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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remembering Anae: not all bad, not all good

The BYU website and Salt Lake Tribune reported this morning that OC Robert Anae's departure from the program has become official. Anae was the offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach for the Cougars from 2005 to 2010.

The news comes a few weeks after rumors leaked that Bronco Mendenhall had told his entire offensive coaching staff to start looking for new jobs.

Bloggers, commentators, and message boards had long been critical of Anae, though Mendenhall had publicly supported Anae. In the official press release, Mendenhall called Anae a dear friend and commended him for his service at BYU. Anae was likewise gracious in his departure, thanking BYU for opportunity to coach at his alma mater. Rumors are now floating that Anae could be joining Mike Leach, his former boss at Texas Tech before coming to BYU, at Maryland.

Big Bro's thoughts: While I have never kept my dislike for Anae's handling of the offense secret, I wish him the best and thank him for what he has accomplished at BYU. Four straight 10 win seasons is no small accomplishment, especially after the nightmare Crowton years.

However, most of BYU's success in the Anae era (and I call it that tongue in cheek) came despite Anae's efforts, not because of them. This can be seen in several examples:

1. Anae's marquee win against Oklahoma in 2009. One common critique of Anae has been that he couldn't win the big games. The biggest win during his tenure came against the Sooners, but the offense was hardly the reason for the victory. Though they passed for 357 yards (against a relatively weak Sooner secondary), it committed 4
turnovers and managed only 28 yards rushing. The undisputed credit for the win is attributed to the defense which held Oklahoma to 265 total yards and knocked Sam Bradford out of the game in the first half.

2. The classic wins against Utah in 2006, 2007, and 2009. Every Cougar fan remembers these instant classics, but the victories are once again not attributable to Anae. All three of these games were won on last-minute heroics by quarterbacks Max Hall and John Beck, coached by none other than Brandon Doman, Anae's presumable replacement.

3. The 2010 turnover-on-downs against Utah. In a game where points were at a premium, Anae elected to go for it on 4th down instead of kick the field goal. We all know how that turned out.

4. 2007 UCLA double-header. Isn't it interesting that in 2007 when the Cougars faced UCLA twice - once in the preseason and once in the Las Vegas Bowl - the Cougars scored an identical 17 points against the Bruins' defense? Bronco was successful in making defensive adjustments, holding the Bruins to 16 points in the LV Bowl after allowing 27 in the early loss, but Anae was unable to bring the offense up to snuff.

All of BYU's failures are not Anae's fault, but the fact remains that he has not been able to bring BYU over the hump. Though it has finished the season ranked 4 times during Anae's stint, BYU has been forced to watch from the sidelines while TCU and Utah have made multiple BCS appearances.

With so much young talent and the prospect of independence looming, now is the time for BYU to hire an OC who will bring BYU to elite status.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Collie from Manning best in the NFL

Austin Collie, in just his second year in the NFL, has proven to be an outstanding fit with quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and the Colts.

In this years injury plagued season, Collie still has managed to be Peytons top target for the endzone, catching 8 touchdowns in just 9 games despite leaving in the middle of three games due to injury. In his 9 games, he amassed 58 catches, for 649 yards.

Just a couple of days ago, ESPN's bottom line ticker reported that the Manning to Collie hookup was the best two player punch in the NFL, with Peyton sporting the best passer rating to one single receiver in the league. Manning has completed 87 percent of his passes to Collie.

Collie has been put on injured reserve for the remainder of the season, but if he can manage to stay healthy next year then this will be quite the duo for years to come.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BYU corrects the rumors, nothing conclusive

Bloggers and message boarders are going crazy after Dick Harmon's column (or at least its headline) wrongly implied that BYU was firing its entire offensive staff. BYU responded, "Any reports that BYU football coaches have been released from the staff are inaccurate...Mendenhall met with offensive coaches and indicated a restructuring of the offensive staff is being evaluated. Mendenhall told the coaches this includes possible changes in assignments and personnel."

Big Bro's thoughts: While the university has tried to do damage control, it seems inevitable that someone is leaving. "Restructuring" at a minimum means that someone is being demoted (probably Anae) and someone else is being promoted (probably Doman). I don't see Robert Anae giving up his play-calling duties lightly, and it is likely that he is on his way out.

Bronco tried to do the right thing and give his staff a heads up of what is coming. Perhaps he wanted to allow his assistants who may be getting offers from other schools to be able to respond to them with the knowledge that their services at the Y are not necessarily needed. In any case, Bronco underestimated the blogosphere and now the you-know-what has hit the fan. As Gordon Monson eloquently stated in his blog this afternoon, Bronco is doing the right thing in the wrong way.

I think it should also be noted that the BYU press release did not take any options off the table. It merely stated that nothing has been done yet. The BYU big wigs wanted to put out the flames without tying Bronco's hands. Unfortunately for them, the flames are still burning strong.

Little Bro's thoughts: While there has been a lot of chatter about Doman leaving, becoming OC, Detmer coming, Anae leaving, I just dont see where this is all coming from. I personally believe that a lot of is speculation based on the wants of the speculator.

Doman is thought to have been offered the offensive coordinator position with Detmer as the QB coach. Interesting point about Doman vacating the quarterbacks job is, Bronco's constant praise of Brandon Doman. If you look at the last 3 qb's he has coached, Beck, Hall and now Heaps, all three have been excellent (Heaps with one year under his belt). Hall has won more games than any other BYU quarterback, Beck set countless records for the MWC as well as BYU, and Heaps is on course to do just the same. Bronco will do everything he can to retain this guy, and probably keep him at the reigns of the quarterbacks.

Heaps as also been quoted in his love for Doman. Heaps said that that was one of his contributing factors to coming to BYU as opposed to other places, because he liked Doman and what he had to offer.

My thought is that Anae is gone, and that they are going to find someone else to take over the play calling duties, from outside of the program. I also see the other assistants staying, with perhaps WR coach Higgins on his way out, considering how his corp performed early in the year. Doman stays to mentor Heaps in his, what could be extremely special, career.

All in all, I believe a shake up is necessary. However, will it be for the best? We will see, next September 3.

Detmer Update

Jay Drew tweeted that Detmer is not interested in the BYU job. This is in stark contrast with Dick Harmon's speculation that Detmer's recent trip to Utah was to investigate a possible job with the football team.

Stay tuned.

Detmer a Cougar again?

Dick Harmon is setting fire to the message boards again this morning by speculating that Ty Detmer will be BYU's new QB coach. Harmon says he saw Detmer in town right before the New Mexico Bowl and hinted that he was there to talk about a future with the Cougar coaching staff.

We here at the The Sports Bros are having a hard time swallowing this pill. First, it would be an awkward (if not dysfuntional) dynamic to have a Heisman Trophy winner and BYU legend as a position coach under an OC. This would be considerably more strange ifrumors that Doman will be promoted to be OC are true. Second, the weed before a bowl game doesn't seem to be the time that Mendenhall would choose to bring in Detmer for interviews. Mendenhall has been busy preparing his team for UTEP (and successfully so), and I doubt if he has been spending his time inviting ex-Cougars in to interview for positions that aren't officially open yet. Third, it's hard to believe that no other media sources noticed Detmer's presence. If he had been anywhere near Mendenhall then bloggers and reporters would have reported it a week ago.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's in store for Cougar offensive staff?

Dick Harmon opened the can of worms this afternoon that Bronco has told his offensive staff to start seeking other employment in anticipation of evaluations to take place in the coming days. Rumors are flying, speculation is running wild, and message boards are filling up like beer cups at a University of Utah tailgate.

The most common guess (or is it a wish?) is that offensive coordinator Robert Anae will be fired and replaced by quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman. We here at The Sports Bros have a documented disdain for Robert Anae (see here, here, and here), and we sincerely hope that these speculations come to pass.

However, with BYU going into independence and the promise for wide-spread exposure (or at least more than the Mtn. could offer), one has to think that there are some qualified OCs out there who would love to come coach Jake and Co.

Stay tuned. As soon as we hear about the the results of the shakeup, we'll post it. Until then, what are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Heaps has broken rib

It has been revealed, that true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps suffered a broken rib in the first half of the the Utah game in late November. Heaps continued to play in the game, and gave BYU a chance to win the game in the wanning seconds of the heart breaker, all with a broken rib under his non throwing arms shoulder blade.

Heaps will have to compete
 for his job next spring
Heaps also played with the broken rib in the cougars 52-24 blowout of UTEP in the New Mexico bowl. One couldn't have guessed, however, considering his offensive MVP trophy and the Cougars dominance on the offensive side.

Heaps ended his freshman season tossing 4 touchdowns, 3 to fellow freshman Cody Hoffman, completing 72 percent of his passes for 264 yards.

It has also been announced that Heaps will have to compete for his job next spring, with then senior Riley Nelson. One would think, considering head coach Bronco Mendenhalls statement, "might be the best ever," of cougar QB's, he has an upper hand in the matchup.

Not to mention is stellar performance in the last month of the season.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bronco catches another BIG WR recruit

According to sports writer Jeff Call, BYU has landed a big recruit at Wide Receiver, both in size and ability.

Josh Weeks, 6-4 190 pounds drove from his home in Arizona to Albuquerque to tell Bronco Mendenhall himself that he wanted to be a Cougar of BYU.  Weeks is most likely going to go on an LDS mission before enrolling at BYU in the 2012 season.

BYU also got another USC transfer in Hebron Fangupo, who follows Uona Kaveinga from the crumbling USC program. Kaveinga red-shirted this year after his eligibilty request was denied by the NCAA.  USC losing guys to BYU

Future looks bright for BYU, freshman

With the 2010 BYU football season coming to a close with a dominating 52-24 win over UTEP, Cougar faithful have a lot to look forward to come next year.

Jake Heaps, game MVP, continued to show his steady improvement and ability to manage the offense throwing 25-34 for 264 yards, with 4 TD strikes and 1 interception. Of those 4 TD tosses, three of them went to Cody Hoffman, who finished the game with 8 catches for 137 yards and 3 scores. BYU's running game, not to be overlooked, compiled over 200 yards on the ground with 3 TD's, led by 101 yards and a touchdown from Josh Quezada.

So why do these three guys make BYU's future look bright?

They are all freshman.

Hoffman continues to rise
With his 4 scoring passes, Jake Heaps moved past BYU great Ty Detmer as the all-time record holder for BYU freshman TD passes with 15 on the year (Detmer 13). Heaps ends his true freshman campaign with 2,316 yards passing 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Not blow you away numbers, but enough to turn this squad around and win a bowl game after a dreadful 1-4 start. He again showed his great ability to throw the long ball with touch, on 2 of his touchdown passes to Hoffman. Heaps showed the national audience (which was probably more than showed up for the game) what Cougar Nation has to be excited about come next fall when the Cougars begin their independence.

Cody Hoffman's presence wasn't only felt on the receiving end of Heaps passes, but also in the return game. He returned one kickoff for 51 yards, setting BYU up with a short field that eventually led to a BYU touchdown (as did most of their drives). Overall he averaged 25 yards a return along with 17 yards a catch. Hoffman ends the season with 42 catches, good for 527 yards and 7 scores, making him the leading receiver as far as yards and touchdowns go for the BYU offense.

Josh Quezada

With his second best rushing performance of his young career, Josh Quezada anchored the BYU ground game. Averaging 6.7 yards a carry on only 15 attempts while compiling 101 yards rushing, "Juice" showed what he can do, while combining moves with power throughout the game. His freshman totals for the season come in at 99 carries for 505 yards (5.1 yards per carry) adding 5 scores. With his 500 yards, that gives BYU 3 rushers with over 500 yards on the season, all of which return next year for this up and coming football team.

Much was made of BYU's turnaround this year. After starting 1-4, and suffering a infrequent loss to in-state rival Utah State, the cougars won 6 of their next 8. This just might be the best coaching job head coach Bronco Mendenhall has put together in his young 6 year career at BYU. The defense went from one of the worst rushing defenses in the country, to top 35 in the country during Bronco's time as defensive coordinator.

Bronco said he wanted "to find the heart of this team," and make it stronger. I think he did just that. What started as an obvious rebuilding year after losing 3 offensive stars (Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, Harvey Unga) all to the NFL, turned out to be a great building block for great seasons to come.

BYU returns 10 of 11 starters on offense next season, including the terrific trio of freshman. As long as they continue to gel, and Bronco continues to lead, we will continue to see this BYU team improve and take home wins. Wins that might even be worse than Saturdays route.

Heaps will compete for his job, but will Anae?

Last week Bronco Mendenhall announced that Jake Heaps would be competing for his starting job next spring, despite performing outstandingly in his last few starts. Will he apply the same pressure on offensive coordinator Robert Anae?

Most of Jake Heaps's early struggles can be attributed to the offensive coaching staff. First, the infamous quarterback controversy left BYU fans scratching their heads and Jake Heaps without enough reps to feel comfortable at the helm. The team wasn't comfortable, either. The offensive line was blocking for an option QB one series and a pocket passer the next. Receivers were blocking down field and catching softly thrown balls for one series and catching rockets the next. The entire team was off-kilter and everyone knew it. Except Anae.

When Heaps was finally handed the reigns (due to injury, not smart coaching) he was expected to throw 45 times in his first start and 55 times in his next. Anae, in typical bipolar fashion, called 22 passing plays and 66 running in a narrow win against SDSU.
Don't even get me started with the call-playing blunders against Utah. Bleacher Report's Scott Lambson chronicled that debacle here.

Long story short, without Anae's indecision, bipolar approach, and mistrust in Heaps, the Cougars could have 8 or 9 wins this season. With a bright new future and opportunities on the horizon, there have got to be qualified OCs lining up for the BYU job. Bronco needs to put the same pressure on Robert Anae that he has applied to Jake Heaps to keep his job.

Friday, December 17, 2010

BYU vs UTEP predictions

BYU coming in: They have won 4 of the last 6, with their only losses coming to #3 ranked TCU and #20 ranked Utah. The Utah loss, they actually dominated most of the game, going into the 4th quarter with a 13-0 lead, eventually losing on a blocked field goal, 17-16.

UTEP coming in:  The Miners have lost 5 of their last 6, with their lone win coming against bowl eligible SMU, 28-14.  Averaging less than 20 points per game in that 6 game span, while giving up an average of 29 points per contest.

BYU's Freshman QB coming in: Jake Heaps started the season a little shaky, showing his freshman growing pains. However, in the last 4 games, Heaps has thrown 9 TD's passes to only 1 interception. During that same span, the true freshman is averaging just below 250 yards passing a game (248.75) with 2.5 TDs a game. Throw in a rushing touchdown, and Jake Heaps has accounted for 10 Cougar visits to the endzone in the last month.

UTEP's Senior QB coming in: The senior QB holds most of the passing records for the school, however has been nagged by injuries the later part of the season. In UTEP's final 6 games, he averaged a measly 155.67 yards a game, with an average passer rating of  98. In that same span, he has thrown 8 interceptions to 5 touchdowns.

QB EDGE coming in:   BYU's Heaps. I know he is just a freshman, but he has been playing stellar football and nearly beat a ranked team in a hostile environment in his regular season finale. He has started to develop relationships with wideouts, and timing his routes better. He also has learned when he needs to put touch on the ball, and when to use his God-Given-Canon for an arm to get it in tight spots.

BYU running backs coming in: BYU has three rushers over 400 yards, and two over 500. One of those is true freshman Josh Quezada, and the others are Juniors JJ Di Luigi, and Bryan Kariya. These three backs give the Cougars 3 different styles of runners. Di Luigi is their finesse back, that has some nice moves, and can move the chains with longer runs, the cougars leading rusher as well as a receiver with over 400 yards receiving out of the backfield. This creates a duel threat, and can be hard to defend. Kariya is their I-back, power back. On third and short, Kariya is money everytime to convert for the Cougars. His big frame and powerful legs allow him to get a lot of yards after contact, and enough to give the cougars a fresh set of downs. Quezada, or 'Juice' as the Cougar faithful call him, has a nice combination of the two. His 211 pounds frame allows him to bang with the big boys, while at the same time having enough agility to make people miss and break out runs.

UTEP running backs coming in: Running back by committee it seems to be. With 5 guys running for over 200 yards, and 5 guys scoring on the ground, looks like UTEP likes to mix it up. Joseph Banyard has gotten most of the carries and yards (107 good for 612 yards). As a unit, they average a nice 4.7 yards per carry. That is impressive, and will test the BYU front 3. With 18 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns, this is a balanced team. The backs dont seem to catch a lot of passes out of the backfield, which makes them a little easier to defend, knowing they are strict runners or blockers.

RUNNING BACKS edge coming in: Hard to call this one, seeing as its pretty even. The top 3 rushers for UTEP are juniors and a senior, where for BYU there is 2 Juniors and 1 true freshman. I am going to call a toss up here, with a slight edge going to BYU for the sole reason that they are duel threats coming out of the back field to catch passes.

QUICK receiver roundup: BYU has 4 receivers with 30 or more catches. UTEP has 1. BYU has 4 receivers with 300+ yards. UTEP has 2.  UTEP seems to have established Kris Adams as their go-to guy, hence him brining in almost 1,000 yards receiver and almost 50 catches good for 20.8 yards per catch. The sad thing for BYU is that their leading receiver, is also their leading rusher and a RB. Cody Hoffman has emerged as a possible big play receiver. Cougar receivers have been prone to drop easy passes this year, so look for that to play a role in tomorrow's bowl game.

Little Bro's pick: I like BYU in this one. I think they are playing better right now, and pieces are falling into place. Their defense has been stellar lately, while UTEP's offense has been sputtering. Heaps isnt playing like a freshman, and Vittatoe is banged up.

 I am calling a 38-17 BYU victory in the New Mexico Bowl. 

Jake Heaps throws for 300+ yards with 3 scoring strikes, and JJ runs for 75 yards with a TD. Defense gets a turnover that converts into points for the Cougars. BYU walks away with a relatively easy bowl win, and a great building block for the future.

Another Chance for John Beck

ESPN is reporting here that the Washington Redskins are benching Donovan McNabb to see what Rex Grossman and John Beck can offer the team. Now that the Skins have been eliminated from playoff contention Mike Shannahan is taking this opportunity to make his documented distrust for McNabb official.

Big Bro's thoughts: Although Shannahan has expressed that he thinks that Grossman gives them a chance to win, Chicago fans can attest to his Favre-like, schizophrenic play. On the other side of that coin is Beck, who has not really had a a fair shot at starting in the NFL. This could be an opportunity for Beck to earn a starting job if Grossman throws a few picks.

ESPN link

Here is ESPN's Andrea Adelson's thoughts on the New Mexico Bowl

ESPN's thoughts on the game