after starter Jamaal Williams withdrew from school for personal reasons. But the BYU offense is built to put points on the board and everything begins with the confident man under center.

“As long as I’m playing quarterback, my mindset will be making great decisions and getting the ball out on time,” Hill said. “If I’m making the right decisions and doing those things, defenses can do whatever they want. They can blitz, they can drop eight.

“It doesn’t matter. Whatever they do, they will be wrong.”

Things to watch during the 2015 season:

Schedule: The Cougars hit the road for three of their first four games to face some of the most storied programs in college football, including Nebraska, UCLA, and Michigan. Stuck in the middle of that is the home opener against a Boise State team that went 12-2 in 2014 and is picked to win the Mountain West Mountain Division.

Running back by committee: The coaching staff planned to have Jamaal Williams pound the ball and take some of the rushing responsibility off Hill before he left school. The senior running back was on the verge of breaking Harvey Unga’s BYU career rushing yards record of 3,455. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said BYU will employ a running back by committee approach now that Williams is gone. Junior Algernon Brown, seniors Adam Hine and Nate Carter and sophomores Toloa’i Ho Ching and Colby Hansen have big shoes to fill.

Twin towers: The Cougars are not only deep at wide receiver, but big also. Mathews stands at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds. Kurtz measures 6-6, 205 pounds. Mathews has been sidelined during camp, coming off hernia surgery, but is expected to be ready for the season opener. There were high hopes for Kurtz as a junior college transfer in 2014, but injury kept him off the field. He caught a 47-yard touchdown from Hill in the first preseason scrimmage to give a glimpse of what might be.

“That’ll be a lot of fun to pick on DBs,” Mathews said. “With our ability and our height, it leads to a lot of mismatches. So, that makes it exciting.”

Kaufusi: The BYU defense has been largely overlooked despite returning seven starters. There are questions surrounding the secondary after losing three starters, but the front seven is deep with experience. Senior Bronson Kaufusi is back with his hand on the ground after leading the team with seven sacks as an outside linebacker in 2014. Travis Tuiloma, Remington Peck, Graham Rowley are all returning starters on the defensive line.

“We’re down in the mud, in the trenches, we’re those workhorses,” Kaufusi said. “We don’t really care too much (about the attention) as long as we go out there and perform.”

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