Worry strikes Cougar fans


By Nate Slack

A few days ago I saw some tweets that have been going through my head since then. To briefly summarize what was being said, it seems that many Cougar fans are worried about the comments made by Bronco regarding hard-working players deserving and receiving more playing time than more talented players. This worries me for a few reasons.

For one, a head coach’s primary responsibility should be to win football games. In order to do that, the players with the most talent and with the highest chance at success should be playing. The patience of BYU fans regarding this problem is growing thin and, as a result, have had fans calling for coaches to be fired. This should never happen, ESPECIALLY at a school that has had as much success lately as some of the “powerhouse” schools around the country.

For all the people thinking I am only talking about the quarterback situation, I believe it goes deeper than that. Let me present a few examples that I see as evidence of this reoccurring theme.

Kaneakua Friel was incredible against Washington State racking up 101 yards on 6 receptions with 2 touchdowns. But as the season progressed, he seemed to be dropping the ball more and more. Despite the woes Friel presented, he still seemed to register more playing time than most fans probably would have suggested. I think guys like Devin Mahina (who has only recorded 7 receptions for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns so far on the season) would’ve presented a nice little duo with Friel like  fans have seen in the past with Harline and Coats, and Pitta and George.

Ezekial Ansah has gained national recognition through the course of the season and there’s a good chance he would not have had a chance to play as much if an injury hadn’t occurred. It’s hard for me as a fan to truly say that Ziggy wasn’t good enough to play significant minutes to start out the season and even the tail end of last season. As if being 6’7 and having a vertical of 39″ wasn’t enough already, running a 4.5 40-yard dash only puts icing on the cake. And to think Bronco allegedly discouraged Ziggy from walking on? I believe I speak for a large number of people when I say that I’m struggling with that.

But above all, I’m worried about the future of recruiting.

If you were a 5 star player coming out of high school, how realistic are BYU’s chances of getting you in the first place? When the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, even Boise State start targeting you, does a 7-5 BYU team sound very appealing? Now throw in the fact that you may not even see the field, simply because there are others on the team that show more “grit” than you do.

Many things have me worried for future recruits. I’m not sure if we’ll land Brayden Kearsley, a verbal commit from Oregon, because of the issues at hand. (Kearsley is a 4 star recruit and ranked the number 15 Offensive Guard for the class of 2013).

Whether or not you’ll admit it, the football program is struggling right now. Close games BYU always used to win are now being lost. 10 win seasons have become 6 to 7 win seasons. And now fan loyalty seems to be at the lowest it’s been since the Crowton era.

Where do you begin to fix the issues at hand?

4 thoughts on “Worry strikes Cougar fans

  1. The Key phrase is here is

    “the players with the… highest chance at success should be playing”

    Talent and and hardworking aren’t mutually exclusive as some fans seem to think. Everyone who has made BYU’s roster has to have significant talent and at least a decent work ethic, otherwise they wouldn’t be playing at BYU.

    Mendenhall’s error in dealing with the QB situation wasn’t in putting in a less talented QB in over a more talented one. His error was putting in a QB who didn’t give his team the “highest chance at success”.

    In this case it wasn’t an issue of ability, but of health. Nelson showed that he has the talent and work ethic to be successeful last year. His TD:INT ratio was the second highest for a Cougar starter in the past decade. Also, in every game he had at least 7 pass attemps, he had a completion for over 30 yards. The last person to do that has a first name that is two letters long and was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    While a healthy Nelson is capable, a Riley with a broken back is a completely different story. Nelsons two greatest strengths, aside from leadership, are his ability to throw deep (He floats them, but when he’s healthy he floats them to where they need to be fo the Cougar receiver to make a catch), and his escapability.

    It is hard to throw the ball deep with cracked vertibre. Thus the injury took away the best part of his game. Even when he was relitively healthy (against ND and Oregon St) he still had troubles in that area. Without that ability, I don’t think he gives the cougars the best chance to win.

    Then there were SJSU and BSU where he probably should have been on a streatcher instead of in the game.

    This is where Bronco failed (in my opinion). It wasn’t putting “hard working” over “talent”. It was not recognizing that Riley’s injuries affected his play enough that he was no longer the Cougars best chance at winning.

  2. As for the TEs, outside of Washington St, Friel and Mahina did spilt time like a Pitta/George and much more evenly than Harline/Coats.

    Outside of WSU, Friel had 207 yards and 3 TDs. Mahina has 90 yards and 2 TDs. Wilson had 97 yards. Holt before went down with an injury he had 22 yards.

    In 2009 (Pitta and George’s Sr year) Pitta had 829 yds and 8 TDs. George had 408 yrds and 5 TDs

    In 2006 (Harline and Coats Sr year) Harline had 935 yard and 12 TDs.. Coats had 239 yards and 2 TDs.

    I don’t think your arguement works here in light of those numbers.

  3. In 2010, Ziggy didn’t know a thing about football. He couldn’t even put on his pads. Yet inspite of this, Bronco played him in the last 6 games of the season. Last year he saw playing time in everygame except Idaho St (I assume he was injured). In these 18 games, Ansah had Zero sacks, Zero TFL, and 10 tackles.

    In 2012, BYU had three defensive ends with 3 years of starting experience. I don’t find it terribly surprising that Ziggy wasn’t named starter out of the gate. Still despite not being a starter initiall, he did still see significant playing time.

    On the seaosn, Ziggy averages 4.75 tackles per game. Against Washington St, he has 3, including 2TFLs. Against Weber St, he had 2 before the 3rd stringers took over. Against Utah he had 4 tackles.

    Now we know that Ziggy is the best of the defensive linemen on the team, but he is very new to this ability. It wasn’t until this year that he has capable of being a contributor, much less a starter. It took him 19 games to get his first TFL, and 22 games before he recorded his first sack.

    Should Mendenhall have started Ansah from the beginning of the 2012 season? I certainly think so, but hind sight is 20/20. If I had been Bronco would I have started him at the beginning of the season? Probably not. I probably would have done the same. Started Manumaleauna, but given Ansah plenty of reps rotating through both DEs and getting him in on obvious passing situations.

    When Ziggy walked on he was a 6’6 230lb kid who had NEVER played football before and only had 3 years of eligibility left.

    What ever his initial words were, Bronco let Ziggy on to the team (Walking on is not an easy thing to do. Most get cut.) and even played him in the final 6 games that year when just months before he couldn’t even put on his pads by himself.

  4. Does BYU have problems? Yes. Does Mendenhall make mistakes? Yes. However, I really don’t see his playing “grit” over “talent” as being one of them.

    in regards for Kearsley, I doubt doubt he is worried about a walk on taking his starting (assuming he earns it) spot. He is probably looking at nearby Oregon St being ranked, BYU being 7-5, and the Cougars having a lousy offensive line.

    As for 5 star recruits sitting on the bench in favor of “gritty” players, The only time that has happened was 2011 and that was because Heaps was stinking it up. As for 4 stars like Lark, Why would he be a 3rd string or lower QB for 5 years if he was the best option. We have only seen him start one game. I hope to see more, but his great game was against a terrible team and it was only one game.

    Matt Flinn of the Packers had an incredible game in the absence of Aaron Rogers. Was he better than Aaron Rogers? He put up better numbers in the one game he played. Now that we see him backing up a 5’1″ rookie in Seattle, we see that he is not as good as the one game showed.

    If you show you are the best option, almost without exception, you will play. I think for the most part recruits see this. Look at Tanner Magnum. One of the highest rated QBs in the country. He committed to BYU after the 2011 season where a 5 star QB was replaced by a “gritty” QB whom BYU didn’t even offer a scholorship to out of high school.

    What hurts recruiting the most is irrelevance. Either from losing or playing mostly meaningless games. Now that BYU has a schedule full of meaningful games, they need to win. Win 9+ games per season and BYU will be regularly ranked and will draw athletes away from other schools.

    Note: Sorry about the novels, I am grateful for you posts, but this one I just happen to disagree strongly with.

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