As John Maxwell so succinctly puts it, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
One of the glaring things that you notice about the 2010 version of the BYU Cougars thus far this season is a lack of leadership.
The departure of Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, Harvey Unga and Manase Tonga on offense, along with the losses of Jan Jorgensen, Matt Bauman and Scott Johnson on defense, left huge vacuums of leadership on this team that have yet to be filled.
BYU needs some of its veteran players to step up to the plate and become leaders within the program.
One of the keys to Bronco Mendenhall’s success over the last five years has been the ability to place a great deal of responsibility on his players and have those players respond by taking on leadership roles.
A leader isn’t necessarily someone that is vocal, in fact a person can talk all they want, but a true leader in the game of football is someone that gets it done on the field. Someone that the rest of the team knows they can rely on to make plays when needed, a player that instills confidence, belief and the will to win in his teammates.
As Maxwell puts it, “leaders are effective because of who they are on the inside.”
Offensively the Cougars need to be able to rely on a guy like wide receiver McKay Jacobson to assume the mantle of leadership. Jacobson was expected to have a big season this year, but so far he has been virtually invisible. He has just four receptions in three games for 39 yards and no touchdowns.
The receivers as a whole were expected to be one of the strengths of this team, but so far they have struggled to get open and have had several key drops on occasions when they have been able to get free. This receiving corps is in desperate need of someone stepping up to the plate and becoming a leader.
One reason the receivers have had a tough time getting open is because of the lack of production at tight end. Normally a staple in the BYU offense, the freshman tights ends have accounted for just 6 catches on the young season. That’s the reason the Cougars are experimenting with O’Neill Chambers at the position.
With his move to tight end, O’Neill has an opportunity to step up and show a new level of maturity as a leader. Mendenhall mentioned today in his press conference for the Nevada game that they moved O’Neill in an effort to get a veteran player at tight end that has the ability to make plays. Chambers ended up with two catches for 27 yards in his new role against Florida State.
Of course the key leadership position on any team is the quarterback. However, the quarterback merry-go-round situation at BYU has created another leadership issue. With neither quarterback feeling like this is “his” team, it is difficult to expect a great deal of leadership from your quarterback spot.
Bronco said today that it is becoming clearer as to who the starting quarterback should be. It is assumed that they guy he is zeroing in on is the true freshman Jake Heaps. Mendenhall said that he expects to publicly name a starter by this Wednesday.
Whoever it is, the Cougars need a clear starter that can grow into leadership and assume ownership of the offense. The team needs someone at the position that the players can rally around and get into a rhythm with. Without that happening it’s unlikely that BYU will have a winning season.
Defensively, Bronco likes his team to think and play as a collective. But the fact that the Cougars operate with a philosophy of having no “stars” on this squad doesn’t mean that the Cougar defense isn’t in need of leadership.
Veterans Andrew Rich, Jordan Pendleton and Vic So’oto are the guys that must step up on defense, rally the troops and hold their defensive teammates accountable. So far the Cougars have given up an a whopping 432 yards a game and surrendered nearly 29 points per contest. That’s not going to get it done.
With a prolific Nevada offense coming to Provo this week, the Cougars need someone, or perhaps a group of someones, to rally the forces on defense. The past two weeks have seen BYU give up nearly 700 yards on the ground. That must change or BYU will most certainly find itself 1-3 to start the season.
Somewhere, somehow the Cougars must find leaders who can help galvanize this team — and soon. If not, things could spiral downward in a hurry.