2014 Week 2 Matchup: vs BYU

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By Ian Boyd, Inside Texas Special Contributor
Posted Jun 17, 2014
Copyright © 2018 InsideTexas.com

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Brigham Young University

Texas fans should be all too familiar with Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougar program at this point. The 2011 season and trajectory of the Mack Brown rebuild changed when Gilbert melted down against the Cougars but Longhorns still gritted out a 17-16 win. The Longhorns had to get there behind BYU’s slow adoption to Ash running inverted-veer and a few McCoy to Shipley tosses.

Matchups matter: 2014’s opponents and the matchups they present


In between that game and the fateful match in Provo last year, Bronco abandoned the Power/West Coast offense they had been running in favor of an up-tempospread option attack. Since Texas’ defense had no idea how to stop the option, we all had to witness arguably the most humiliating defeat since the “route 66” debacle that got John Mackovic canned. The program’s trajectory was changed once again, and here we are.


The BYU team that slaughtered Texas last season returns in 2014, largely intact save for losing stud outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, some solid though underutilized receivers, and some rather slow DBs.


BYU is defined by a few unique traits, primarily its status as the flagship athletic team of the Mormon Church. Devout Mormons want to go to BYU and not many other people do. Here’s the trick though, the efforts of LDS missionaries means that the Mormon’s cut of the national population includes West Africans and Polynesians, two people groups with exceptional gene pools for producing football players.


Another way that being tied to the Church of Latter Day Saints impacts the program is that many of their players go on two-year mission trips during or previous to their college career. Consequently, they often have seniors on the team who are well into their 20’s. This helps them to field particularly tough and intelligent teams.


Essentially, they are a Mormon version of Bill Snyder’s Kansas State team, which is undoubtedly why they’ve had success against Mack Brown teams. Does Texas still have one of those?

Cougar offense: Match-up challenges for Texas


The thrust of the BYU offense is the inside run game. Returning center Edward Fusi (6-foot-0, 317 lbs, SR) and left guard Solomone Kafu (6-foot-2, 315, SR) are a load moving downhill while left tackle De’Ondre Wesley (6-foot-7, 330, SR) is reasonably nimble and also powerful. Fusi in particular is both quick and powerful enough to take on a nose-tackle without help, provided that tackle doesn’t have the length to shuck the smaller lineman. Against Tank Jackson he might hold up well, against Brown forget it.


They love to run zone read schemes that result in the OL blocking down at angles, power schemes, and draw plays all run as option concepts that they call at high tempo. They’ll also rotate their OL from series to series to keep them fresh.


The biggest concern is quarterback Taysom Hill. Texas did a lot to help make Hill look good in 2013, but he’s legitimately one of the best running QBs in college football. He’s good on the scramble or designed runs, can dart between the tackles or bounce outside, and has the power to stiff-arm would be tacklers.


The Cougars will often flank him with two backs: running back Jamal Williams who’s a solid runner, and fullback Paul Lasike. The fullback is a former rugby player and runs very physically, though upright. Longhorn defenders did not enjoy tackling him in 2013. They use him in a lot of different ways, much like how KSU uses Glenn Gronkowski, as a dive player in the option, as a receiver out of the backfield, as a lead blocker, and in pass protection.


The rest of the BYU offensive roster is negligible.


Best 5-man skill player lineup:


21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE)


BYU’s best play is the one where Hill is running the ball. Their 2nd best play is one in which Williams is running the ball. Bigger lineups that can block are their best bet.


Their 1st string tight end, Terenn Houk, is a 6-foot-4, 213-pound “flex” type. What Texas has to look out for is a 2-back set with a flexed out TE that can run option, bubble screens, and bully the smaller Texas defenders in the trenches or on the perimeter. The best BYU receivers are all > 6 feet and some are fairly heavy as well.


Cougar offense: Match-up advantages for Texas


BYU is not a good passing team and their best two receivers both graduated. Hill doesn’t handle pressure well unless he has an obvious escape route to scramble, often abandoning the pocket prematurely. The overall timing in their passing game just isn’t there.


They have limited passing concepts that they run efficiently and that Texas would need to prepare for and none of them are very damaging. They can get you into trouble with play-action and that’s about it. Stop the run and you stop BYU.


Their OL isn’t comprised of guys that can handle players like Cedric Reed or Shiro Davis on the edge but they have do get solid help from both backs.


BYU is very non-threatening on 3rd and long unless you show zero discipline in your rush lanes against Hill or you get beat by a big WR on the perimeter. They do have a decent screen package but it’s one of a small handful of passing concepts that the defense has to worry about.


Worst 5-man skill player lineup


10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TEs)


When the Cougars go 4-wide with Williams in the backfield with Hill they will be a sitting duck for Texas pressure. Texas DC Vance Bedford will have zero fear of bringing an extra man in the box in the form of Jinkens on the edge and destroying the run game without fear of reprisals from the passing game.


10 personnel sets with Lasike paired with Hill are a little tougher since he becomes a lead blocker or pass-protector for the BYU QB but Texas will still be unafraid to outnumber the run and blitz early and often vs these sets.


Cougar defense: Match-up challenges for Texas


BYU’s 3-4 defense is actually fairly similar to what the Sooners are running these days, which makes this game a useful prep, especially for the Texas OL.


Typically, the Cougars have a stout front of Islanders and physical linebackers but one too many honky’s on the back end. In 2014 they actually have some athleticism at cornerback that may make their 3-4 blitz package pretty rough to handle.


They’re strength is at outside linebacker where they pair 6-foot-7, 265-pound Bronson Kaufusi with 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alani FuaKaufusi is likely to be a load off the edge whileFua (whom I doubt is actually 6-foot-5) is a very versatile player who can drop as a deep ½ safety or force the ball on the edge against a TE.


Their nose tackles are sturdy, as always, but aren’t especially large and not be as hard for Dominic Espinosa to handle as what he faced when a freshman or junior.


The biggest challenge, besides their blitzes and great outside linebackers, is how well they leverage the ball and tackle as a team. Their safeties and linebackers are not special talents but they won’t give you anything easy in the middle of the field either.


Best configuration:


Base 3-4 set bringing disguise and blitzes


Texas has a good chance to abuse many of its Big 12 opponents with double TE sets but against BYU that may not work particularly well as the Cougars will be likely be unyielding against the Longhorn run game and may cause problems for a green OL with a diverse blitz package.


In particular, the Cougars OLBs and “Kat” safety are not likely to find Texas TE’s particularly hard to manage in coverage or the run game. They have fairly large and athletic players at those positions.


Cougar defense: Match-up advantages for Texas


Frankly this is one of the better defenses on the schedule and BYU’s weaknesses, such as a relatively light front seven and new linebackers, are not necessarily weaknesses that Texas is poised to exploit.


However, although they are quicker than some previous Mendenhall teams, overall the Cougars are still not a particularly fast team.


If Daje Johnson is available the Cougars won’t have any good answers for him and spread sets in general should provide Texas with some major opportunities…provided they can block the BYU blitz. Kendall Sanders, Jaxon Shipley, and Daje will be able to find openings against Cougar coverage.


BYU is also unlikely to have a great answer for Marcus Johnson on the edge, so provided that Texas has the full complement of players available there should be enough to go on here to get some points on the board.


Worst configuration:


Nickel defense (2-4-5) vs 4WR set.


BYU has some nice blitzes and disguise from their 2-4-5 nickel set and can be hard to beat deep but they don’t have the same firepower with Van Noy gone and they don’t have the athletes to man up with a M. Johnson-Shipley-Sanders-D. Johnson set from Texas. Their best bet would be to play bend don’t break or try to get big plays with the blitz.


A healthy David Ash should wield the quick passing game, plethora of speedy targets, and Watson’s RB screen game to strong effect and either score some points or free up space for the run game.

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