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Tag:Utah State
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: February 3, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Indiana struggling to hang onto coaches

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Here's some good news for the beleagured Indiana fans out there: your highly-respected new coach, Kevin Wilson, has shown a keen eye in assembling his first Hoosier coaching staff, hiring the kinds of hot up-and-coming coaches that bigger-name programs would be happy to have.

Here's the bad news: those bigger-name programs didn't even wait for the ink to dry on the new Hoosier coaches' contracts before proving exactly how happy to have them they'd be. Wilson was forced to spend part of his Signing Day press conference announcing that two more assistant coaches have taken other jobs, bringing the total up to three after new offensive coordinator Brent Pease returned to Boise State to take the same position following Bryan Harsin's departure to Texas.

One of the two new ex-Hoosiers we mentioned already today : cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond, who appears all but set to coach the secondary at Nebraska. The other is defensive tackles coach Jerry Montgomery, who will now coach the defensive line at Michigan instead.

Both are young coaches that appear to have bright futures, with Raymond a former LSU star and NFL veteran who'd coached the corners at Utah State the past two seasons; Montgomery is a former Iowa player who's gone from Northern Iowa to Wyoming to Indiana and now the Wolverines in just three seasons. But Wilson isn't wasting time mourning his losses, having already filled one of his vacancies with Air Force running backs coach Jemal Singleton, another with Nebraska program intern Brett Dierson, and not exactly shedding tears over the departures:
Wilson explained that he initially wanted Dierson from the beginning, while co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler liked Raymond.

“We’re kind of flip-flopping, one of the guys I wanted they didn’t get and vice-versa. Of guys we went after, we’re going to land on our feet in great shape,” Wilson said.

He concluded that he would rather have a coach at Indiana who wants to be here.

“If it’s better for a guy to be somewhere else, it’s better for his family, better for his career, it’s better he go there than be here,” Wilson said. “I only want guys who really want to be here, are excited about being here.”
That's the right thing for Wilson to say. But more helpful than anything he says will be just keeping the likes of Michigan, Boise, and Nebraska away from what's left of his staff.
Posted on: January 26, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2011 7:02 pm
 

No change in Mountain West TV contracts

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There's been plenty of news to come out of the Mountain West's presidents meeting this week, most of which are covered here by the Idaho Statesman's Chad Crippe following a discussion with commissioner Craig Thompson. To recap: the TCU-Boise State game will be moved to Boise; the conference won't invite Utah State and San Jose State to join, despite reports to the contrary, and looks set at 10 teams for the foreseeable future; and various scheduling details have been ironed out, like placing the TCU-Boise marquee matchup at season's end and giving each team two rivalry games that won't rotate off the eight-game schedule.

But one detail from Crippe's report shouldn't escape notice, even among the expansion madness and TCU-Boise brouhaha:
[Thompson] did not collect bids from the TV partners based on an expanded league. “Because I didn’t know specifically who we’d be talking about,” he said ... The Mountain West is talking only with its current TV partners. Colorado State president Tony Frank told The Coloradoan that he doesn’t expect the TV money to change significantly from the current $12 million per year.
So no new television partners, and no major changes to a contract that runs through the 2015-2016 season? That's not what fans of the Mountain West want to hear, not when that contract offers the entire conference some $3 million less than ESPN is paying Texas by itself for the forthcoming "Longhorn Network."

The lack of television exposure (despite MWC games airing weekly on the excellent CBS College Sports, now in 94 million homes !) and, more importantly, television money is explicitly what's driven league mainstay BYU into football independence, and severely hampered the conference's efforts to keep other departed members Utah and TCU. While the MWC doesn't appear to be in any further danger of having its current 10 teams poached by larger leagues, that San Diego State and the Big 12 have had some measure of contact shows that that danger isn't entirely passed.

And besides: every year the MWC accepts relative peanuts while the Texases of the world get fatter and fatter on their TV deals, the gap between the conference and the BCS gate they want so desperately to crash will only widen. In short, a new, richer TV contract will be a key part of the MWC's long-term success ... and if it's not on the immediate horizon, it's fair to question how high the ceiling on that success can rise.
Posted on: January 26, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: January 26, 2011 10:13 am
 

Did Big 12 consider adding San Diego State?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

San Diego State president and Mountain West board of directors member Stephen Weber didn't drop any bombshells when it came to discussing why the league declined to extend the expected invitations to Utah State and San Jose State yesterday. "We got into the generic question of, 'Do any of these teams that have been talked about add value?'" he said of the board's discussions, "[and] right now we didn’t see any."

So that's pretty straightforward, if even a little more straightforward than the apparently value-less Aggies and Spartans would like to hear. But when discussing his own school's potential conference affiiliations, Weber got a lot more intriguing:

“The issue gets to be interesting when you start looking at an increasingly successful athletic program and a large TV market,” Weber said of SDSU. “I know others have looked at exactly those issues. When it’s something that will be attractive to them, if ever, I can’t guess.”

Asked if the Big 12 , now down to 10 members, had expressed interest in SDSU, Weber said, “I can’t talk about that.”

He did say no other conferences have approached SDSU about membership.

Contrast Weber's two responses here. When asked if any other league had made any sort of overtures to the Aztecs, he flatly says "No." When asked if the Big 12 had made any sort of overture to the Aztecs, he says "I can't talk about that." The conclusion is obvious: someone in the Big 12 has talked to someone at SDSU about possible membership.

Equally obvious is that any firm invitation hasn't yet been extended, or SDSU would have jumped in with both feet. But it would make sense for the Big 12 to already be doing its due diligence on either re-expanding to 12 (conference championship-staging) teams or possibly replacing current members looking to jump ship. And it would make sense -- given the huge San Diego market and their recent football and men's basketball success -- for the Aztecs to be on that due diligence shortlist.

Don't expect any of these discussions to lead anywhere concrete anytime soon; both the Big 12 and the MWC seem firmly committed to the "membership configuration already established" in their respective leagues (to use the term from the MWC's non-expansion confirmation statement yesterday). But if the Big 12 does go hunting for new blood in the near future, we now have a pretty good idea of where they'll turn their attentions first.


Posted on: January 19, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2011 12:48 pm
 

San Jose State is a target of the Mountain West

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Who knew that an entire conference could disappear right before our eyes?  That seems to be exactly what's happening to the WAC.  The conference has already lost Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West -- which has been hemorrhaging teams of its own -- and now it seems like the conference could be about to lose another school.

According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, talks have begun within the Mountain West about extending San Jose State an invitation.
San Jose State has emerged as a potential expansion target of the Mountain West Conference, according to sources familiar with discussions between SJSU officials and their counterparts in the MWC.
A longtime member of the Western Athletic Conference, San Jose State is one of several schools that could be invited to join the more prestigious MWC if the 10-team league expands by two in order to stage a football championship game.
The Mountain West’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Monday in Las Vegas. Expansion is on the agenda, but the league isn’t expected to issue invitations.
The other teams reportedly in consideration are another WAC school in Utah State, and three C-USA schools in UTEP, Houston and SMU.  Though, according to the source in the story, it's unlikely either Houston or SMU would leave C-USA.  Which makes San Jose State an attractive option to the Mountain West in the same way that the lone girl at the bar looks more attractive because she's the only girl there.

Though the Mountain West will tell you it's because of the television market that San Jose State brings for the Mountain West's television network, as well as the fact it'd be joining fellow California schools Fresno State and San Diego State in the conference.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:18 pm
 

Mountain West mulls expansion options

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

BYU may have wanted out, Utah may have wanted out, TCU may have wanted out, but the continuing expansion drama surrounding the Mountain West Conference has proven that there's still plenty of schools that would be happy to be in. The Honolulu Star-Advertister reported yesterday that Hawaii officials were in Colorado this week, speaking with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and ironing out the final details of what appears to be a done deal to bring the Warriors aboard as a football-only member. (UH's other sports will join the California-based Big West. )

But the MWC may not stop there. According to this AOL Fanhouse report , Utah State officials have also been making a face-to-face plea to Thompson and Co. this week, asking for a MWC invite and a lifeline out of the lame-duck WAC . The Aggies won't bring much to the table in terms of football pedigree, but at least they've taken steps forward in recent years under coach Gary Andersen (including beating BYU this season for the first time in 10 tries) and can claim a sterling men's basketball program and solid academics.

USU's interest gives the MWC several options when it comes to expansion. Running them down:

They could stand pat at 10 teams . There seems to be little downside to bringing Hawaii aboard, especially in football alone -- the travel costs of visiting the islands are easily offset by the NCAA provision allowing teams a 13th scheduled game if they travel to Hawaii -- so it seems unlikely the MWC will suddenly stiff-arm the Warriors and stay at 10 teams. But few other immediate options will do much to raise the league's football profile, and weaker members on the gridiron could put the league's dream of a BCS automatic bid in jeopardy.

They could expand to 12 teams and start a championship game . A title game could be an excellent carrot for the MWC to dangle when they start looking to finally get out of the less-than-lucrative current television contracts that drove BYU into football independence. Utah State might be the most obvious candidate, but Conference USA member SMU would bring the highly attractive Dallas media market back into the league after TCU's defection, and under June Jones the Mustangs have made major strides on the field as well. With C-USA's chances of ever snagging a BCS bid set at "nil," the Mustangs would likely jump at the chance. The same goes for Houston , which is an even more distant geographical fit but features an even-better established football program and a similarly-lucrative market.
Other potential WAC refugees like Idaho or New Mexico State would also be options, but probably only in the event the BCS bid was already off the table and SMU and Houston had turned the league down.

They could merge with C-USA. This seems like a terrible idea from the MWC's perspective, but nonetheless the Orlando Sentinel reported today that Thompson and C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky have had prliminary discussions about "a variety of potential collaboration options." But it's hard to see what, other than potentially a push for a joint TV contract, the C-USA can offer the MWC; the latter is the stronger conference top-to-bottom, has more brand recognition (compare the profiles of Boise State and even, say, Fresno State to C-USA powers like East Carolina and Southern Miss ), and already has the BCS bid process underway. If the C-USA is looking to create a full merger, it would seem to eliminate any chance of the league being powerful enough to wrangle a BCS bid; if all they want is an end-of-year title tilt, that's likely just one more obstacle in the way of a Boise or, well, Boise and a BCS at-large berth.

Butit's on the table, along with a lot of other possibilities for the MWC. Thompson has some very big decisions to make, decisions that will help shape the future of college football in the West for years to come.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 11:26 am
 

North Texas turns down desperate WAC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

These are dark times indeed for the WAC and commissioner Karl Benson , who have seen every step forward they've tried to take in the conference expansion wars followed by a giant step back. They thought they had forged a deal with BYU ; the Mountain West responded by poaching Nevada and Fresno State to push BYU into independence. They invited UT-San Antonio and Texas State to maintain their basic viability as a football league; then Hawaii responds to the two extra trips into the Central Time Zone by taking their ball and -- probably -- joining the MWC , too. 

That maneuver has left the WAC with just seven football schools again, one short of the mandated FBS minimum. The league's profile has sunk to the point where not only is the league looking to poach schools from the Sun Belt , the FBS's weakest, most tradition-deficient conference ... those schools are barely giving the WAC the time of day :
North Texas athletic director Rick Villarreal told WAC commissioner Karl Benson that the school has no interest in joining the league late Monday night, just hours after Benson called to gauge the school’s interest in leaving the Sun Belt Conference.

“I told [Benson] that while we appreciate the interest, the University of North Texas is going to be a member of the Sun Belt Conference and will work to continue building the league,” Villarreal said. “We appreciate the opportunity and wish them luck as they move forward.”
Keep in mind that that it's hardly like UNT is a pillar in the current Sun Belt; the coach-less Mean Green have been one of Division I's sickliest programs since a run of SBC titles in the early aughts. As the Sun Belt's only Texas team, they should theoretically also leap at the chance to forge natural rivalries with UTSA and Texas State, and there's little question that with strong programs like Utah State and New Mexico State around, the WAC would represent a substantial step up in quality for UNT's improving men's hoops team.

And still North Texas barely even considered the WAC's offer before publicly shooting them down. When the Sun Belt isn't just seen as the better option but the definitively better option, for a team that makes some geographical sense for the WAC, Benson has some major, major troubles. If they can't convince slow-moving Montana to make the leap to the FBS sooner than anticipated, the WAC may truly, finally be finished as a conference.

HT: GTP .

Posted on: November 18, 2010 10:38 pm
 

Report: Hawaii to join MWC, further imperil WAC

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Friends! Let's hop in the Wayback Machine, all the way back to ... November 2, 2010. Wow, that's a long time ago. Here was our characterization of the new Mountain West after all the conference realignment takes place:

[...] by the time these moves all get made, the Mountain West won't look like a new power conference at all; if anything, it'll just be the WAC 2.0, but with fewer trips to Honolulu and more to Las Vegas. Hey, win some, lose some. But a conference led by Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada didn't get a sniff from the BCS Committee when it comes to awarding an automatic BCS bid (and guaranteeing BCS money), and it won't this time around either.

Well, apparently the MWC is going all-in on this "WAC 2.0" business, because according to a report from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the Mountain West has offered a conference spot to Hawaii:

The University of Hawaii is being extended an offer to join the Mountain West Conference, the Star-Advetiser [sic] has learned.

A 7 p.m. [HST] press conference has been called for Bachman Hall to make the announcement.

The MWC presidents met today to approve conditions under which the conference would accept UH, which is expected to join the Big West in all sports except football.

If true, this puts the WAC on the brink of going defunct; NCAA rules state that for a conference to receive an automatic postseason bid -- or really be recognized by the NCAA in any way -- it must have a group of five member schools that have been in the same conference for at least five years. With Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State all headed to the Mountain West and now Hawaii joining them, the WAC would be down to the bare minimum of five tenured schools in 2012: Louisiana Tech, Idaho, New Mexico State, Utah State, and San Jose State. If even one of those schools leaves before 2017 (when brand new members Seattle, Texas State, and UT-San Antonio hit the five-year mark), the WAC will effectively cease to exist. That would be its own special brand of history, wouldn't it?

 
 
 
 
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