Early observations of the offense

Taysom Hill practice

We’re only through two days of fall practices, but certain observations can be made given the limited viewing opportunities along with interviews with coaches and players. Here’s an overview of some key developments:


-Taysom Hill shows no ill effects from his knee injury sustained last season, but still needs work on his overall consistency throwing the football. This was anticipated, but there is no question Hill is the leader on offense.

Hill shows command of the new offense and pushes the pace offensive coordinator Robert Anae demands. On at least two occasions Hill has pushed defensive players out of the way following the whistle to ensure coaches (playing the role of officials) can reset the ball as quickly as possible.

-Jason Munns looks like he’ll battle effectively for third-string quarterback responsibilities through two days. Munns looked efficient during one set of reps Monday — completing two of three passes while moving the offense effectively.

Offensive Line

-Coaches Garret Tujague and Anae are riding these guys harder than I’ve seen in any practice session since I started covering the team in 2003. The talk of pushing these guys hard certainly has been just “talk” as evidenced through spring practices and into two days of fall practices.

-Much was made of Tujague mentioning he may rotate centers consistently during the course of a game, but I doubt that rotation will be as frequent as it will be at guard and tackle. Anae puts a premium on ball security and if that center exchange is spotty, or may be affected adversely by a constant rotation at center, he simply won’t do it. Yes, the center spot must dictate the pace of the offensive line, but ball security will likely, and should, take precedence over other factors.

-Coaches have been riding center Manaaki Vaitai as hard as anyone. Vaitai is battling Terrance Alletto for the starting center spot and while Vaitai can be argued to be better suited for the role, his performance has been spotty and inconsistent and it’s entirely due to conditioning.

Meanwhile Alletto has proven the more consistent of the two and unless Vaitai can prove to be consistent and effective in long stretches, as opposed to just in ‘spots’, the job will be Alletto’s.

-It’s hard to identify how effective offensive linemen will prove to be until they start going full-contact, but two who have stood out to me are Brayden Kearsley and De’Ondre Wesley.

Kearsley looks to be in relatively good shape for a incoming player and capable of Anae’s breakneck pace. Wesley has shown a lot of ability and good footwork, but still needs work on his overall conditioning. Kearsley has seen time playing left guard with the second-string offense and center with the third-string. Wesley has seen almost all his reps at right tackle with the second-string.

-Two guys who are seeing a lot of first-team reps are Brad Wilcox (mostly at either tackle position) and Brock Stringham (mostly at guard.) Both seem to be fully recovered from their respective injuries and should play roles in the regular offensive line rotation.


-Ross Apo is the guy to watch at wide receiver. He ended the first day of practice by dropping an easy would-be touchdown pass, but responded spectacularly the very next day with a practice-ending forty yard touchdown pass. The 6-foot-3 receiver laid out for a pass that was slightly overthrown and hauled it in.

Apo simply needs to prove consistent and capable of executing every route required and the starting nod will likely be his.

-Meanwhile Skyler Ridley has shown why he’s ahead of Apo on the depth chart currently. He runs solid routes and simply catches the ball when it’s thrown anywhere near him. While Apo has made strides, Ridley will prove hard to beat out simply due to his consistency at the position.

Mitch Mathews was easily identified as a potential breakout player prior to fall practices and he’s done nothing to dispel that notion through two days. Mathews has unique ability that could play huge this season.

-The tight ends haven’t been involved much from what we’ve been able to observe, but this will likely change as practice wear on.

Running back

-There’s not much new here save for Michael Alisa being held out of practices due to complications with his arm injury sustained last season. Jamaal Williams looks bigger, faster and even quicker than last season. This was expected given his relatively young age and after spending a full year within the program.

-The H-back position has been manned primarily by Iona Pritchard, Richard Wilson and Kaneakua Friel. The use of an H-back is a new thing at BYU, but looks to be used extensively this season per coach’s comments and through practice observations.

I’ll post my observations on the defense tomorrow (Aug. 7.)






  1. JB

    What is the biggest difference between the way Doman was running practice last year and the way Anae is this year?

    • Brandon Gurney

      The biggest difference between Anae and Doman is consistency. I believe that Doman’s lack of consistency proved to be his downfall, more than any other factor. Anae is running these guys much harder and consistently harder. I believe this will warrant much better results.

  2. Jason

    using a scale method of 1- 10 how would you rate the different positions.

    Example – Oline = 5 LB’s = 9…


    • Brandon Gurney

      Not going to give a rating, but I’ll list the positions in falling order from strongest to weakest, from my point of view:

      1. OLBs
      2. RBs
      3. Safety
      4. WRs
      5. DL
      6. ILBs
      7. TEs
      8. QB
      9. CBs
      10. OL
      11. kicker/punter

      QB may be too low when it’s all said and done, but the position is still relatively unproven with a ton of upside. OLB is clearly the deepest and strongest position on the team. I’m much higher on the DL than most.

  3. Bronco4Prez

    Any word on walk-ons that have earned scholarships? It seems like there are some good Senior candidates that could take one of the 9 (+/-) open spots for this season without taking one of the 7 (+/-) open spots for 2014 recruits.

    • Brandon Gurney

      can you list the guys you’re speaking of specifically? I’m not sure who you’re exactly referencing.

      • Bronco4Prez

        Potential candidates would be guys like Skyler Ridley, Adam Hogan, Blake Morgan, and Skye PoVey.

      • Brandon Gurney

        I think Hogan will prove to be JJ’s backup at FCB from what I’ve seen so far, but that’s still a major dropoff in overall ability. PoVey looks set to play a big role at nickel if Hague can’t come back. Ridley is obviously the stud of that group and has showed very well thru 2 days.

  4. Ryan

    Do you not interpret Anae’s comments that he has rotated 10 OL before and is willing to again to imply that he is willing to rotate centers? The notion that rotating centers will automatically lead to more turnovers isn’t completely logical, especially if the offense runs almost all of its plays out of shotgun.

    • Brandon Gurney

      I agree, but he certainly won’t sacrifice ball security for rotation at the position. If they prove consistent with ball exchange with a rotating center spot then they’ll certainly do just that.

  5. Spencer

    Do you get the sense that the H back is replacing the tight end position, or simply the fullback position?

    Also – where do you see Mitch Matthews lining up in general? Is he currently playing on the 1st team and in what role? He seems to be an interesting breed for any position that could create matchup problems if used effectively. Seems too big to be a WR and too small for a TE.

    Also – any news on Terren Houk? Seems he doesn’t have a lot of speed but he’s very athletic and strong.

    • Brandon Gurney

      replacing the fullback position and the traditional TE position. TEs will largely be split out in Anae’s system from what I’ve seen so far.

      Mitch Mathews will almost assuredly be playing on the outside.

      Houk has seen some good moments in practice and has an outside shot at breaking the two-deep at TE. I wouldn’t bank on it though.

  6. Chase

    The coaches have said that Dallin Leavitt has loads of confidence. After 2 days, what is your opinion of him, Skye Povey, and Rob Daniel? Personally, having seen Skye Povey play, I feel comfortable with him there should he win the spot. What’s your assessment of all 3 BCB possibilities?

    • Brandon Gurney

      Leavitt has shown extremely well for a true freshman, but my money is still on Daniel starting at BCB. Daniel has quicker feet, from what I’ve seen and knows the nuances of the position better. Leavitt obviously has tons of upside though and will make it interesting…already has.

  7. byu

    If byu can get tayo fabuluje to come in and play right tackle (I’m assuming) that would be huge for oline depth.

  8. JB

    What should we expect with the loss of Ziggy, Hadley, Ogletree, Kav, and Fuga? Will the defense take a big step back this year?

    • Brandon Gurney

      I really don’t anticipate the front 7 taking a step back, but maybe even a step forward. Ziggy was obviously an enormous loss, but Kaufusi will be outstanding. Manumaleuna will add considerably to the defensive front and I believe they’ll be able to replace Fuga effectively. I don’t think one NT short of Manu can provide the play of Fuga, but a 3-man rotation should prove effective. I think Unga can equal, if not surpass the play of Kaveinga and Beck/Pikula will be fine at Buck.

      Hadley is obviously the most difficult guy to replace and I think there will be at least some dropoff at that position.

  9. Mars

    Tayo redshirted at BYU, sat out a year at TCU, and played a year at TCU, leaving him 2 years left to play 2 seasons. If he sits out 2013 that year is lost, and he will have only 2014 left to play.

    • thenrie

      From what I have read, the year sitting out all athletics is an NCAA rule, but losing the year of eligibility is a conference rule. Another benefit of independence. Unles I have misunderstood that rule, Fabuluje should have 2 to play 2 starting next season, provided he gets accepted in time.

  10. Ryan

    Who do you see winning the corner position opposite Jordan Johnson and how worried are you about depth here?

    • Brandon Gurney

      my money is still on Rob Daniel despite what Leavitt has shown early on. Should be a good battle regardless.

    • Brandon Gurney

      that’s really hard to know until they start kicking FGs longer than 37 yards out. I do think it will ultimately be better than last year, but that bar is extremely low.

    • Brandon Gurney

      He has good arm strength, but needs to be more consistent. It’s there, but he needs work

      • Ralph J

        It sounds like Ammon Olsen has been more accurate than Hill, especially on deep balls. Has that been your opinion?

  11. Leland


    I’m wondering if they are putting there better lineman on the defensive side of the ball. Do you think some of the DL could be moved over??

    • Brandon Gurney

      good question…maybe one of the many NTs? Peoples would be the most likely of that group

      • Ralph J

        Speaking of Peoples, what shot do you give him of making the 3 deep on the DL, maybe backing up Kanuch at NT?

      • Brandon Gurney

        Need to see Peoples actually play first. He’s came into camp with some nagging injuries that have kept him out of shape. He should return soon and we’ll see how he competes.

  12. Ryan

    You say that Hill needs to be more consistent with his throws, but how many have you actually seen? And have you factored in the fact that he is limited by quick whistles and is going against a dang good #1 defense?

    • Brandon Gurney

      no, I haven’t…largely going off the coach’s comments there and what I’ve heard from sources

  13. James Mulberry

    What is BYU doing to catch up in practices with teams such as Alabama which already finished its fouth day of practice and will be full pads tomorrow and of course they practice on Sundays. Doesn’t the NCAA limit the total number days of Spring/Fall practices?

    • Brandon Gurney

      BYU went light last year and it seemed to work out fine. Yes, the NCAA limits practices, but Bronco is comfortable with his model.

  14. Marty

    Can you tell me how Ammon Olsen has looked so far in camp? Any chance he will compete for the starting job?

    • Brandon Gurney

      I think that Hill is firmly entrenched as the starter, but Olsen has looked good. He’s struggled with his accuracy a bit, but did lead the offense on its two touchdown drives last practice.

  15. James D. Tills

    What about Hine as a running back? Is he still in the mix? With Alisa nursing a fractured arm, isn’t Hine moving up right behind Williams? Also, is there any thought about trick plays where perhaps Ammon Olsen and Taysom are in the backfield together at the same time? Further, how is it possible to get so many players on and off the field in order to have plays every 8 seconds? I love the idea, but wow….

    • Brandon Gurney

      Hine is certainly in the mix and will likely see plenty of time. If there are trick plays coaches won’t show them nor talk about them, but yeah, the possibility exists. Eight seconds may prove too ambitious, but 10 seconds seems a real possibility.

  16. Cory

    wow, Mr. Gurney, I like the Q n A format!

    The punter had a really good punt the other day, how much of a dropoff will BYU have from our all-American Puneter last year?

    • Brandon Gurney

      It’s going to be hard to match the play of Riley Stephenson last year. Arrellano has looked a bit inconsistent from my perspective, but we’ll keep monitoring that when able.

  17. Brian Wahookzy

    What do you expect against UVa and what they will throw at BYU in the first game? Appears UVa has some speed on D…

    • Brandon Gurney

      I’d hate to compare them with Oregon, as the Ducks are clearly the best at running this type of offense.

  18. TX Colonel

    Any attempt at running the “friendly side flanker streak” over and over? Where the WR closest to the sideline sprints straight down the field, subs out at the end of the play, new WR steps in, leaving the CB 10 seconds to run back to the line of scrimmage to face a fresh WR, who does it again on the next play. That could be deadly to opposing CB with the hurry up offense.

    • Brandon Gurney

      LOL, I haven’t noticed this, but even if I had I wouldn’t be at liberty to say one way or the other

    • Ralph J

      I think I read in an interview where Anae said he plans to do that in games to wear down the opposing team’s secondary.

      I would love to watch this go on vs the Yewt DB’s. They like to grab and hold a lot and maybe as they begin to tire out they’ll get called more on all of their obvious holding.

  19. Ralph J

    on a side note, I was sad to read that the DE Pita Taumoepenu from Timpview has changed his mind and is now going to commit to Timp HC Cary Whittingham’s brother Kyle. Any comment on how instrumental Cary was in getting Pita Taumoepenu to change his mind and how big of a loss this will be down the road for BYU?

    Also, does this mean that the Timpview pipeline is likely closed for BYU for the unforeseeable future?

    • Brandon Gurney

      Whittingham can’t force kids to go to Utah, but he obviously wields influence. I personally feel the kid simply wanted to go to Utah and Whittingham helped him do that. I don’t think it closes any pipeline to BYU, but it likely mucks it up a bit.

  20. David K

    Love the Q&A – great! Can you give color on what you mean by “coaches Garret Tujague and Anae are riding these guys harder than I’ve seen in any practice session since I started covering the team in 2003?”

  21. Jeff H.

    How is my friend Edward Fusi looking out there at center? Does it look like he is going to be the backup this year to get acclimated to Div. 1?

  22. Jason

    Hearing more good things about Nate Carter as a guy who impresses with limited reps (Alisa quote).. Is there one specific thing keeping him from moving up the depth chart?

    • Brandon Gurney

      The only thing preventing Carter from moving up are Williams, Hine and Lasike…all have looked very good this fall.

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