PROVO — En route between print and electronic interviews during Media Day, BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae stopped to offer comments that provided a deep insight into the goal this season.
“We finally have the speed we need,” he said.
Unlike last season when BYU announced a series with Southern California and a contract extension for coach Bronco Mendenhall, this year’s Media Day was devoid of any real news. The biggest thing to come from it might be Anae’s assertion on the badly needed infusion of speed, which could mean the Cougars plan to go deep this season.
Every summer around the country, optimism runs high when coaches gather on selected days to promote the upcoming season. Politicians have more credibility than college coaches at their respective media days.
For example, Cal’s first-year coach Sonny Dykes said the following at a Pac-12 media day last summer in Los Angeles: “If you’re on the outside looking at Cal football, it doesn’t look very good. From inside, we think it looks very good. We know the talent that exists in our program. I think we will surprise some people.”
The only surprise was the level of Cal’s ineptitude. For the record, the Bears didn’t win a conference game last season and finished 1-11, beating only the Big Sky’s Portland State by seven points.
For all the differences that Mendenhall loves to highlight about BYU, it is like most programs when it comes to preseason hype. Expectations are always through the roof every summer.
The difference this time is the source.
Anae is not known to overhype his players or the offense as a whole. To cite a recent reference, he spent all of training camp last season stating the offense would need several games to perform close to his accepted level.
So if the understated coach is touting the improved team speed, believe it.
The increased speed of which Anae speaks comes from the new recruits, namely receivers Nick Kurtz, Devon Blackmon, Jordan Leslie and Trey Dye. They are primarily the reason Anae predicted quarterback Taysom Hill will be throwing the long ball more often this season.
“We’ve got some guys that can really go,” Anae said.
Other notables from Media Day include Mendenhall not backing down from statements he made to a Texas newspaper reporter about getting BYU into the Big 12. It is typical Mendenhall to stand firm on his convictions even if they make some uncomfortable or don’t make much sense (ie, BYU actually having a realistic shot at going undefeated and winning the national championship).
Without a conference commissioner or anybody else to promote BYU, Mendenhall has taken on the additional responsibility. He rightfully believes it makes sense for his program to be in the Big 12.
“I think it would be a fantastic league to be in,” he said. “I like the values of the states (in the league), the conservative nature. I like the type of football, and I think it’s regional enough.
“And that doesn’t mean I’m not happy with independence. I like what it’s doing for us. We are making huge progress. It allows me to make comments like that. But eventually, I think we’ll have to be in one of those leagues if this thing keeps shifting the way it is. But it won’t be my decision.”
Mendenhall and athletic director Tom Holmoe also addressed the investigation regarding potential NCAA rules violations. Neither seemed worried about any major penalties.
“This is a potential violation that will be in the lower category,” Holmoe said. “This is not a major issue.”
It would have been nice had Holmoe made himself available for general interviews after he spoke during a controlled BYU-TV event. A BYU spokesman said Holmoe left to attend Steve Young’s charity golf tournament.
Questions remain as to whether the investigation involves other areas of the athletic department that may not be subject to NCAA rules.