The Cougars finished the 2008 season with a 10-3 record, which to many schools would be a huge success but to Bronco Mendenhall’s team it was a huge disappointment. The Cougars have extremely high standards and this is rightfully so due to the fact that they had back-to-back 11-2 seasons in 2006 and 2007. Mendenhall will bring back many vital players from a season ago, which makes me believe that the Cougars will be the team to beat in the very underrated yet powerful Mountain West Conference.
The offense should be up to par in terms of production from the 2008 season. Cougar fans are elated to see their star quarterback, Max Hall, participate in his final year with the BYU program. Last year, Hall threw for 3,957 yards and did so while connecting with his receivers 69.2% of the time. Hall is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NCAA and gives Cougar fans a tremendous amount of hope for the upcoming season. Another fan favorite, running back Harvey Unga, will return to the Cougars for the 2009 season. Unga rushed for 1,132 yards and found the end zone 11 different times in 2009. He gives the Cougar offense a great ground-game to accent their powerful aerial attack.
The only downside for the offense is that they will lose two critical receivers in Austin Collie and Mike Reed. Collie who left early for the NFL draft was one of the top wide-outs in the nation and accounted for 15 of Hall’s 35 touchdown passes. I believe that the Cougars should be able to quickly recuperate from these losses due to Max Hall’s extraordinary talent. Hall returns one his favorite targets, tight end Dennis Pitta, which should help a lot to patch up the hole, left by Reed and Collie.
Mendenhall’s defense looks to be a bit inexperienced but none-the-less incredibly talented. The team will rely on the play of two seniors, linebacker Matt Bauman and defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen. Bauman led the team in 2008 with 108 tackles and was considered the team’s defensive leader. Jorgensen is a quick defensive lineman that has the ability to rush the passer, as seen in 2008 with his team high of 5 sacks. With BYU’s powerful offense the defensive unit’s main job is to just hold the opposing team from putting up large numbers on the scoreboard. The defense does not have to be lights-out they just need to be sufficient enough to hold the lead.
The Cougars really suffered in 2008 from the conference losses to TCU and archrival Utah. The Cougars have a very tough out of conference schedule in which they play perennial powerhouse Oklahoma and Florida St. With two tough games like this, it is a must that the Cougars beat at least either TCU or Utah in order to have any hope of playing in a BCS game for the Mountain West conference.