If you’re like me, this can be dark time of year. The college football season is definitely over, the NFL Playoffs have almost taken us to the Super Bowl and we’re only a few weeks away from losing football for several months. Yes there will be the NFL Combine and Draft. There will be spring ball. But we won’t see any real football until the end of the summer. It’s sad and I already miss it. Until pitchers and catchers report, my one solace is that I get to watch almost every single BYU hoops game on BYUtv. No pressure on Dave Rose or the BYUtv crew, but you're carrying us all on your shoulders at this time of year.
I've thought a lot about what football story lines will likely be the most discussed of the season. I've seen that there are a few that I keep coming back to. So here are some of my thoughts on what we're looking at from football over the next several months.
And then there was one
In 2010 BYU had too many quarterbacks. In 2011 BYU flipped and flopped between two starters. Will there be enough quarterbacks in 2012? At the beginning of last season I wrote a post (on my old blogging home) that suggested Lark be named the number 2 behind starter Jake Heaps. We’ve all come a long way. Knowing what we know now, the race to be the number 2 man is going to be important. On a recent episode of the Rise and Shout podcast, Adam and I discussed the over/under on amount of games Riley Nelson will miss due to injury on 2012. It sounds like many people believe that he will miss at least one and perhaps more. Will James Lark be the man who steps up and is ready to start when Nelson goes down? Lark has never been a serious part of the quarterback discussion and has only thrown 9 passes in games for the Cougars. Perhaps the most interesting component of this story is what it would mean for the offense. Bronco has mentioned that he is interested in pursuing more mobile quarterbacks in the future. Perhaps we could see Ammon Olsen return from his mission to the second string role. The selection of the backup quarterback in 2012 will be just as important, if not more so, than it was during the era of Team Heaps vs. Team Nelson.
In 2011 Brandon Doman faced a baptism by fire in his first year as the offensive coordinator. Adding to the complexity of adjusting to his new role, Doman did not elect to hire a replacement quarterbacks coach. Some have cited this as part of the reason for young quarterback Jake Heaps’ struggles. Will BYU pick up a quarterbacks coach this offseason? Who might be a good candidate? Steve Young recently said that if it would help Tanner Mangum get back into form after his mission he would personally come to Provo and coach return Elder Mangum in 2014. Could the Cougs pick up Brigham Young’s namesake earlier than that to help run the Riley Nelson led offense? Probably not, but Doman would do well to find a QB coach. I am not sure who will fill the role, but as the off season gets longer talk of potential candidates will likely fill the football void.
As long as BYU football lives as an independent, there will always be the question of scheduling. Currently BYU’s 2012 looks like a decent schedule. There are still some dates and things to be worked out, but it should be a fun season to watch. The schedules beyond that have some gaps to be filled and games to be worked out. For me, this is one of the great benefits of operating as an independent. There will always be opportunities to play new teams and develop interesting rivalries. The more the lack of football leads to boredom you may also find yourself discussing the future of the rivalry with Utah. With the Pac-12 coming to a scheduling agreement with the B1G, the rivalry was dealt a second blow following both schools departing the MWC. The agreement with the B1G will be in full effect by 2017, which casts some serious doubt on the future of the "Deseret Duel" beyond that time. For the foreseeable future, the scheduling saga is going to be a compelling offseason story every year.
Matt Reynolds will be playing in the Senior Bowl this weekend. Most of the projections I see have him going sometime in a later round of the draft. Looking back to where he was project for the 2011 Draft, I think many fans feel like his stock has dropped after the 2011 campaign. Where a guy like Matt Reynolds can set himself apart will be his performance at the combine and how he interacts with the coaching staff at the Senior Bowl. I am sure that he'll interview well and will strike NFL suitors as a mature and well adjusted prospect. BYU fans see him as a beast of a lineman who got the job done. It was fitting that what may be his signature moment came in the final game of his BYU career when he, without helmet, threw the block that allowed Riley Nelson to throw a key TD pass in the win against Tulsa. I believe that Matt Reynolds has the skills to perform at the next level. However, I don't see him as a left tackle in the NFL. He may need to adjust to playing on the inside if he really wants to succeed.
There are two great things about this stretch on the calendar. The combination of the conference and NCAA Hoops tourneys and the unexpected football stories. It's the unexpected off season stories that could turn out to be more interesting than any of those I have talked about here. I'm looking forward to see how all of this shakes out.