PROVO — When BYU brought back Robert Anae as offensive coordinator in January 2013, Anae re-instituted a fast-paced spread offense. This offensive system creates the opportunity for players to put up eye-popping statistics, evident from the prolific play of players like quarterback Taysom Hill and wide receiver Mitch Mathews.
This style has accumulated a lot of attention, which has continued during spring practices with the return of Hill from a leg injury. After practiced concluded on Monday morning, Anae made sure to single out BYU’s defense, its improvement, and its role in helping his offensive players develop.
When asked if BYU’s defense has been able to keep up with the offense during spring practices, Anae emphatically responded, “Our defense is a stud. Every play you just hang onto your seat and our guys are tested at the highest level. I think it is the other way around.”
The third week of spring practices has come to an end, and BYU football head coach Bronco Mendenhall is excited about the progress that the team has made. Two more weeks of practices remain for the team, which is preparing for a spring scrimmage in one week, next Friday, March 27.
Mendenhall spoke with the media following Friday’s practice, which was a coaches clinic. Coaches from surrounding high schools were invited to watch and participate in the practice.
“I really liked our practice today, probably the strongest practice of the spring,” Mendenhall said. “Maybe it was just moving inside, maybe it was the extra coaches. … Whatever it was, we had a really strong practice today that I was excited about. A lot of positive things today.”
PROVO — The BYU Cougars and Mississippi State Bulldogs announced a home-and-home football series to be played in 2016 and 2017.
The Cougars will host the Bulldogs on Oct. 15, 2016, in Provo, and will play in Starkville, Mississippi, on Oct. 14, 2017.
“It’s a great opportunity for our football team to play a very good SEC program,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. “It’s been more than a decade since we played Mississippi State, and we are excited to have them back on our schedule. Visiting Starkville will be a great experience for our football program and our fans, and we look forward to hosting the Bulldogs in Provo.”
ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported on Thursday that the SEC will consider games scheduled against BYU as fulfilling the league's "Power 5" non-conference scheduling requirements. The same report cites sources as confirming two scheduled games between BYU and Mississippi State, in 2016 (Provo) and 2017 (Starkville).
The reported series between BYU and Mississippi State would bring to 37 the number of future games scheduled between BYU and "Power 5" teams, not including four originally-scheduled games with Notre Dame that may or may not be played.
It was four years ago that the NCAA introduced the concept of the "First Four," the expansion of the opening round of NCAA tournament games to include the last four automatic-bid qualifiers and the last four at-large entrants, in a modified First Round. In the second year of the new format, the 2011-12 BYU Cougars came to Dayton, and made history.
Trailing Iona by 25 points at one point in the first half, the Cougars rallied for a 78-72 victory, setting the NCAA tournament record for greatest comeback.
On Monday, in Dayton, as BYU prepares for Tuesday night's First Round meeting with Ole Miss at the UD Arena, head coach Dave Rose was asked if the venue holds a certain "mojo" for his team.
PROVO — With the re-emergence of senior quarterback Taysom Hill, much of the focus during spring practices for BYU has been on the offensive side of the ball. Out from the spotlight, BYU’s defense has steadily progressed under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, and new players are starting to make their mark on the field.
This offseason, Mendenhall announced that he would resume his previous role of directly overseeing the defense, which includes play-calling duties during games. Defensive players have noticed the difference now that Mendenhall is more hands-on and involved in the day-to-day activities.
Sophomore linebacker Fred Warner explained the difference in spring practices with Mendenhall back in charge. “I feel like the biggest change is just our discipline level,” Warner said. “There are a lot of things he’s enforcing. The biggest thing is probably effort...making sure you’re making a great habit of running to the football constantly.”
PROVO — As BYU spring practices progress into week two, surprising and exciting storylines continue to develop. Senior quarterback Taysom Hill talked to the media for the first time this spring, and he wasted little time before providing a curveball of a statement.
The majority of questions posed to Hill were about the health of his leg, which he broke in the game against Utah State last October. When asked if he was able to participate in all facets of spring practice, Hill replied, “I feel like if we had to play a game on Saturday, I feel like I could do it. I don’t think I would be nearly as explosive as I will be in about a month or two, but I think I could play at a high enough level to be successful.”
Hill, who is ahead of schedule with his expected return from the injury, discussed how he has continually pushed the limits of his rehab because of how much he desires to be on the field with his teammates.
With a win against Gonzaga behind them and the West Coast Conference Tournament in front of them, BYU basketball players has been doing nothing but preparing for the upcoming weekend. With revived hopes for a good run in Las Vegas, and even bigger hopes at a possible spot in the NCAA tournament, the Cougars currently find themselves in a unique position.
“The biggest challenge for us is to make sure that (the win against Gonzaga) is not the highlight of our season,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “It was a good one, but it’s not the end all. We have a lot more to do.”
This is not to discredit the new world of possibilities that opened up for BYU after its 73-70 win over the Zags. Moving to the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament was huge for the Cougars, and talk of going to the NCAA tournament proves that even after a rough midseason, it may not be over just yet. But the Cougars are choosing to take it one step at a time.
Spring practices roll on for BYU, and day two was highlighted by the return of former quarterback Christian Stewart. Stewart returned in place of McCoy Hill, who suffered an injury Monday. Stewart will participate in the 11 on 11 drills for the rest of the spring practices for the Cougars.
Stewart, who completed his senior season in 2014, starting in eight games and throwing for over 2600 yards and 25 touchdowns, was surprised that he was able to come back. Although he already finished his senior season, he is now in his last semester of eligibility, and that allowed him to return.
“I didn’t think it would be possible … it didn’t feel real. But today was fun to get out there with the guys,” Stewart said when he talked to the media. “It’s awesome. I just show up right before practice starts, warm up with Coach Beck, and go in on all the team periods, do all the fun stuff.”
PROVO — Fresh off an exciting 73-70 win against then-No. 3 Gonzaga Saturday night in Spokane, Washington, BYU finds itself still basking in the national spotlight after the historic win for the program.
Gonzaga, which had the nation’s longest home winning streak of 41 games before the loss, had swept through conference play undefeated before the Cougar upset. KPI Sports, a database of college basketball analytics and algorithms, ranks BYU’s win against Gonzaga as the fourth-best win of the 2014-15 national collegiate season.
While BYU head coach Dave Rose knows the importance of this win for the Cougars' postseason resume, he is crediting this win as one that will have a lasting impact on the program.