Familiarity breads confidence and confidence breads success. At least that is the case for the players on BYU’s offense this spring. The familiarity with and confidence in the scheme of Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae combined to produce a Cougar offense that is a step quicker than last season.
“The offense is a little bit faster than before,” said BYU receiver Saia Hafoka. “It’s the same but it just feels faster and everybody knows the system now. There a no-huddle aspect to the offense and everyone understands and feels more comfortable with their positions within the offense now, so it’s faster.
“Everyone knows the system now. Last year everybody was just trying to get into it, learn the plays and understand their rolls within the offense. That’s not the case this year so everything is just smoother and faster.”
Increased speed is not the only benefit of having a full year in the new offense. Familiarity with the scheme allows Hafoka to focus on other parts of his game.
“I go in having more confidence and feeling more comfortable knowing what I can do and what I need to do,” said Hafoka. “Knowing what I know going into this year has helped me to understand more on what I need to do to improve on. All of this has helped me to understand how I can run better routes and make better blocks as an H receiver.
Hafoka used the last 12 months to do more than learn the offense. He also worked to get back into shape after spending two years in Nicaragua as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hafoka feels like he has finally recovered from the effects of two years without serious physical training.
“I feel like I’ve shaken some of the rust from my legs,” he said. “I feel a little stronger and put on some weight from last year. I’ve put on about 10 pounds, so I’m feeling better and trying to get stronger in the weight room. My routes are a lot better than last year also.”
Hafoka plays the inside receiver position called the “H” receiver. The position is comparable a traditional slot receiver. It is the position played by Academic All-American Nathan Meikle last season.
“At the H position, I think we’ve got the best routes,” said Hafoka. “The coaches gave those to us, and we’ve just got to get it and turn up field and make something of it.
“One thing we do is just open up routes. We try to open up routes for the other inside receives like the Y. We turn linebackers and turn safeties to open that part of the field up, and basically, the Y receivers will do that for us too. They’ll turn their linebackers and safeties and open that up for us as we come in right behind them, so it’s a lot of fun for the inside guys to be doing this to the defensive guys.”
BYU’s inside receivers do not just serve as decoys. They also catch a lot of passes and help the running game.
“The Y and the H receivers try to spread it out not only for the passing game but also so we can be more effective running the ball,” Hafoka said. “They may cover us thinking we’re going to pass but then we run it, but we’ve already got the linebackers or safeties committed to coverage.
“There’s a lot of times were we work on our blocking, so we’re not only catching. They may think we’re passing because we have this many receivers out but then we don’t. We have to have our blocking down in order to not only deceive the defense with our routes but also to be better blockers once we’ve got them thinking that. It’s a lot of fun.
Hafoka has been rotating at the H position in place of Meikle, who is nursing an injury. Andrew George has been playing the H position as well, which could provide BYU coaches with some interesting match-ups.
“Right now I’m rotating with the two’s and the three’s,” Hafoka said. “Meikle’s down so we’ve got George coming in at the H. He’s a bigger guy to block—a bigger tight end to come in and block linebackers and big safeties—but I’m just starting to get into it. I feel more comfortable this year.”
So how is the seesaw battle between BYU’s offense and defense shaping up?
“The defensive is improving,” said Hafoka. “They throw different stuff at us and had three down linemen all week until they put down four and brought up a linebacker. They’re doing different coverages down field that mixed things up for us, but I think we’ll be alright. We have a lot of big guys and a lot of targets that can still get open.”
This spring, BYU coaches have emphasized an infrequently used wrinkle from last season so that teams will have a tougher time matching up with Cougar receivers. The offense is picking up the pace by going no-huddle. The move is sure to frustrate and fatigue opposing defenses.
“With the no-huddle, they can’t change their defense,” said Hafoka.
“We started running it a little bit last year,” said fullback Manase Tonga about BYU’s no-huddle offense. “I like it because it’s faster paced. I’m not sure exactly why we’re going with a no-huddle but my thoughts are we had a lot of penalties with guys coming in and out so I’m thinking if we go to the no huddle we won’t run into those kinds of problems.
“It brings a higher tempo, an offensive rhythm and we’re bringing in the idea that the pressure is now more on the defense to keep up. It also keeps the defense off guard.”