Once news hit that Bronco Mendenhall was leaving Provo to take over the University of Virginia coaching job, speculation immediately ensued on who would be the next football coach. As we have learned ad nauseam, there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled in order to fill the head coaching position.
Needless to say, current Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae fits the bill and deserves at least a look at becoming the next great thing in Provo. Many believe that the reason Coach Anae came back to BYU was to take over for Bronco when he decided to ride off into the sunset. However, that has always been speculation with little hard facts to back it.
Regardless of that speculation, Dr. Anae has provided some good reason why he could be successful in a new position. In fact, you just have to look back at the last two seasons in order to see his contributions to the Cougar legacy.
Both years he had to play the majority of the games with a back-up quarterback. In 2014 it was Christian Stewart that led the team after Taysom Hill went down early in the year, and in 2015 it was freshman Tanner Mangum that took over for the injured Hill. Both quarterbacks played a different offense than Hill as they displayed different skill sets. Stewart and Mangum are less runners and more comfortable slinging the ball. Dr. Anae was able to make the adjustmets necessary to help these quarterbacks succeed in the Cougar offense even with questionable play by the offensive line and running backs.
Just putting some of this into perspective, in 2014 the Cougars boasted a passing offense ranked 26th in the country with an average of almost 280 yards per game. This year the Cougars upped their game to 21st in the country with almost 295 yards per game. And this is with a quarterback that was on his mission during spring ball.
Another telling stat is the fact that with Stewart at the helm the Cougars ranked 29th in the country in Red Zone Offense as they scored on 88% of their trips inside the 20. This year it was improved drastically as they jumped all the way up to 4th in the country, scoring in just less than 94% of trips into the Red Zone. Not a bad place to be for an offense.
One last stat you can look at is the scoring offense. In 2015 the Cougars ranked 14th in scoring offense at 37.1 points per game. With all the high scoring teams in the country, being top 15 isn't something to sneeze at. The scoring production took a bit of a dip in 2015, with a freshman quarterback, as they dropped to 34.2 points a game which was good enough for 34th in the country. Still top third with the future still to come.
Many point to his "predictable" play calling, which at times may be true, as a deterrent but he manages to mix it up enough to make it difficult for most teams to stop. Every coach can become predictable at times if you watch enough of their games. And really, all you need to look at to see how good he is as an offensive coordinator is to see how he set up Mangum to succeed. In fact, he set him up so well that Mangum was so successful that he managed to win the Freshman of the Year award from the Touchdown Club of Columbus. With so many great freshman players this year it was quite an impressive feat for Mangum, Anae, and the Cougar offense.
All the stats aside, one of the benefits Anae brings to the table is his ability to recruit the Polynesian Pipeline. Coach Anae has continued help the Cougars bring in players that come from this pipeline and have helped build the program at BYU to succeed. There may be others that can have success jumping into this role, but Anae is already there.
In all there are a number of positives that Dr. Anae can bring to the Cougars and if he hires the right assistants and coordinators he can be very successful. Just like Bronco, he may have to learn a few things while addressing boosters, fans, and the media, but this would become easier the more he wins. With Coach Anae, the Cougars could look to have success, but the question isn't how much success -- the question is how much of a look will he get from the BYU administration?