Cougars relaunching the program as spring drills open

It’s no fall camp, when actual games are just around the corner. But for Cougar fans, spring drills will have to do for those itching to talk a little gridiron around the water cooler.

There has been plenty of movement for the BYU football team so far this off-season, as the Cougars prepare for a 2013 schedule that’s equal parts exciting and challenging.

This comes after BYU has just a 25-14 record the past three seasons, below the standard of 49 wins and 15 losses set during Bronco Mendenhall’s first five seasons as the team’s head coach.

For BYU fans, though, hopes can begin fresh as the team opened a month’s work of spring drills on Monday. Why is this year’s spring practice so significant to the Cougar program? Here are a few reasons:

Re-establishing an offensive identity: In the Cougars’ five losses in 2012, BYU had six possessions of 10 plays or more that ended with no points. There were two such possessions in losses to Utah and San Jose State, games the Cougars lost by a total of nine points.

More often than not, it felt as if the Cougars were slogging along on offense last season, even when BYU put points on the boards.

Re-entering the BYU fold is Robert Anae to try and right the ship. Establishing the quarterback pecking order will be crucial and Taysom Hill, the only QB on the roster with starting experience, will be a leading candidate to take over the quarterback position. His effectiveness in returning from a knee injury will be closely monitored.

Reshaping the coaching staff: Mendenhall addressed the long-term vision of the Cougar program when he told the Deseret News last week he is working with BYU on a contract extension. In the short term, BYU’s coaching staff will include some new faces on the offensive side of the ball.

In addition to Anae, four other coaches joined the offensive staff. On defense, Nick Howell was promoted to coordinator, though Mendenhall will still call the plays.

Just how fast this new coaching unit jells will determine how fast the team can move forward and improve.

BYU’s last shakeup of the coaching staff lasted just two seasons. Can this group work together longer and rebuild the Cougar program?

Retooling the defense: Kyle Van Noy’s decision to return to BYU for his senior year means the Cougars will have less of a retooling job on defense. ┬áNot like a defense that finished last year No. 3 in total defense needs much tweaking.

But with established starters like Preston Hadley, Romney Fuga and Uona Kaveinga gone, there are a few holes to fill. Spring will be a good time for Cougars like cornerback Trent Trammel, defensive tackle Tuni Kanuch and linebackers Manoa Pikula or Uani Unga to make a play at starting time.

Ultimately, of these three factors, defense is the least to be concerned with.

For full analysis of the Cougars from the Deseret News sports staff as BYU starts spring drills, click on these links:

Top 10 players to watch at BYU spring practices

Cougars looking to develop QBs as spring drills open

Brad Rock: It’s BYU Broncoball for the foreseeable future

Dick Harmon: BYU’s new defensive coordinator explains his role

BYU spring practice preview: Offensive backfield

BYU spring practice preview: Offensive line

BYU spring practice preview: Receivers

BYU spring practice preview: Defensive line

BYU spring practice preview: Linebackers

BYU spring practice preview: Defensive backs

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