Some Cougar fans may recall the Far Side cartoon with two deer in the forest, and one of them has a huge bulls-eye on one side. The other deer remarks: "Bad birthmark, dude."
Since Luke Staley broke his leg late in 2001, BYU's running corps has had a string of major and minor injuries one after another. Without healthy, productive horses in the stable, BYU head coach Gary Crowton's normal penchant for throwing the ball probably increased out of necessity when his running game all but disappeared – other than a few notable plays. That meant opposing defenses could "load up" against the BYU passing game even more, effectively placing a big bulls-eye on the chest of each of the offensive lineman.
It can't be any fun at all being on the offensive line when you have to back up into a pass blocking stance most of the time and play on your heels.
Ofa noted that Grimes is a technician and that he will be emphasizing getting the run blocking going. He also mentioned that people will be surprised how "nasty" a revitalized BYU offensive line will become. If true, that sounds like the tone of the 2001 offensive line.
It's still early to tell what will happen, but I think the offensive line players are tired of having a bulls-eye on their chests, and plan to do some attacking of their own.
If that mindset carries through to the running backs – and the coaching scheme and the passing game gets going with more athletic wide receivers and more experienced quarterbacks, the positive payback will be less pressure on the quarterbacks and more completions for touchdowns.
As a rough rule of thumb, I have written my belief (April issue of TOTAL BLUE SPORTS Magazine) that it will take about two 30-plus yard pass completions per half to reach the point where BYU's mighty vertical passing game begins to return.
The reason I picked two is that anybody can get lucky and hit one over the top. If you hit two per half, the other team has to wonder if you've got even more. It would force opposing defenses, and not the Cougar offensive line, to play on its heels.
I watched an hour-long TV special last night about the new movie about the Alamo. I was solemnly reminded the 200 or so brave men who fought and died there were far outnumbered by the Mexican army before they fell. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I think maybe a new day has dawned for BYU's offensive line. It takes time to turn a big ship around, but it sounds like coach Grimes is working the rudder.
With all the woes of last year's dismal season, I stay positive by remembering that we lost to Utah by three points and played USC tough after shooting ourselves in the foot in the first quarter – with a receiver corps that will be remembered for not getting open a lot or holding on to the ball when they got it; or a walk-on quarterback struggling with a suspect offensive line.
Indeed, the Cougars were not that far away from success in the Utah game, despite all of its deficiencies, because Bronco Mendenhall's defensive troops came ready to play.
Crowton move to shift Moa Peaua from defense to fullback may indicate his young offensive line needs a little help in the run blocking area. Crowton's previous notion that he didn't need to recruit a fullback, but will use tight ends instead may have been somewhat modified by experience.
The Xs and Os don't work so well without a fullback if the offensive line does not perform at a high level. All of the cute things the wide receivers or tight ends can do, on the chalkboard, go up in smoke if the offensive line is beaten, and the quarterbacks are rushed and crushed. Peaua's No. 1 blocking assignment at fullback, with positive early returns, boils down to this: pick off anybody who gets through with a full head of 260-pound steam.
If memory serves correctly, there were times last year when defenders reached BYU's quarterbacks in a hurry. Most of the time, it was because of a breakdown on the offensive line.
Peaua will likely be a good insurance policy. If he catches passes well out of the backfield, as he did as an All-State tight end/linebacker in Nevada, he will be a force to be reckoned with. His first job, however, is to seek and destroy.
The offensive line from last year doesn't need to see the new movie about the Alamo. They lived it in 2003.
Even if BYU does not finish with an undefeated season this fall, progress will be made if we have three units that go on the attack:
- Defense ( no worries, mate)
- Special teams
BYU's 2004 win-loss ratio will take care of itself if we attack aggressively and effectively.
Indeed, the Cougars had so few tools last year that the offense could not carry any attack very far – 16 points a game vs. 46 in 2001.
With the tough schedule ahead, I would consider it a great success if Bronco gave up 14 points per game on defense and Crowton's offense averaged 24 points per game – only eight points more than last year. For me, averages like that could translate to a 9-3 season or better, if Bronco can hold opponents to 14 points per game.
I won't lose sleep if BYU loses as long as they battled well in attack mode. What sticks in my craw is when they play not to lose rather than to win games.
Coach Grimes, in an earlier interview, referred to his days as a UTEP offensive line player, going up against BYU four times and losing four times – sometimes losing big. He knows exactly what the glory days of BYU offensive football felt like on the opposing benches.
When Ofa commented yesterday that coach Grimes was working the offensive line so hard that it was like having another Bronco as a coach, that was music to my ears.
BYU's necessary attack mode starts in practice. It involves an entirely different mindset and approach to getting things done. I'm thinking that Grimes brings to the offensive line what Bronco brought to the Cougars defense. Let's all hope it's infectious … offensively speaking.
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