BYU Football in the past 10 years has been an interesting ride. Saw the end of a career for a coaching legend in LaVell Edwards, the first losing season in 30+ years, and the most wins in a four-year period in program history.
In that time, there have been countless talented players to come through Cougar Town. Here's my take on who the best-of-the-best have been for BYU football in the past 10 years.
Max Hall (2006-2009)
Hall was a heralded transfer from Arizona State when he arrived at BYU in 2006. He was expected to see mop-up duty behind John Beck in 2006, but that didn't pan out due to an NCAA regulation involving his mission getting shortened.
In his illustrious three-year career at BYU, Hall won 32 games--a school-record, and finished 2nd in school history for passing yards with 11,365.
Hall, from the first snaps he took against Arizona in 2007 to his last one against Oregon State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, was an outstanding competitor and always did what he could to win ball games. In my book, Hall goes on the Mt. Rushmore of BYU football quarterbacks; and when talking about BYU football's history with QBs, that says a lot.
Luke Staley (1999-2001)
When healthy, Luke Staley is the greatest running back in the history of BYU football. Period. End of discussion.
Staley was a gamer from Day 1. He came to BYU with all this buzz from Tualatin, Oregon, shattering Oregon high school records with 300 or even 400-yard rushing games. The guy was unreal. And at BYU he didn't do anything to disappoint.
Staley's first game of his career was against Washington on a Thursday night on ESPN. Staley had two touchdowns and the praise of Lee Corso saying he would want to go to battle with this kid. Then, of course, the praise of the massive Staley calves that became urban legend in his days at Cougar Town.
Staley's senior season, though, was the year that really sent him into another orbit. Newly hired head coach, Gary Crowton, implemented an offense suited for the talents of quarterback Brandon Doman and Staley, and it exploded for 608 points that season. Staley accounted for 24 touchdowns in only 11 games played. Staley should have been in 12 games if not for the dumb move by E.J. Caffero to not file Staley's transfer to another math class, leaving him ineligible for the New Mexico game...but we won't dive into that.
Staley is the only running back in BYU history to have earned the Doak Walker Award.
Curtis Brown (2002, 2004-2006)
The definition of consistency has to be Curtis Brown. Brown never fumbled a ball in his Cougar career.
Along with Brown's consistent play, he was always consistent to give some good press clippings to the media. Which at the time was needed in the program; he had the confidence that this program would get back to winning ways and he wasn't shy about it with his words.
Brown really broke out onto the scene his freshman year in 2002 with a 217-yard game against Utah State in place of injured Marcus Whalen. Brown redshirted in 2003. Then, over the next three seasons, Brown became the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,221 yards until Harvey Unga broke the record this past season.
Austin Collie (2004, 2007-2008)
A no-brainer here. Collie became the school's most prolific wide receiver with a career total 3,255 yards.
Prior to coming to BYU out of El Dorado Hills H.S., Austin wasn't even considering BYU. His plan was to attend Arizona State. Austin's brother, Zac, talked him into taking a visit to BYU and then committed after seeing the immediate impact he could have in the program because BYU was in dire need of wide receivers.
Collie definitely had an immediate impact, hauling in a game-clinching touchdown grab in his first collegiate game against Notre Dame.
Collie and Max Hall formed a real bond when Collie came back from his LDS mission in 2007, and the two were a terrific tandem. In 2008, Collie led the nation in receiving yards as a junior. After that outstanding year, Collie left for the NFL and has become one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets with the Indianapolis Colts.
Todd Watkins (2004-2005)
After the dismal 2003 season which saw BYU's streak of games without being shut-out come to an end, Gary Crowton was on the prowl for some talented JUCOs to bring instant offense to the team. Crowton got a big-time talent in the form of Grossmont JC's Todd Watkins.
Watkins was a mid-year enrollee and instantly was making an impact as a deep-ball threat in spring ball. He had Cougar fans excited again that the prolific aerial attack was back in Provo. They were even excited about the possibility of him kicking field goals as well.
Watkins made some acrobatic catches in his Cougar career. His performance in front of a nationally televised audience at Boise State had Sports Illustrated even taking notice, dubbing him as the best deep-threat in all of college football.
In 2005, with a new coaching regime and new offensive system, the deep-balls weren't coming as often but Watkins still had a productive season demanding numerous double-teams which opened things up in the offense.
Watkins is still in the NFL playing with the Oakland Raiders.
Dennis Pitta (2004, 2007-2009)
It's hard to imagine now that Dennis Pitta came to BYU as a walk-on, but that is the case when talking about the Moorpark, California native. Former head coach Gary Crowton loved Pitta's size and athleticism enough to offer Pitta preferred walk-on status.
Pitta had a great game against Air Force in 2004, hauling in two touchdowns.
In 2007, Pitta emerged as the front-runner over Vic So'oto to replace much heralded Jonny Harline. There was no drop-off as Pitta went on to be 1st Team All-Mountain West in his sophomore year.
Over the following two years, Pitta continued to improve in all aspects of his game, becoming a better blocker while getting bigger and faster.
This past season, Pitta became the first Consensus All-American at BYU since Luke Staley in 2001.
Matt Reynolds (2008-Present)
Matt is one of the numerous sons of long-time BYU assistant coach, Lance Reynolds. When Matt signed with BYU in 2005, many believed he would become the best Reynolds son of the group. As of today, those words would stand true as Matt has become BYU's best left tackle since John Tait in the mid 90s.
In 2008, Matt was the lone new starter on an offensive line that was senior-laden. Reynolds gave up a sack in his first game against Northern Iowa which resulted in a fumble, but since has been nothing short of dominant, despite numerous injuries.
Whoever the new quarterback is in 2010 can rest assured that the blind side will be protected for the next two years with Reynolds anchoring that spot.
Travis Bright (2006-2008)
One of the strongest men to ever step foot on the BYU campus, was a fixture at winning the annual team "Iron Man" competition.
Bounced back nicely from a devastating ACL injury in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl, and played the entire 2008 season with a rod in his leg.
Dustin Rykert (1999-2002)
Most memorable Rykert moment was during the 2001 Liberty Bowl when he scored BYU's lone touchdown that game.
A starting tackle on BYU's most prolific offense in school history. (2001)
Drafted in the 6th Round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Jason Scukanec (1998-2001)
Scukanec was a dominant two-year starter at the center spot, starting in all 26 games for the Cougars.
Scukanec has since went on to be a sports talk show host in the state of Oregon, where he once said during his days at BYU, players were taking steroids.
Jake Kuresa (2003-2006)
At Mountain Crest High School in Utah, Kuresa was one of the highest rated defensive line prospects in the country. Had offers from the likes of USC but turned them down to stay in-state and go to BYU.
In Kuresa's first year on campus in 2002, he switched to offensive line due to the season-ending injury of Ben Archibald. Despite the move, Kuresa still redshirted.
Kuresa saw time at all offensive line spots in his career and started in 47 games as a Cougar.
Jared McLaughlin (2005-2006)
In McLaughlin's short career at BYU, he became the school's most accurate kicker. Hit on 28 of his 37 field goal attempts and 104 of his 110 extra point attempts.
What's your opinions of this squad? Do you feel someone was missed? Discuss in the comments section.
All-Decade Defensive Team will be up tomorrow. So watch for that!