Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cougar Quarter Year Report

With almost a quarter of the season in the books, BYU is still undefeated with tough wins against Utah State, St. Mary’s, Creighton, and a double overtime thriller against South Florida. While I am not surprised that BYU is undefeated, I am surprised at how BYU has done it – BYU has won those four games by an average of 5 points. Last year, when in crunch time, the Cougars depended too heavily on Jimmer to get baskets and either seal wins or come from behind for the win. This year? Against Utah State, Chris Collinsworth hit some big free throws and Abouo came up with a huge offensive board with BYU only up by 3 in the last 30 seconds, followed by Hartsock knocking down two more free throws. Against South Florida, Emery and Abouo hit 3’s to send the game into overtime, and Hartsock hit the game winner in the second overtime. St. Mary’s? Ok, so it was Jimmer that hit the game winner, but he has to do it sometimes, right? Against Creighton, Jimmer had a tough shooting night, but Brandon Davies’ 24 points and Kyle Collinsworth’s first college double-double helped BYU pull away in the second half.

If I had a choice, of course I would choose Jimmer to shoot the last shot, and who wouldn’t? However, BYU’s supporting cast has more than filled its role for the first month of the season. During the first few games of the season and pre-season, I realized how much BYU missed Tyler Haws. Haws would always guard a tough assignment defensively, run the break, and hit jumpers as well. Sure, he missed the shot last year at home against UNM that would have put us ahead in the last minute of the game, but I wanted him to take it with all the attention they were paying to Jimmer. The consistency Haws brought to the team has been hard to replace, but BYU has found it in the form of Collinsworth. No, really. Both Kyle and Chris Collinsworth do things that BYU misses from Tyler Haws. Even though he has been hurt recently, Chris can hit jumpers and gets rebounds. Kyle drives to the hoop (though his free throw shooting is definitely not Haws-esque – try 39.1%) and can run the point for the few minutes Jimmer goes out each game. Speaking of free throws, what has happened to last year’s top free throw shooting team in the NCAA? BYU, after a great year last year of 79%, has dropped to 65% this year. Against teams like SDSU, UNLV, UCLA, and Arizona, where we will almost definitely see a close game, BYU needs to hit their free throws.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Mild Case of Concern

After all the disappointment surrounding this year's football team there is always that ex-girl friend who will let you come over and make out at a moments notice. Yep, I’m talking BYU basketball. Jimmer’s back and he is no longer anonymous. He is the new media darling, the new Stephen Curry, and now he has a huge bulls eye on his back.

Barring some Tavernari/Bigelow like senior melt down, Jimmer is still going to get his. His range is redic, his crossover is un-white and his free throws are Mark Price-ish. No question about it, BYU will be good this year just because of Jimmer Fredette.

Yeah... Jimmer is kind of like that
However after watching the exhibition game with BYU-Hawaii last night I am a little concerned. The problem I see is one that the Cougars have been dealing with for a long time.

BYU basketball lacks a post scoring and defensive presence.

At some point in the season BYU will be on the road and people will be doubling Jimmer, Jackson may have an off night and the Cougs are not hitting from outside. Throw in some homer reffing and a loud opposing crowd and you will have a major scoring drought.

This is when you throw the ball down to your proverbial horse and get an easy bucket or some free throws. Problem is I don’t see that player on the depth chart for the cougars. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Davies, Hartsock and Collinsworth. They all have upside and certain skills. What they do not have is the ability to go get a basket in the post during crunch time. They also are lacking a major defensive presence. Say what you will about Chris Miles, (and I have said a lot under my breath) but he was a major defensive presence in the lane.

The way I see it this year BYU will live by the 3 and die by the 3. When Jackson and Jimmer shoot well it will open up lanes for easier baskets for the “bigs”. When the Cougars can get out and run they will have an advantage. Most of the season BYU's size weakness will not be a glaring deficiency, because most of thiee league doesn’t have menacing post bruisers to deal with.  But when BYU gets to the tournament and plays a team like a Michigan St. or a UConn it will become very apparent.

My brother and I have talked at length about how sad it was the Dave Rose was not able to get a 6'10 thug to just Millsap around for Jimmer's senior year. Unfortunately Rogers was the closest thing Rose could find and so far you can color me unimpressed.

How nice would it be if the Cougs could get this guy in a BYU jersey...
Anyway the outlook for the season is still good. BYU should win plenty of games and who knows maybe Davies or Collinsworth can surprise. Right now, I think they are the main variables of success for this team.

NOTE: I hope everyone stands and cheers as loud as they can for Steve Cleveland when he comes. He did a lot for the program and was really a great coach. Without him BYU wouldn’t have coach Rose or be where they are today. He truly is one of the good guys in sports and deserves our love and respect.

Steve Cleveland won 128 with the Cougars

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BYU to Vegas?

Don’t look now, but BYU could be headed to another Las Vegas bowl come December. After a rough start with some close losses (and some not so close), BYU is improving and is looking halfway decent for the second half of the season. With Air Force losing to SDSU a few weeks ago, BYU could end up tied with Air Force and SDSU for 3rd in the conference, and I would bet (but not in a Las Vegas way) that the Cougars could be headed there for the 6th straight year. The first year BYU went to the Las Vegas Bowl, they were 6-6. I wouldn't doubt it if BYU ended up with that same record. After victories against SDSU and Wyoming, BYU’s defense has been dominant against middle-class offenses and held its own against TCU as well. If you take out the offense giving away great field position through a fumble, interception, or shanked punt, SDSU, TCU, and Wyoming offenses scored an average or 11 points per game. I don’t care who you are, that is at least a decent defense. You know you are in trouble when your offense allows more points per game than your defense (over 15 points a game). BYU can make a bowl game this year, but these are a few keys on the road to Las Vegas.

Use Brian Kariya and Juice more steadily - after relying heavily on JJ Di Luigi for the first half of the season, it has become apparent that teams are keying on him in the running game. Last week against Wyoming, Kariya, Di Luigi, and Quezada all had a rushing average of greater than 4 yards. Yes, Di Luigi is quicker, but he is also riskier with his running, often trying to beat the offense to the corner. Kariya and Quezada won’t break out any huge runs (their longest runs this year have been 15 and 17 yards, respectively) but they will usually get you around 3-6 yards per rush and will not lose yardage, simply because they almost always fall forwards when they are tackled. Also, Kariya and Quezada are better blockers in the shotgun, so defenses have to stuff the middle to stop their run but also be ready for the pass to the receivers out wide.

Andrew Rich has to stay healthy - there are already enough defensive players hurt, but Rich is the backbone of the defense. He is essential in breaking up screen passes and hitting opposing RB’s at or behind the line of scrimmage. Rich already has some lingering injuries (one reason why he wears long sleeves at every game), but please, don’t get any more. I want to go to Vegas. For the bowl game.

Luke Ashworth can’t have any more drops - he was a key part of a few of BYU’s drives last game, but this year in earlier games he has had several drops. BYU’s TE’s are fickle, but they are also new to the system. Ashworth is an experienced receiver and has the ability to catch anything, we saw it all of last year. He isn’t incredibly quick or fast, but he was a consistent catcher. He can’t fall back into dropping passes. We know his ability, we saw it last year. Just keep doing what you did last week, Luke.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Too early for basketball?

As the BYU football team continues to disappoint this year, most Cougar fans can take solace that basketball season in now officially one week away... sort of. The Cougars will play in the annual Cougar tip-off game next Wednesday, October 27th. Following the scrimmage BYU will play two pre-season games against Laval and BYU-Hawaii before the regular season starts.

BYU's first regular season game will be Friday, November 12th against Fresno State which is of course coached by former BYU head coach Steve Cleveland. It will be Cleveland's first appearance in the Marriott Center since he left for Fresno at the end of the 2006 season. I am sure it will be a very warm homecoming for Coach Cleveland after all he did to help rebuild the program.

It's no doubt that how Jimmer goes so go the Cougars? Jimmer is the pre-season Mountain West Conference player of the year, and many pundits have him listed as one of the top five players in the nation. No question Jimmer will average over 20 points a game this year but what will really matter is how involved he can get his teammates. Jimmer is a proven scorer but what remains to be seen is if he can win big games doing other things besides putting the ball in the hoop. Jimmer will have a huge bulls eye on his back this year and it I am sure there will games where other teams will force to make other Cougars beat them.

While it is true that Jimmer was a scoring machine at the end of last year there were times when all BYU would do is sit around and watch the Jimmer show. You know exactly what play I'm talking about. When BYU tries to push the ball down the court.. after they don't get a transition bucket Jimmer slowly backs the ball out and tries to drive before time expires on the shot clock.

This is fun to watch when it works but it makes the BYU offense stagnant and very predictable (kind of like this year's football team). The bottom line is Jimmer needs to dominate this year if the Cougars want to have a decent year but he needs to do it within the flow of the game... without forcing anything. If he is having an off night or another team is daring other players to make shots other players need to step up. But no question about it, this is Jimmer's team and as Jimmer goes... so go the Cougars.

What do you think Jimmer needs to work on the most this year?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Max Hall on the Jim Rome Show

For those of you that missed it Jim Rome had former BYU QB Max Hall on his naitonally syndicated talk show.

Click here to follow the link to 1320 KFAN where you can here what Magic Max had to say about his first start in the NFL. Among other topics Rome asked Max about the BYU Utah rivalry and how his days at the Y helped prepare him for life as a professional QB.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cougars Land Their Man

Demarcus Harrison is listed as 6'5 190 lbs

BYU learned last week that their top recruit Demarcus Harrison plans on verbally commiting to the Cougars in November.  Demarcus is an LDS player out of South Carolina and it will only take one look at his highlight video to see that the kid can jump out of the building.

Click here to see his highlights. Make sure to check out around the 25 second mark when Harrison goes Vince Carter and jumps over a defender to dunk the ball.

Here is what says about Harrison:

DeMarcus is athletic and has a high major look about him. He's a good athlete that makes his presence felt shooting the basketball. He has deep range off the catch and can drive an out of control closeout. He can get to the rim on the break but prefers to spot up where he benefits from penetration. Harrison is ready to shoot on the catch and can get it off quickly. Because of his excellent size he can shoot over smaller defenders very easily. He has the potential to be a good defender and can guard multiple positions because of his size and quickness.

DeMarcus needs to be more active on the offensive glass and use his explosiveness to generate more scoring opportunities for his team. He must add strength but Harrison has game controlling offensive skills.

Bottom Line:
He looks like the prototypical player at the elite mid-major program. he has good upside and should be on the radar of a lot of high level teams. Harrison has all the tools to be a special player.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Offensive, defensive changes help BYU win

One thing is obvious after Saturday’s win against San Diego State - even though Jamie Hill was the only one fired after last week, it sent a message to the rest of the coaches. The actual talent level of the team this year is lower than it has been in recent years, but one thing is certain - Bronco will not put up with a sub-par coaching effort. It seemed that Hill was determined to run the defense he wanted to run, no matter who the personnel was. The offense, prior to this week, looked like it was trying to be a “BYU offense” with no regard to who was actually running it.

Saturday was a good day to be a Cougar

There was a considerable difference in the style and attitude of the offense and defense this last week, with defensively being the most noticeable. Before running out onto the field, the defense would huddle together, line up on the sideline, and then run out as a group. Sure, it may seem kind of cheesy or childish, but the defense definitely played more like a unit instead of a bunch of individuals. The corners did a better job seeing the run and coming up on it. CB’s Brian Logan, Brandon Bradley, and Corby Eason combined for 16.5 out of 30 total tackles for the Cougar defense (all of Logan's tackles were unassisted). Jray Galea’i (#18) would come on as an additional DB in 3rd and long situations. There was more pressure on the quarterback in passing situations, so even though we only had one safety with Andrew Rich coming up to guard a receiver man-to-man, that forced the QB into making quicker decisions, and as a result, inaccuracy, an interception, and at least 3 batted down balls at the line of scrimmage.

Offensively, RB’s were relied on more heavily and the O-line was better than ever (the two sacks they gave up weren‘t all their fault). We ran the ball 62 times. That's 13 more times than an Air Force team that scored 49 points this week. The blocking backs did a great job on passing and running plays. Heaps was stuck with only a few 3rd and long situations, and that led to him being more confident with 3rd down and short to go. And Matt Marshall, after throwing a strike on the 4th and 15 fake field goal, ran the option 4 or 5 times to gain a few yards on first down. A final point - if you saw Bronco’s post-game interview on, he praised the defense and the running game. Not Jake Heaps. I think Heaps played well, but Bronco knows that Heaps can’t stop improving if we want to make it to a bowl game this year.