August 30, 2006

BYU Preview: Offense

With the game on Saturday approaching, much of the talk surrounding the game seems to be focused on the BYU offense, and rightfully so. The Cougars' offense is surely the strength of the team and it will have to perform if the Cougars are going to have any type of chance to win.

The offense starts with starting quarterback John Beck. Beck is the guy that makes the BYU offense go and the most intimidating player on BYU's offense in terms of skill and his ability to put points on the board.

Last season Beck ranked fifth in the nation with 309.1 yards a game and a large part of that has to do with his improving accuracy.

Since his freshman year, Beck's completion percentage has increased from 50.3 to 56.0 to 65.5 and while it is hard to imagine that percentage increasing yet again, the stats show a dangerous quarterback.

Not only does Beck put up the numbers but he also has the experience and leadership found with a senior quarterback.

In fact, Beck leads BYU in career games at quarterback, excluding BYU great Ty Detmer.

Beck also seems to have a nice poise in the pocket and is a player that seems to find a way to avoid the big hit. He is not going to tuck the ball away and run, but he will be able to dodge an incoming defensive player in order to make the tough throw.

The one thing that many feel Beck has against him is the fact that he has not proven he can win consistently. While he can surely put up numbers, he has to prove that he can beat the better teams if he wants to stake a claim on the list of great BYU quarterbacks.

While Beck put up the yardage against the likes of Notre Dame, Boston College, Cal, and Colorado State, he only had more touchdowns than interceptions in the game against Cal.

One thing that is a given with Beck is that he is going to be allowed to throw the ball much more than the average quarterback. Last season Beck threw 40 or more times in nine of the team's 12 games.

With all of the yardage that Beck is able to get, one must look at the weapons he has at his disposal.

The first noticeable thing about the receivers this season is that Beck's main deep threat is gone. Todd Watkins had nine touchdowns last season and the other receivers will have to step up if they hope to match his production. However, BYU will have to look towards a group of freshman in order to do so.

The top returning receiver is Nate Meikle, who had 292 yards last season. In addition to Meikle, Matt Allen returns from a season that saw him gain 272 yards and two touchdowns.

BYU also has sophomore Michael Reed, who had 236 yards and one touchdown, and senior Zac Collie, who finished the season with 158 yards and two touchdowns.

Since BYU rotates its receivers a lot, the Cougars will also count on newcomers Mike Hague and McKay Jacobson. Jacobson is most likely the better of the two, but neither is proven in a game situation.

With wide receiver lacking experience, don't be surprised if BYU turns to its tight ends even more than it did last season.

Tight end Johnny Harline is considered to be the Cougars' best receiver and his statistics from last season seem to back that claim up. Harline finished with 63 catches for 853 yards and five touchdowns.

Since BYU's receivers are green, we fully expect Harline to be used as the team's main receiver. He may not be a major deep threat but he is the type of player that will create match-up problems, especially with his position.

BYU will also not hesitate to use Daniel Coats in certain situations, though it remains to be seen if he can bounce back from a disappointing season. At the very least he adds nice depth to an offense that is not afraid to use everybody in their arsenal.

One misconception about BYU is that it does not have a solid running game. However, the Cougars' running game often gets overlooked because instead of using the run to open up the pass, the Cougars use the pass to open up the run.

BYU's main running threat is senior Curtis Brown. Brown earned first team conference honors by rushing for 1,123 yards and 14 touchdowns. He is only the seventh running back in BYU history to go over 1,000 yards and also caught 53 passes for 454 yards, ranking 36th in all-purpose yards with 131.4.

BYU will rotate Brown and Fui Vakapuna. Vakapuna is a different running back than Brown as he likes to punish the defense with his 6-foot-0, 229 pound frame. BYU will be able to keep the backfield fresh and it should be the best combination of talent that it has had in a while.

Moving to the offensive line, BYU has a very solid unit, until you look at itsdepth. The Cougars have little to no depth, but the starters they do have are quite good. However, they are susceptible to being worn down.

The offensive line is led by Jake Kuresa, who has been starting for three years at right tackle. At 6-foot-4 and 339 pounds, Kuresa is BYU's best pass blocker and one of the better linemen in the conference.

In addition to Kuresa, there are two starters returning in left tackle Eddie Keele and sophomore guard Dallas Reynolds. Reynolds is coming off of freshman All-America honors.

While BYU has some experience on the offensive line, they also have some voids. The Cougars are hoping Sete Aulai can step up as they lost one of their top offensive linemen in Lance Reynolds.

Now that we have gone over the BYU offense, here are five things that Arizona must do defensively if it is to win the game.

Arizona's 5 Keys to
Defensive Success
1. Put pressure on Beck:
Arizona can't let Beck set his feet and pick his receivers. Even though the Arizona secondary is strong, Beck is simply too good of a quarterback to let him sit back and throw. Expect Arizona to use a lot of different blitz packages in hope of keeping Beck off balance.
2. Contain the run:
If BYU is able to run the ball then Arizona will be in trouble. BYU will be able to completely open up its offense and Arizona will not be able to really focus its defense. On the other hand, if Arizona is able to shut down the run, it will be able to play towards the pass a little more, thus making it more difficult for BYU to move the ball.
3. Contain John Harline:
It will be very difficult to do, but Arizona can't let him go wild. The linebacker s must step up and contain him, thus not allowing him to get open deep. If Arizona can keep him to short catches, the defense will be in great shape.
4. Don't let the receivers get deep:
BYU is lacking the deep threat it had last season, but that does not mean it is not capable of going deep. The cornerbacks must be able to keep the BYU receivers in check. Again, if Arizona can limit BYU's offense to shorter gains, the Wildcats should be in great shape.
5. Force turnovers: This really is a key in every game but with BYU's defense at a mismatch, one turnover could really hurt its hopes of winning. BYU is most likely going to need to score a lot of points to win and in order to do so, must not turn the ball over. If Arizona can disrupt momentum by forcing an early turnover, it could be a long night for the Cougars.

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