BYU’s Winning Formula, Part II: The Offense

Jon EllsworthContributor ISeptember 27, 2008

Even though BYU had the week off, let’s take a look at what they have in their bag offensively.

In Part I, we took a look at the overall picture of BYU football. BYU has a history of offense descended from great West Coast minds, but oddly enough, created from scratch for the program by a guy named Dewey Warren.

It evolved through the years as other offensive minds, such as Mike Holmgren, Brian Billick, and Norm Chow grabbed prior work and elaborated, incorporating West Coast principles into pro-style offense.

Today we have evolved even further. Robert Anai began a simple offense that had few plays and a basic spread set. He was going to pass, and pass a lot. Lucky for BYU, Anai recognizes talent when he sees it.

Although Max Hall has proven himself to be a capable quarterback, he hasn’t exceeded the play of prior BYU QB John Beck in any way. Beck was a surgeon on the field. Hall has modest numbers and hasn’t been extremely flashy with his performance, but he hasn’t had to. He won’t give away a game this year.

One huge reason for BYU’s success and Max Hall’s relatively quick ascension as a star QB is BYU’s backfield. BYU has often had good running backs, but none as impressive as Harvey Unga.

When you scout a running back, there are some distinct features you can look for. The features are speed, agility, awareness of blitzes, punishing running, vision, and hands. Unga has these all.

Watching him run, you can expect him to approach the hole under control and possibly bounce outside with a burst of speed. He’ll fly around the corner and downfield. When he finally gets surrounded, he lowers his pads and puts 230 pounds of punishment on defenders.

If he finds the hole inside, watch him pound for as many as he can get. He doesn't go down easily.

BYU is one of the only teams in football that runs the H option play. H option sends the running back upfield about three yards, where he’ll read the defender closest to him for man or zone coverage and choose an angle, out, or curl path. BYU runs a tight end over the top of the running back’s path to occupy defenders.

This play is almost guaranteed five yards when Unga touches it. It is extremely high percentage completion and yardage thanks to Harvey.

Harvey is the brightest star on this offense and the key to its success so far. Because he does so much, it is hard to key on him—not to mention that the rest of the offense has the talent to make you pay for singling him out.

Fui Vakapuna supplements Unga in the backfield as a fullback or second running back threat. Unga occasionally blocks for him. Fui is not the Fui of old—dominating and physical running style and ridiculous enthusiasm for even one yard—but he is potent in the role he plays.

BYU has stellar tight ends: The eighth-leading receiver in the nation is Dennis Pitta, BYU tight end. Andrew George is the second option—both have golden hands and can contribute on the line. 

BYU’s receivers might be their weakest position on offense, though they are a stellar group as well. Austin Collie is as fast as anyone in college football and has hands to match the speed. He is dependable and tough—a far cry from the receivers of the Gary Crowton days.

Michael Reed is out with an injury lately, but he is a legitimate deep threat as well as a tough possession receiver. Overlooking these wideouts is a bad idea.

In these times of spread offenses and modified single-wings, BYU is at its best with base personnel: two running backs, one tight end, and two wide receivers. It would be tough to find another team in football that could boast a potent short, medium, and long yardage offense from a base personnel group.

Even with this potent group, any substitutions do nothing to take away from the potential of the offense. They have talent to match anyone here.

On Friday night, Oct. 3, watch for another shutout for BYU, with Utah State being the next victim of the Cougar.