QB Matt Berry

2002 Statistics

Coach: Gary Crowton
17-9, 2 years
2002 Record: 5-7
at Nevada LOST 28-31
at Georgia Tech LOST 19-28
at Utah State WON 35-34
at Air Force LOST 9-52
at Colorado State LOST 10-37
at Utah LOST 6-13

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

The 2002 Cougars hurt themselves the worst. They had 35 giveaways, averaging almost three-a-game in ranking 83rd in I-A TO margin. And 65 yards-per-game in penalties certainly didn't help. It is going to be a tough, but not impossible, task to get this team to finally gel. They have a hard schedule that includes games against seven 2002 bowl teams. Their path is highlighted by road games at USC and Notre Dame, with Boise State, Colorado State (play toughest on the road) and Air Force all in Provo.

In today's harsh world of "what have you done for me lately", Gary Crowton is going to have to produce a winning season and a bowl team in 2003 if he wants to stay off the hot seat. It seems that in coaching, the worst way to go is to start off with a bang and slowly digress to complacency (ask Bob Toledo, Gerry DiNardo, etc.). It reflects poor recruiting, to say the least. Utah may not be a deep football well from which to pull, but still…

The return of 15 starters and both kicking positions indeed bodes well on all these levels. The key to their success will undoubtedly be stable QB play. In all of BYU's successful campaigns, there has been a stellar QB. Whether it's Berry, Mortenson, Pendleton or Beck, someone will need to emerge and take control. If you look at coach LaVell Edward's last season at BYU, multiple QBs caused their 6-6 record. The following season, in Gary Crowton's first year, they stuck with Brandon Doman and the team finished 11-2. Similarly, finding QB stability will give identity to the offense and establish cohesion as they incrementally achieve steps and goals. Put your money on Matt Berry to take charge and team with Toby Christensen for one of the nation's more potent QB/WR tandems.

Defensively, the Cougars should be sound once adept in their new schemes. Changes in overall approach fit well with the existing personnel. This experienced-yet-new-look 3-3-5 squad will be tested early, with games against explosive offenses (Boise State, USC and Stanford) making their learning curve steep. Look for this group to be extremely aggressive and use their speed accordingly. The key is going to be blitzing unpredictably, yet often, to put pressure on opposing QBs and force TOs into the hands of many capable DBs.

Gone are the days when a BYU team will come out of nowhere to throw wrenches into the national polls. This is a building year, but sometimes building years can explode into bigger things. Realistically, the Cougars will muster no more than 9 wins. And, with some team chemistry, they can even stay neck and neck in their conference race. They'll advance to a bowl game (after a year's hiatus) but without the MWC crown. But take notes, because what you see this season will surely be the building blocks (offensively) for what will be an even better squad in 2004. Maybe not what the Cougar faithful want to hear now, but bank on this info to help in any polls you enter.

Projected 2003 record: 6-6
P Matt Payne
DB Aaron Francisco
QB Matt Berry
WR Chris Hale
DE Brady Poppinga
FB Tafui Vakapuna
QB - 4 DL - 3
RB - 3.5 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 3.5
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Matt Berry, 184-108-9, 1309 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: Marcus Whalen, 181 att., 918 yds., 6 TD

Receiving: Toby Christensen, 30 rec., 346 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: Matt Payne, 13-16 FG, 27-30 PAT, 66 pts.

Punting: Matt Payne, 51 att., 47.6 avg.

Kicking: Matt Payne, 13-16 FG, 27-30 PAT, 66 pts.

Tackles: Paul Walkenhorst, 107 tot., 47 solo

Sacks: Brady Poppinga, 8 sacks

Interceptions: Kip Nielsen, 3 for 50 yds.

Kickoff returns: Curtis Brown, 9 ret., 19.8 avg.

Punt returns: David Christensen, 8 ret., 10.0 avg.


OFFENSE: Andrew Ord-WR, Reno Mahe-WR, Spencer Nead-TE, Dustin Rykert-OT, Ryan Keele-OG, Isaac Herring-OT, Bret Engemann-QB (NFL)
DEFENSE: Jeff Cowart-DE

written by Tim Chapman

BYU played four QBs last season and three of them return. Someone has to emerge from this pack. The leader appears to be soph. Matt Berry, who took over for Brett Engemann as the starter in the seventh game against UNLV. Berry shows a promising arm, he is your current leader for the job. The knock against him, though, is he needs to improve his decision-making. In the seven games he played, Matt threw nine INTs against only seven TDs. If he does not deliver, look for junior Todd Mortensen to push the envelope. Todd is a very intelligent signal caller with enough experience under his belt to make the competition that much better. He has seen action as a backup over the past two seasons. Freshman QB Ben Olson announced that he plans on serving a two-year LDS mission and won't return until 2005. Olson was ranked by several recruiting services as the top high school senior in 2001. Pushing the pack will also be John Beck and Lance Pendleton, but again, smart man's guess is Berry to hold down the starting role heading into the fall opener.

The QB stable in the "Air-Crowton" attack will team with a group of experienced receivers. Even though the Cougars lose their top pass-catcher, they bring back a number of receivers with great hands. The biggest name is senior Toby Christensen. Toby (son of former BYU and NFL great Todd Christensen) brings the ability to get deep, runs quality routes, and has a superb set of hands. His leadership skills are a boon for this team lacking an experienced "field-general". Look for the tandem of "whomever to Christensen" to litter score sheets. Suffice to say, whoever does throw the ball will have an ample target in our boy. Also in the receiver-mix are juniors Rod Wilkerson and Jason Kukahiko. Kukahiko is a former high school track star with speed to stretch defenses to go with his good hands. Expect a breakout year from this young man.

One of the main reasons BYU had little success in 2002 was the weak running game. Two years ago Luke Staley provided what is now needed. The 2002 Cougars only averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 121 yards per game on the ground - not enough to take pressure off whichever QB. Junior Marcus Whalen returns after falling only ten yards shy of 1,000. Whalen showed he is an all-around back too, catching 27 passes out of the backfield. He will be helped out by soph. Curtis Brown.

Berry and Mortensen will have to get help from three new starters on the offensive line. This is probably a blessing in disguise. If the last crew couldn't produce with the qualified Whalen, then bring in the next kids and let them have a chance. If you believe in your recruiting, this is a no-brainer for improvement. C Scott Jackson returns as the anchor, along with steady Quinn Christensen. Surrounding these cats will be a long list of youthful faces. No doubt about this, though: BYU loves to throw the football, meaning this new group of linemen will have to, but will struggle to, solidify in a hurry.

Replacing tight ends Spencer Nead and Gabe Reid, who are both bound for the NFL, has been a bit of a concern for BYU coaches. That concern spurred Crowton to move a growing Daniel Coates from wide out to tight end. Coates entered fall camp last season as a 6-foot-2, 200-pound true freshman. After a redshirt season, and an increase of some 40 pounds, Coates will be competing for a starting job at tight end. BYU must find an eminent replacement for reliable Spencer "Teton-Terror" Nead, and his 40 catches. BYU has always utilized TEs well. This year, it will be important to find one (BYU's young QBs will need one to establish offensive success), and quick. Look for several names jockeying with playing time at the TE position (see depth chart). But this is a weakness nonetheless until established.

Finally, the Cougars must flat out score more points. BYU lulled to 88th in scoring offense in Division I-A (second to last in the MWC), averaging only 22 points per game. They need to put up the numbers they used to post, which usually hovered around 35 to 40 ppg. There are way too many shootouts in their conference for this scoring issue not to need fixing. TOs need to be addressed, too.


RB Marcus Whalen


Returning Starters in bold
QB Matt Berry-So (6-5, 225) Todd Mortensen-Jr (6-4, 220)
RB Marcus Whalen-Jr (5-11, 210) Curtis Brown-So / Tafui Vakapuna-Fr (FB)
WR Toby Christensen-Sr (6-0, 192) Jason Kukahiko-Jr (6-2, 190)
WR Rod Wilkerson-Jr (6-2, 190) Chris Hale-So (5-9, 175)
WR David Christensen-Jr (5-10, 187) Ryan Slater-Jr (6-3, 202)
TE Justin Jory-Sr (6-3, 250) Aisaac Aiono-So (6-4, 265)
OT Eddie Keele-Fr (6-5, 300) Scott Fisher-Fr (6-7, 300)
OG Quinn Christensen-Sr (6-6, 300) Scott Young-Sr (6-5, 312)
C Scott Jackson-Sr (6-5, 300) Hanale Vincent-Jr (6-5, 315)
OG Jake Kuresa-Fr (6-4, 330) Brian Sanders-So (6-3, 330)
OT Brandon Stephens-Jr (6-6, 285) Gary McGiven-Fr (6-3, 295)
K Matt Payne-Jr (6-4, 240) Tyson Dunham-Jr (6-1, 210)



written by Tim Chapman

The Cougars are bringing back ten starters on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest name on that squad is junior DE Brady Poppinga. Poppinga led the MWC with eight sacks, so he will draw double-teams. Keeping with that, watch out for DT Ifo Pili to make some noise as he fights the injury bug in the spring. Senior DL Shawn Nua and two-year starter John Denney will complete a line that has to overcome its 2002's marginal performance - giving up 4.1 yards-per-rush and earning 22 sacks won't disrupt many offensive game plans, so… experience has to equal improvement.

The linebackers are three mangy dogs who can run, seek, and destroy. They are lead by four-year starter Paul Walkenhorst in the middle, a 2002 Butkus candidate. Walkenhorst can move well laterally, eating up everything that comes his way. On the outside, Levi Madarietta is a quality cover-man, and Colby Bockwaldt is especially strong at run-pursuit. Both provide added speed to an already quick defense. This unit will provide a run-stopping handicap. They need to also remain viable in coverage for any dynamic levels of play to be reached. Otherwise, it will be a long season if the LB corps is predictable in its responses to play development.

The strongest dimension for BYU may be their secondary believe it or not. Quality cover-men CB Chad Barney and SS Aaron Francisco anchor the DBs. Francisco's 99 tackles (team's second best) speak for the entire unit's ability to also run-stop as they cover. Keep an eye out for ball-hawking safety Kip Nielson, who was the team's INT leader. Cougar fans can rest easy this season. All-MWC performer Jernaro Gilford is back at corner, and he's healthy. Back for his senior season, Gilford had an outstanding spring, and did not miss a down. Depth in the secondary will likely lead to nickel defenses being emphasized so LBs can focus on the play underneath and inside whenever needed. With so many starters back, this crew can improve on being Div. I-A's 23rd ranked pass-efficiency defense.

During this off-season, long-time BYU defensive coordinator Ken Schmidt retired. They bring in former New Mexico coordinator Bronco Mendenhall. Mendenhall liked to use a 3-3-5 defensive scheme with the Lobos, and the Cougars' personnel, as detailed above, will fit well into that scheme. The problem will be getting the players acquainted and comfortable with this new system. Look for this to take a few games, especially since the quality non-cons scheduled will be keen to this.

What's weird is that the players all show good 2002 numbers and plenty of promise - none is a weak point individually. But the team gave up about 28 points-per-contest. The problem with the 2002 Cougar defense was defending against the run. They were 92nd in I-A as they gave up 177 yards-per-game (2nd worst in the MWC) at over four yards-per-carry. The answer to explain the statistical anomaly is this: the defense either stopped the run with a tackle-for-loss, or they gave up a big, double-digit gainer. Mendenhall's DL will need to be better at making the initial stop consistently instead of getting caught using too much quickness in over-pursuit. Just having a new coordinator should instill enough new ethics to reinvent the same players into a solid unit by mid-season.


DE Brady Poppinga


Returning Starters in bold
DE Brady Poppinga-Jr (6-3, 260) Ryan Gunderson-Sr (6-4, 280)
NT Ifo Pili-Sr (6-3, 310) Justin Carlson-Fr (6-3, 270)
DE Bill Wright-Sr (6-3, 250) John Denney-Jr (6-6, 270)
RLB Colby Bockwoldt-Sr (6-2, 230) Bryant Atkinson-So (6-3, 225)
MLB Paul Walkenhorst-Sr (6-5, 252) Mike Tanner-Sr (6-1, 235)
LLB Levi Madarieta-Sr (6-3, 230) Nick DiPadova-Sr (6-0, 205)
CB Brandon Heaney-Sr (5-11, 185) Jernaro Gilford-Sr (6-2, 185)
CB Chad Barney-Sr (6-2, 195) Micah Alba-Jr (5-8, 165)
CGR Aaron Francisco-Jr (6-2, 210) Corby Hodgkiss-Fr (5-11, 200)
S Jon Burbidge-Jr (6-1, 205) Jared Meibos-Jr (5-11, 208)
S Kip Nielsen-Sr (6-0, 200) Josh Brandon-Sr (6-0, 190)
P Matt Payne-Jr (6-4, 240) Tyson Dunham-Jr (6-1, 210)




Kicker/Punter Matt Payne was sensational last season, which was good enough to make him this site's First Team All-American punter. Payne was second in the nation in punting, averaging 47 yds per. He also doubled as a consistent PK, hitting on 13-of-16 FGAs (one for 52 yds). Having him back this season certainly helps.

If BYU can find a consistent returner, they can improve on already solid 2002 numbers in these areas and coverage(s). Depth on defense should give the Cougars the special team's wildcard that will be a difference (even game) maker in 2003.