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Can BYU win the big one in football? Part II - Recruits

Money is only one aspect of winning a national championship in football, or any sport. There are many schools throwing big bucks at their athletic programs who aren't even in the top half of their conference, let alone vying for the big prize. The second leg of this stool is quality players. A quality player comprises many aspects but I will address here only the physical needs of what kind of players BYU should be recruiting. Signing day is close, I leave it to you to judge how well the BYU coaches did in their quest for the right players.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

You may have the facilities, but that doesn't win the game all by itself, you need the talent to go with it. The investment of $165 million by T. Boone Pickens in Oklahoma State has produced revenues of approximately $50 million a year.

Money enables national and international recruiting - BYU is a school with an international following. Football is just one of the sports BYU excels at. Rugby, volleyball, basketball, golf, track and field have all been very successful for BYU. Kresmir Cosic was from Yugoslavia and was a noted star that came to BYU. Recently Ezekiel Ansah and Paul Lasike arrived from foreign shores. There are others and the list would be long. The islands of the Pacific in have been fertile for BYU. The world should be our recruiting ground. The impact of BYU away games could be felt not only in football, but a host of other sports as well.

It might be hard to think in the terms that ESPN and independence gives BYU, but think of a BYU-Notre Dame game in Rome, BYU-Boston College in Dublin, BYU-Arizona in Mexico City, or BYU-Stanford in Tokyo. How about BYU-Hawaii in Auckland or Australia or someplace else, it doesn't matter really. No other collegiate sports program could reach out to its fan base like that. Any member of the LDS church is a potential loyal BYU fan if given the opportunity. That translates into the Ansahs and Lasikes of the world.

The reach of the BYU sports program could be coordinated to provide far more than just a football experience. At the right time of the year the BYU football team, volleyball team and basketball team could all be on the same 747 headed to some destination to play in most any country in the world. Think in terms of a December 6th football game in Tokyo in front of 60,000 fans screaming "banzai." You don't get that at Alabama, that's something only BYU can offer. BYU needs to think outside the box. They need to capitalize on the notoriety and exposure such games would provide, and the opportunity to recruit prototypical national championship athletes from around the world in many sports, not just football.

Coming back down to earth, BYU also needs to capture the LDS athlete that would go to Stanford, Utah State, UCLA, Clemson, Penn State and Wisconsin before they leave on their mission, if they do. The draw cannot just be, "if you are a worthy Mormon you go to BYU." I'll talk about that one in a later article. For a national championship, there must be more. There must be the promise, or at least hope, that if you play for BYU, you will be seen by every NFL scout in the country.

The prototypical athlete must be found at every position. Let's find out what that athlete looks like and their physical characteristics. Alabama has many, that is why they have 6-8 players a year drafted. LSU has six seniors that will be drafted this year in the top 100. BYU has one. Most BYU players end up free agents trying to sign on with a team and few last.

Let's break it down position by position. For a national championship team you want players that are future NFL calibre players. Being a good college athlete doesn't win you a national championship. Ty Detmer is one of the greatest college quarterbacks that didn't get BYU the glass ball. Following is a survey statistically of what the physical aspects of great players are or have been that BYU might consider as a blueprint for the type of player to look for at a position.

Quarterback - 6-2, 200 pounds to 6-4, 225. As memory serves (I cheated and looked them up) this would include quarterbacks like Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, Roger Staubach and our own Steve Young.

In this category BYU has potential as Jason Munns, Ammon Olsen and Taysom Hill all are in the spread. It is a terrible loss for BYU to lose Ammon Olsen. To lose Jake Heaps and Ammon Olsen brings up some very important questions. They need development and playing time. BYU does a very poor job of development and playing time obviously, remembering James Lark also. Riley Nelson was undersized just in case you didn't know. However, quarterbacks don't win you championships alone.

Running Backs - 6-2, 220 to 6-3 220. Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson and Franco Harris come to mind. Yes so does those under six foot like Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, even O.J. Simpson was only 6-1, but close enough within the average spread. A 5-9 running back is too small. Though many are successful in the NFL and college at 5-10. The smaller athlete at this position can't take the pounding from men who weigh 275-300+ pounds play after play. He also isn't strong enough to push them out of the way or keep from being brought down easily. Speed counts, and there is a place for the speedsters. Knowshon Moreno is 5-11, but the Broncos are looking for someone bigger and stronger. Marshawn Lynch is also 5-11, so I'm not saying there isn't a place for a man that is shorter.

Here BYU is close. Jamal Williams at 6-0 and 200 pounds is right in there, and look at his success. Algernon Brown at 6-1, 219 was a power at times. Adam Hine at 6-1, 202 has great promise and contributed. He needs to hit the weights and get 18 pounds of muscle on him. Michael Alisa was doing well before getting hurt, 6-1, 220. With the right backfield we need to look elsewhere for answers to the five lost games.

Receiving Corps - Tight Ends - 6-2, 220 to 6-5, 250. Think in terms of Kellen Winslow, Dave Casper, Shannon Sharp, and Jackie Smith. Big enough to block, not too heavy so they had speed, and strong enough to take on line backers and run over defensive backs.

Here BYU excels, sort of. The tight ends range from a low of 6-3 to 6-6 and weight wise are on target. So what happened folks? Devin Mahina by the numbers at 6-6 and 247 should have been a target over the middle that caught 6-7 passes a game and average 90-120 yards a game. The puny defensive backs and safeties just couldn't defend him but where was the ball? What about Kaneakua Friel at 6-5 and 261? He's on the NFL draft watch list. Why wasn't he used more? He should have been crossing over the middle annihilating line backers and defensive backs. But the tight ends were hardly a factor all year long and only showed up in a couple games.

Wide Receivers - There are two categories here. The scat back smaller fast guys, and the taller men like Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman. We'll take the second category. In that area the prototypical wide receiver is 6-2 to 6-3+ and 200 pounds. Both Apo and Hoffman get an A+ for physicality since they mirror men like Chris Carter, Jerry Rice, John Stallworth and Art Monk. The wide receivers for BYU, both tall and short were very worthy of their positions. One might ask why BYU needed 17 wide receivers on the roster instead of being deeper at other positions, but that question will come later.

Offensive Line - 6-5 to 6-6 and 260-295 pounds. Think along the lines of Gene Upshaw, Anthony Munoz, Bruce Matthews, Art Shell and Gary Zimmerman. Strong, fast, mobile, good hands and competitive. With a 6-3 quarterback behind them they weren't too tall to throw over, and weren't too short that a defensive lineman could reach up and bat balls down. The defense was constantly occupied by the strength and power of these men.

BYU had 21 offensive lineman on the roster this year. They ranged from 6-0 to 6-8. From 255 pounds to 350. What is astounding is few of them hit the height to weight ratio that would be the prototypical offensive lineman. A 6-0 317 pounds a lineman is too fat and carrying too much weight for his height. At 6-8 he is to tall to throw over. The arc of the quarterback's arm in his throwing motion has to be adjusted. Put the 6-8 and 6-7 linemen on the defensive line and now their reach and height interrupt the throwing angle and arc of the opposing quarterback. As big as BYU's offensive line was, they were also slow, over weight and had poor strength and conditioning. If there is any single reason BYU went 8-5 instead of 13-0, it is found at the O-Line. But we won't blame them alone, there was more than a single reason BYU lost 5 games.

Defensive Line - 6-5 to 6-6, 250-290 pounds. When we think of defensive linemen men like Merlin Olsen, Howie Long, Bob Lilly, Reggie White and Carl Eller come to mind. There is a reason for the most part they averaged 245-260 pounds. The first being fat is heavy to carry around and slows you down. Weight and mass is not as important as speed and strength. A fast lineman is better than a fat lineman. A strong fast lineman like Carl Eller or Bob Lilly doesn't need to weigh more than 250-260 pounds. Jadeveon Clowney is 6-6, 249 and will be the number one draft pick in the NFL this year. Ziggy Ansah is 6-5, 270. More please!

BYU carried 14 defensive linemen on the roster. They ranged from 6-1 to 6-7. Bronson Kaufusi at 6-7 and 282 and is a potential first round draft pick if he gets the right training and opportunities. He will follow Ziggy Ansah into the NFL and make an impact his first year. He just needs the right mentoring. Others are too short and too heavy. One of the key aspects of playing on the defensive line is a defenders span, or his reach up and out to bat a pass down. And being able to reach out and grab a passing running back. If your reach is only six feet, or barely over, you are at a disadvantage. If, as in Bronson's case, you reach your hand into the air like Ziggy Ansah and Kyle Van Noy you have a sizable target to throw over or around. It forces the quarterback to either back up, or pause, or throw through lanes which limits his choices, disrupts timing and aids other defensive players. A player on the defensive line under 6-2 does not produce that advantage to his team mates.

Linebackers - Linebackers are a mixed breed. Mike Singletary at 6-0 was a terror. Jack Ham, 6-1 and 225 of the Steelers was fearsome. BYU had 19 linebackers on the roster. John Madden once said the perfect linebacker was about 6-4 referring to Jack Lambert, 6-4, 225. Chris Doleman at 6-5, 270 had developed speed to go along with his size and strength. Derrick Thomas at 6-3 and 243 would be a perfect model.

Of the 19 linebackers on BYU's roster only 3 met that prototypical physique. Kyle Van Noy being chief among them at 6-3, 245. The numbers don't lie. They tell a story just like in the movie "Moneyball." Football is a game based on the laws of physics, not Xs and Os. It is mass, inertia, speed, weight, strength, and position. Once that foundation is solid, then it is a chess game of strategy, determination, wits and grit. BYU needs men of true grit that meet the physics foundation.

Defensive Backs - Defensive backs come in many sizes. In the past they were smaller, fast and mobile. Others were big enough to come up and help at the line or blitz packages. I think of Mel Blount 6-3, 205 and Rod Woodson 6-0, 200 and of course Deion Sanders, 6-1, 195. With receivers now reaching altitudes of 6-5 and 6-6 and taller, the 5-8 and 5-9 defensive backs will be a relic of the past.

BYU had 23 defensive backs on the roster this year. They ranged from 5-8 to 6-2. As a class, they were undersized and often slow. Some of the most memorable plays this year for me was turned in by Daniel Sorensen, 6-2, 208. I don't know why his name kept coming across the screen, or out of announcers lips, or still resonates in my mind. Perhaps it was the big plays he made and I made special attention to see who that guy was. Kai Nacua and Craig Bills, both 6-1 and 205, could be stars next year. They have the potential if they get the right coaching.

Conclusion - The conclusion is, BYU has great potential. Some players are too fat, too slow and playing the wrong position. Some players need to be told they are too short to play a defensive lineman or offensive lineman, or lose weight, build muscle, work on speed, and try another position. Perhaps a grey shirt year or red shirt year will enable some players to make the adjustments and contribute in a position they can excel at. That means coaches will have to take a serious look at who they recruit, and realign what they have, if they truly want a national championship. Les Miles did that with Oklahoma State, the same needs to happen here at BYU. After all the measurements are taken, the next leg of this stool holds it upright, and what success comes down to, coaching.

The next article will examine coaching.