Tag:J.J. DiLuigi
Posted on: March 14, 2011 12:03 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: BYU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at BYU , who opens spring camp today.


Spring Practice Question: Can the BYU offense catch up with its defense?

Pop quiz, hotshot, and no cheating: was it BYU's offense or their defense that finished some 42 spots behind the other in national total yardage and managed to get its coordinator fired midseason?

If you said "defense" you're ... partially right. It's a trick question, since Bronco Mendenhall dismissed previous defensive boss Jaime Hill immediately following the Cougars' embarrassing 31-16 capitulation to traditional in-state punching bag Utah State on Oct. 1. But in the wake of that move, the Cougar defense improved dramatically, holding six of their final eight opponents to 21 points or fewer as BYU rallied from a 1-4 start to a 7-6 finish. When the dust had settled, the Cougar defense had posted a perfectly-respectable 24th-place finish in the FBS in total defense.

That should tell you, then, that despite the program's longstanding (and Steve Young/Jim McMahon know we mean long) reputation for aerial circus offenses and broken scoreboards, it was primarily the Cougar offense that kept BYU from getting over the .500 mark until a waltz past UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. Behind the platoon of true freshman Jake Heaps and junior Riley Nelson -- and eventually just Heaps, after Nelson was lost for the year with a shoulder injury in late September -- the Cougar quarterbacks finished 100th in FBS with a miserable 115.09 quarterback rating. Though often-overlooked Cougar running game wasn't terrible (42nd in rushing offense, earning 4.2 yards per-carry), it wasn't nearly explosive enough to offset the ugly, flailing passing attack through the season's first half. Though Heaps eventually got his feet underneath him, the Cougars scored just 16 points or fewer six times--and lost all six. Their final finish in total offense? 72nd, a 52-spot drop from the top-20 unit of 2009.

The good news for Cougar fans is that if the secondary can be rebuilt -- three of the four 2010 starters have graduated, including first-team All-Mountain West safety Andrew Rich -- the defense should be able to maintain the gains of late 2010. Mendenhall took over the defense himself in the wake of Hill's departure and will stay in that capacity this season; with his oversight and five members of the starting front seven back, BYU should be particularly stout against the run. (The two losses in that front seven, all-league defensive end Vic So'oto and leading tackler Shane Hunter, aren't insignificant. But up-and-coming talents like sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy, junior tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna and junior linebacker Brandon Ogletree should keep things intact.)

So what about the offense? There's several big reasons for optimism:
  • Start with Heaps. After his rocky start, he looked every part the prototypical BYU quarterback down the stretch, putting together a 13-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his final five games and averaging a robust 8.2 yards per-attempt in that span. Not coincidentally, BYU went 4-1 in those five games with the loss by a single point to Utah and the wins by an average of 37 points.
  • Four members of the 2010 starting offensive line return, including two-time first team All-Mountain West selection Matt Reynolds. With a future NFL left tackle to build around, the second-fewest number of sacks allowed in the MWC a year ago, and an abundance of experience, the Cougar line should be poised to improve by leaps and bounds in 2011.
  • The return of all three of the Cougars' top rushers from 2010, including senior J.J. DiLuigi (917 yards) and sophomore Bryan Kariya (537). BYU may also get a spark from sophomore Joshua Quezada, who averaged an impressive 5.1 yards a carry as a freshman.
  • The top three receivers return as well in another dynamic sophomore, wideout Cody Hoffman (527 yards), DiLuigi (443 out of the backfield) and senior McKay Jacobson (410). Though the Cougar wideouts will have to do more to stretch the field (no receiver with more than 8 catches averaged more than Hoffman's 12.6 yards per-reception), Hepas won't lack for options to target.
  • Though it will be his first season calling plays, new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman has enough of a pedigree at BYU to believe he'll be able to continue the Cougar high-flying offensive tradition.
So things look promising ... on paper. We'll find out this spring practice if Mendenhall and the Cougars can actually put that potential into, well, practice. Is Heaps ready to take the next step into stardom? Can DiLuigi (or Quezada?) find that extra bit of explosiveness that would make the Cougar running game really hum? Is the line ready to perform to expectations? Is Doman fully up to the task?

With this being BYU's first season to prove their plan for football independence can work ... and the defense in position to turn this into a special season if the offense pulls its weight this time ... and the schedule kicking off with a challenging at Ole Miss -at Texas -vs. Utah slate for the first three weeks that will leave little time for adjusting on the fly ... there may be no better time for the answers to those questions to be "yes."
Posted on: December 19, 2010 2:56 am
 

Bowl Grades: New Mexico Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Final score: BYU 52, UTEP 24

BYU

Offense: We'd wanted to see BYU get Jake Heaps rolling early, and did he ever. The freshman quarterback continued his hot streak from the last month of the regular season with another four-touchdown effort, and the running back tandem of J.J. DiLuigi and Joshua Quezada kept the chains moving late, combining for 199 yards on 35 carries and two second-half touchdowns. The Cougar offense rolled to 31 points on its first five possessions and never looked back en route to BYU's greatest scoring output in its bowl history. Grade: A

Defense: On UTEP's first five possessions, the Miners managed one first down: a 12-yard pass on their first play from scrimmage of the entire game on a drive that went nowhere. Even on UTEP's one scoring drive of those five, the drive went backwards 13 yards and resulted in a 52-yard field goal. Don't read too much into the Miners' eventual point total of 24 points; all three touchdowns came on deep passes and the last two were with the game well out of reach. Grade: B+

Coaching: Bronco Mendenhall faced a not-insignificant challenge in motivating his players to put the frustrations of a 6-6 regular season behind them and get focused for a 6-6 opponent from Conference USA in a bowl whose concept seems like some weird parody of serial excess, like CSI: Topeka or Backgammon With The Stars. But the Cougars came out firing and completely outclassed their opponent, and Jake Heaps avoided any regression to his early 2010 self in shredding the Miner defense. Grade: A

UTEP

Offense: One of our keys to success for UTEP was seeing QB Trevor Vittatoe connect with star receiver Kris Adams for big plays, and on that front, the two most certainly delivered; Vittatoe found Adams for 153 yards on three catches -- all touchdowns -- over the course of the game. Problem was, none of them brought the Miners to within any less than 21 points, and if Adams wasn't burning his man deep, he wasn't doing much of anything ... and neither was the rest of the Miner offense. Joseph Banyard , a reserve tailback who saw his role diminish with the team over the course of the year, was the Miners' leading rusher -- with two carries for 11 yards. Vittatoe was sacked so often that the Miners ended up with negative rushing yardage. The bombs to Adams are cool, but that's not a sustainable offense. Grade: D

Defense: Obviously, giving up 31 points in the game's first five possessions isn't a formula for success, and the game was pretty well lost when it was 31-3. And yet, UTEP wasn't completely out of the game when the second half began, trailing 31-10 and carrying a bit of defensive momentum after forcing a punt and getting an interception on the last two possessions of the first half. Then the Cougars grinded out a 14-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a touchdown to open the second half, and that was pretty much that. 52 points given up is, pardon the term, indefensible. Grade: F

Coaching: It'd be easy to fault UTEP coach Mike Price for not getting any points out of his team's last drive of the first half; the Miners drove to BYU's 3-yard line and had five snaps in the red zone before time ran out on the half and BYU took its 31-10 lead into the locker room. Really, though, that's a call that has to be made; there's little difference between a 31-10 deficit and a 31-13 deficit after you've sent the message to your offense that you don't trust them to get a touchdown nine feet away from BYU's end zone. Sometimes, the right call doesn't work. So while we won't bury Price for that decision, it does seem as if he should catch a little heat for his team getting savaged on national television and continuing its bowl winless streat to 43 years. Maybe things go differently if Vittatoe connects with Adams on the final play of that first half and the Miners only have to make up a 14-point deficit at the break, but instead that number was 21, and it never got lower for the rest of the game.

Final Grade

Once BYU got off and rolling to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, it was pretty clear that UTEP wasn't going to overcome its deficiencies on both sides of the ball, and the remaining 45 minutes of dominance were little more than a foregone conclusion. It wasn't a good game by any stretch, the listed attendance of 32,000+ was about twice the amount of people actually in the stands, and the favored team rolled to an easy victory. All the same, it takes more nerve than we've got to really complain about a bowl game with 76 total points scored, especially one to kick the whole postseason off, so perhaps some charity is in order for this one. Grade: C-

Posted on: November 3, 2010 1:51 pm
 

MWC blames "combined human error" in Replaygate

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When we last touched on the epic brouhaha surrounding the BYU -San Diego State botched replay debacle, we predicted that the BYU administration would issue a terse "no comment" in response to SDSU's requests for clarification, but that the Mountain West itself would have to reveal its findings to preserve any kind of integrity ... and to keep the Aztecs and Cougars from spening the entire next offseason at each other's throats.

Sure enough, the expected BYU response ("Insinuations that any locally contracted member of the MWC replay team influenced the replay ruling or did not follow Conference protocol are inaccurate. The University will have no further comment on this matter ") came down almost immediately. And as of yesterday, though their findings weren't released directly, a letter from MWC commissioner Craig Thompson to the SDSU president's office obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune has made the results of the conference's investigation public:

The Mountain West Conference determined that the botched replay call resulted from the “combined human error” of all three replay crew members who worked the booth for that football game against San Diego State Oct. 9. The three-man crew included two BYU alumni who didn’t notice or “weren’t sufficiently aggressive” in pointing out that conclusive video evidence of the controversial play was available and on live television in their booth ...

The revelation of BYU alumni working for the league in the replay booth raised concerns at SDSU of a conflict of interest. In his letter, Thompson stated that the MWC “was convinced no malfeasance had occurred and that a combined human error was as the root of the missed replay call.” He stated the league still has confidence in these crew members.

The league suspended the three replay staffers for one game “because they had failed to communicate effectively as a unit and did not successfully utilize the information available to make a correct decision,” Thompson stated in the letter.

The nuts and bolts of the breakdown: head replay official Mike Angelis apparently became too focused on one particular (inconclusive) replay of J.J. Di Luigi 's obvious fumble, and the two BYU-affiliated replay staffers failed to either notice or provide Angelis with the better view.

Why those staffers did not will obviously be a matter of discussion in San Diego for a long, long time to come, and the conference's belated decision to ban school employees from working the replay booth for their school's games was obviously a horse-out-of-the-barn moment. But if the MWC has explained where the breakdown occurred and has cleared them, there's nothing else SDSU backers can really ask for.

That's not going to keep them from asking anyway, of course. For anyone convinced that "malfeasance" was indeed behind the video mistakes, this conclusion to Replaygate likely won't come remotely close to providing satisfaction. But with all three official parties (SDSU, BYU, and the MWC) having commented and sworn not to comment again, it's fair to say this is the conclusion Replaygate has reached.
 
 
 
 
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