Coach Mendenhall will soon begin his eighth season as the Cougar head coach. While his tenure has included five seasons with 10 or more wins and a top-25 national ranking, as well as five bowl victories, he said that he views this current time period as starting over, rather than continuing that same success.
“We are one of the best programs in the country if you use top-25 [rankings] and wins and those kind of things as the mark,” Mendenhall said, “and now what I’m really interested in is, starting from here, what else can there be?”
Mendenhall noted that top-10 rankings, and a national championship, are the next steps to achieve.
With Tuesday’s official announcement of the approval of a four-team playoff for college football, Mendenhall addressed how far away his program is from getting into the top four.
“If you judge by number of wins, not that far,” he said. “If you judge by, let’s say, the quality teams that we would play week in and week out, and then the number of wins, I think that’s the next step is continuing to build our schedule in a manner that has more difficulty, ‘cause strength of schedule will be one of the things I’m sure that will be determinant to get into one of those.”
The Cougar head coach noted that BYU being one of the top four teams will require an undefeated record with quality wins on the road and a great strength of schedule. He said it is important for BYU to get difficult, diverse, intriguing schedules.
Meanwhile, Mendenhall also emphasized improving the football program in other areas. He said he wants to make sure the program doesn’t just meet the industry standard when it comes to training methods, but goes beyond that and is innovative. He said the coaches need to all gain more knowledge and become master teachers and true experts in their craft, and cited the need for outsiders to come in and evaluate the football program.
Mendenhall also acknowledge the team’s traditionally slow starts beyond season openers, stating that while he has tried to avoid injuries in the fall, he may add more reps this fall in a competitive setting to get the team better prepared.
With the new offseason workout regimens being employed by the team and the staff’s recent involvement with outside coaching staffs – including the Oregon Ducks’ offensive coaches and the NFL’s Houston Texans’ defensive coaches – it seems that Mendenhall is walking the walk, and not simply talking the talk.
He emphasized that there isn’t anything in the football program that isn’t fair game right now.
“The idea of being satisfied or staying status quo is the exact opposite of how I feel currently,” Mendenhall said. “While I’m not gonna discount anything we’ve done – it’s been, I think, fantastic and remarkable – but I’m after more, and that’s the main message to our program.”
The same sentiment of achieving more and not being satisfied with what they’ve accomplished so far was echoed by numerous players at media day.
Star linebacker Kyle Van Noy, when asked about being the only FBS player in the country last year to record a stat in every defensive statistical category – in addition to blocking a punt on special teams – noted that it wasn’t enough to get his name out there.
“You have people that you look at and didn’t have stats like you did, but they get all the attention, so it’s just more fuel to my fire to do some more.”
But he said he doesn’t just want people to know his name, but rather to know about BYU and the Cougar defense.
As for what they can do better this year to help BYU achieve the recognition they desire, Van Noy said, “Win more games. That’s what you have to do – win more games, beat your rival, and play hard, and once you do that you’ll get more attention, and we just feel we’re disrespected here.”
Van Noy said it is similar to the disrespect that former Cougar basketball star Jimmer Fredette endured, as he was constantly underestimated, and then “everybody that plays him says, ‘Oh, he’s faster and he’s better than I think he was.’ It’s like [how] everyone says that about our team. You know, after they play [us], they’re like, ‘Oh dang, they’re really physical.’ ‘Dang, they’re faster.’ It’s like, it’s on tape! The tape doesn’t lie, so I think we’re just trying to get that out to people.”
Added Mendenhall, “ … each day, I’ve got to ask for more and get more out of myself, my staff and our players, because the standard is going up, and we’d like to be ahead of it.”