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by Dave Kimball, BYU Athletic Communications
PROVO, Utah (March 19, 2007) -- Coming off a Mountain West Conference championship season that included a 38-8 victory over Oregon in the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl and the nation's second longest active win streak at 10 straight games, the 2007 BYU football team will enter the season with high expectations.
In 2006, the team finished with an 11-2 record, went undefeated at home and in conference play, and won the Mountain West Conference Championship for the first time since 2001. The offense was ranked fifth in the country and the team finished with a No. 15 ranking in the national polls. It was a season that saw senior running back Curtis Brown break BYU's all-time rushing record and senior quarterback John Beck move into second place statistically amongst the many BYU greats in school history.
Hearing that many have declared "BYU is back," head coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't quite ready to call last season's success enough to declare the program's restoration complete. According to Mendenhall, consistency is the key, not just one winning season.
"There have been many that have claimed that BYU football is back, and our program has returned," Mendenhall said. "We're just beginning. Our current program, in relation to what it once was, will be viewed as matching or being similar once consistency is established. That comes with repeated championships, with sustained success, and with performance at a very high level over time. So, our goals and our objectives are now to provide consistency to the program at the current level at which we're playing."
Mendenhall believes one winning season isn't enough, and has asked the players and coaching staff to prepare and play at a higher level.
"Now that we have been 11-2, now that we have a 10-game winning streak, now that we were No. 15 in the country, now that we are undefeated at home, the team has been asked to play at a higher level," he said. "While this year's record may not be identical and the results might not be identical, we don't intend to be satisfied with the level of play, so I have asked for more. Raising the bar is what the theme will be for this upcoming year, and has been since the off-season."
On paper, achieving that higher level of play may be challenging for the 2007 Cougars after losing both team captains in Beck and Cameron Jensen along with Brown, Jonny Harline, Jake Kuresa, Nate Meikle, Daniel Coats, and a number of other major contributors. However, Mendenhall and his staff are confident that, despite the losses, the team is ready to meet the challenge head-on.
"I think you now start to talk about program maturity," Mendenhall said. "Is a program defined by its individuals or is the program defined by how it develops players? This will be a great test as to where exactly we are. We believe we have great, young talent. We believe we have great existing young talent at quarterback, at running back, at tight end, at H receiver, and seven of 11 returning on defense. What will be scrutinized and what will be evaluated is if the program is ready to just simply plug in new players that have been developed, that have been taught, that have been directed towards leadership and just need experience and an opportunity."