The future is bright for BYU football, and there is plenty of credit to go around. But here we take a look at the 14 people who may hold the key to success this season, and in the many outstanding seasons to come.
Each name on the list brings something a little different. Some are obvious, others less so. But in the end, as BYU returns to its place as a perennial top-10 program, there will be many oars in the water.
And no, Cosmo isn't one of them.
You can follow Ryan's BYU talk and updates at twitter.com/SportsGuyUtah
There’s no denying it. Players make plays and no BYU player has as much to offer the future of the program as Jake Heaps.
It’s hard to argue Heaps did anything less than meet or exceed expectations in his freshman year. After he finally got the full time job and a couple games under his belt, the Cougar offense showed the explosiveness of offenses past.
He could become what Cougar fans hoped Ben Olson would be: The next Ty Detmer.
With a schedule full of opportunities (yet winnable games) and a new coordinator instilling in the O a discipline and confidence unseen in Provo in decades, Jake could be the man to lead the Cougars into a new millennia of Quarterback U.
OK, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but these next two guys are big.
The risk Tom Holmoe took in going independent, and the immediate results that followed were nothing short of insane and incredible. At an institution where conservatism and deliberation rule, Holmoe delivered in an instant, and all signs show it was an awesome move for the school.
I know, I know. It's totally unoriginal. But let's not forget what happened last year.
Bronco fired...ahem...had his defensive coordinator resign mid-season after one of the worst losses defensively in program history.
And seven games later the Cougars looked like they could stop anyone.
Bronco brings a whole new level of discipline and work-ethic to a unit that drives successful contribution from each player and delivers an unarguably better whole. He's one of those guys you'd never want to work for, but you'd clamor to have him work under you.
His involvement in the defense day to day will have a lasting effect on points allowed.
And he brought this next guy to do the same on offense.
To diehard Cougar fans, this is a no-brainer. The former Cougar star QB has already made a huge impact on the offensive side of the ball and the optimism emanating from Provo is palpable.
While the offense struggled early last season as a multi-QB system stifled continuity, the unit rebounded and showed a tremendous amount of potential.
And with the departure of predictable and less-than-charismatic Robert Anae, this unit is Brandon Doman’s to command. Doman brings much more passion and relatability, and players really responded in spring.
While this year is just one season, the pieces are all there for Doman to really make BYU an offensive juggernaut again. The prominence this season offers in ESPN exposure gives Doman a chance to showcase the offense to draw top recruits for decades.
Can a receivers coach really make a difference? Maybe.
Can one receiver make a difference? Ben Cahoon did when he was at BYU.
My answer is “yes” on the former. Cahoon brings to BYU a resurrected attitude in wide receiver play, and one that helped the men on the outsides and slots overachieve for decades in Provo.
To Cahoon, it’s all about effort, route running and hands. In his day (and himself, by his own admission) receivers didn’t have the best athleticism, but they succeeded by working harder, running better routes and going after the ball better than anyone in the country. And he made a decade-plus living in the CFL with the same mentality.
Now, he can bring that back to BYU. And this time, the receivers have a ton of talent and athleticism to go with it.
Before you spend an hour scouring the depth chart for an obscure defensive back, I’ll save you the suspense: Burke Mangus is the VP of Sports Programming at ESPN.
OK, so he’s not technically with the BYU program. But he has the power to send Erin Andrews to Provo. And you can argue he IS the program. After all, if BYU wins a bunch of games and nobody is able to see it, did they really win anything?
Mangus has the power to make BYU the Boise State of this decade. A nationally loved underdog story about a David program just looking for a shot at Goliath. And it’s a property they own exclusive first rights to.
Mangus and The Mothership have already helped the Cougars land huge, nationally interesting games with the likes of Texas, West Virginia, TCU, Notre Dame and more.
If the slate continues over the next decade, and BYU gets some big wins, Provo will be on everyone’s college football map. We may be mentioning Mangus and Holmoe in a more hallowed fashion than Edwards and Chow.
OK, it sounds crazy, but bear with me. There’s no doubt Jimmer brought exposure, praise and success to the Cougar basketball program.
And you’re kidding yourself if you think it doesn’t affect football. Ask the recruits at the BYU basketball home games this season if that experience played a factor.
But that’s not really where it makes a difference anyway. It’s in exposure. There’s not a football player in the country who, if getting a call from BYU, wouldn’t know who they are right now. Jimmer created such a sensation and exhibited such a humble confidence and success that captivated the sports world.
Should Jimmer make the jump to the NBA and find success there, it will continue to drive interest and exposure for the institution that is BYU, and the football program that is the subhead on its banner.
This may be an odd addition to the list for some, but the former Cougar-turned-NFL-tight-end-turned-Athletics-Administrator will be a key cog in the success of the Cougars on the gridiron in coming years for two reasons:
First, it puts a successful former NFL player in the office in addition to Tom Holmoe. If there’s one thing missing from the Cougar coaching staff, it’s an all-pro NFL guy. I know, it doesn’t make a difference in wins and losses, but it makes a difference to top recruits who want to work with people who know what it takes to make it to the next level. Chad, while not on the staff, brings that to the program through the office.
Also, as the man responsible for fundraising, Lewis has the reputation and notoriety to drive the donations it takes to make by a D-1 power.
The offensive line returns three seasoned starters this season and Terence Brown is one of them. The 6’4" senior is on the Rimington watch list for the nation’s top center.
Brown will anchor a line which has its work cut out with games in the humidity in Oxford, Mississippi, Austin, Texas and Dallas. So why is Brown important to the future of the program?
While BYU gets a lot of press for its QBs and TEs, the O-line has been as impressive as any corps in recent years. The continued success of Cougar lineman in college and the NFL fuels the future recruiting of quality big-guys to protect what’s sure to be a serious prolific passing game.
After all, there are a limited amount of Reynolds brothers. Speaking of which…
The 6’6", 325-pound offensive lineman brings a full three years’ experience to the line this season. In what has become an incredible career for a lineman, Reynolds has been a staple in front of Max Hall and Jake Heaps and will be relied upon heavily again this year.
But important to the program is the fact that Reynolds is a projected first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft. Following a draft where no Cougars were taken, Matt’s ability to get taken in the first round will renew in the minds of lineman that BYU is a destination for future NFL pass and run blockers.
We were all blinded by the brilliant future of Josh Quezada’s at BYU. There’s no doubt he has the skill and ability to become what Harvey Unga may have been in his senior season, and what we haven’t seen since Luke Staley.
But let’s not forget about JJ Di Luigi, who plays a perfect ying to Quezada’s yang. While the latter has bone-crushing power, Di Luigi has the burst necessary to hit the outside and turn the corner, spreading out the defense and opening the middle of the field for Heaps and Hoffman to hookup.
Like Quezada, Hoffman showed us flashes of greatness in the latter-half of last year that have us giddy for the 2011 season.
But his importance to the programs extends off the field. Hoffman comes from a small school in a small town in northern California. And he’s not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints.
Why does this all matter? Because if BYU is going to become the power is wants to be, it needs to find talented kids who aren’t from the Mater Deis of the world, but who are willing to come to BYU to play very good football in a religious environment.
Success from Cody Hoffman could lead to a formula for future recruiting.
Another head-scratcher if you don’t know his name, but there’s some importance in his story.
Kaveinga committed verbally to BYU, but pulled a switcheroo on fans and family on signing day, choose USC over the Cougars.
But a year later, Kaveinga felt he made a mistake and has transferred back to the Y. The first part of his story is not unique. We’ve seen the Manti Teo and Haloti Ngata story play out before. But in those two cases it worked out for the players on the field.
Kaveinga has sat out his year and now has the chance to show future players that can football and religion can both be satisfied at BYU. A successful couple season and a shot at the NFL might give future recruits less reason to think about more prominent schools if they can have the whole ball of wax at BYU.