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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

The Future, Soon to Begin in Earnest

Just a taste, mind you, of what B.Y.U. has to look forward to in 2011 and beyond: Jake Heaps finished his bowl debut 25 of 34 for 264 yards and 4 scores, completing his late-season transformation from wide-eyed youngster to a central piece in the B.Y.U. offense. Updating an earlier statistic, Heaps completed 99 of his 154 attempts for 1,259 yards and 13 touchdowns against only two interceptions in his team’s 4-1 finish to the season. There’s the Heaps most expected, though the wise bystanders among us knew it would take some time for the true freshman to acclimate himself to the college game.

Now that those young feet are wet, however, the future begins in earnest. Heaps is now the face of B,Y.U. football, the linchpin around which Bronco Mendenhall and coordinator Robert Anae can build a formidable offense. Speaking of Anae: it’s amazing what a few games can do, right? Remember that in October, critics of Anae’s handling of the B.Y.U. offense were in full throat, bemoaning the lack of punch from an offense used to Max Hall under center, not a true freshman.

Lay off Anae. And lay off Mendenhall, if there were any B.Y.U. fans foolish enough to think the program would be better off without his steady hand. Chalk the seven-win finish down to growing pains, which in hindsight should have been expected from a team breaking in a number of new faces.

Next year will be better. It will feel new, what with the move to Independent status, but look for Heaps to begin his assault on the B.Y.U. record books in earnest once play begins in September. It’s hard not to be at least a little excited.

There’s nothing wrong with a one-year struggle, particularly if two things occur: one, you begin to see immediate benefits, as B.Y.U. did in November and yesterday; and two, the benefit of those struggles is an improved team the following season and beyond. Look for the Cougars to take a big step forward in 2011, led by their then-sophomore quarterback and a new-look defense.

Mendenhall will likely continue to be very hands-on with the defense, but it would be wise for him to turn the day-to-day role over to either a new assistant or a current assistant promoted into the role. One thing is certain: look for the more aggressive B.Y.U. defense to remain in place. After posting only five sacks in its first five games — at which point coordinator Jaime Hill was relieved of his duties — B.Y.U. posted 15 sacks over the final seven games of the year, including five alone in a win over U.N.L.V.

Next year looks good. We got a taste of the future over the final month and in yesterday’s New Mexico Bowl win; the future takes over in 2011, with Jake Heaps taking center stage.

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  1. Burnt Orange says:

    Heaps was impressive as was Robinson at Troy. Looking forward to watching these guys the next three years.

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