WR Todd Watkins (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Photo Services)

2004 Statistics

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
1st year
2004 Record: 5-6
at Stanford LOST 10-37
USC LOST 10-42
at Boise State LOST 27-28
at Colorado State WON 31-21
at Air Force WON 41-24
at Utah LOST 21-52

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

The Gary Crowton era is over in Provo, and Cougar fans couldn't be happier. While the successor to BYU legend Lavell Edwards began his four-year tenure in style, winning the first 12 games of the 2001 season, the Cougars went 14-23 from that point, and haven't had a winning season since. As Crowton lost his last three games to rival Utah, the writing was on the wall.

Bronco Mendenhall takes over the program and, at 38, is the second-youngest I-A head coach. He's been the Cougars' defensive coordinator for the past two years and grew up in Utah, so he knows the BYU program well. He will continue to run the defense in Provo, meaning that side of the ball will be among the best in the Mountain West. But the DB unit will be a work-in-progress into the fall, for only real-game reps can attune the members of this inexperienced secondary to the dazzling aerial displays soon to be seen.

The biggest change in Provo comes on offense, where the Cougars have switched to a spread attack (see: Texas Tech). The Cougars have always liked to throw the ball, but fans in Provo may see more tosses than ever. John Beck has the physical skills to lead the Cougars into the new era, but the question is whether/when he'll have the talent at wide receiver. One thing we do know - BYU has solid backs to compliment the pass. Curtis Brown is a more complete back (run/catch combo) than many expect, and backfield-mate Tahi guarantees he cannot be an opposing defenses' only mark.

The 2005 Cougars will be better, but finding their success reflected in more (>5) wins may not happen. They get three of their toughest conference games (Colorado State, Air Force and Utah) at home. But BYU is unpredictable enough to make every game a point-spread nightmare - they will beat teams that look superior, while losing to a few that seem beneath them. It's the non-cons, though, that look like they could derail BYU's shot at any bowl action - three likely losses, added to a respectable 4-3 MWC finish, would still make the Utah game the season's deciding factor this way. Keep an eye on the secondary to see which way the team's record tilts, over or under .500.

Projected 2005 record: 6-5
DE Manaia Brown (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Photo Services)
QB - 4.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 3.5 LB - 2.5
WR - 3 DB - 1
OL - 2 ..

Passing: John Beck, 343-192-8, 2563 yds., 15 TD

Rushing: Curtis Brown, 158 att., 789 yds., 6 TD

Receiving: Todd Watkins, 52 rec., 1042 yds., 6 TD

Scoring: Todd Watkins, Curtis Brown, Naufahu Tahi - 6 TD, 36 pts. each

Punting: None

Kicking: None

Tackles: Cameron Jensen, 103 tot., 49 solo

Sacks: Manaia Brown, 4.5 sacks

Interceptions: Cameron Jensen, 2 for 26 yds., 1 TD, Spencer White, 2 for 61 yds.

Kickoff returns: Bryce Mahuika, 21 ret., 22.5 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Bryce Mahuika, 19 ret., 7.4 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Austin Collie-WR, Jason Kukahiko-WR, Antwaun Harris-WR, Dennis Pitta-TE, R.J. Willing-OT, Scott Young-OG, Matt Payne-K/P
DEFENSE: Shaun Nua-DE, John Denney-DE, Brady Poppinga-RLB, Matt Bauman-LLB, Aaron Francisco-CB, Jon Burbidge-CGR, Micah Alba-S, Brandon Heaney-S

After earning first-string last year, John Beck's hold of the starting spot will remain solid, and, barring injury, he won't let it go until 2007. He's one of the top three quarterbacks in the Mountain West, and this heady (made MWC all-academic team) Arizona-product limits his mistakes (nearly 2:1 TD: INT ratio). Beck has a little speed and will take off on the occasional run, but is disciplined to stay mainly in the pocket, where he can use his strong arm to pick foes apart. Matt Berry will be peeking over Beck's shoulder. He's a former (part-time) starter whose size makes him a great second option, though his INT habits are not yet broken. This is possibly the best overall QB unit in the conference.

Running Back
With Mendenhall taking over the reigns, the running game will be more of a factor than in recent campaigns, and the Cougars have a great duo to lean upon for such. Curtis Brown has proven to be just as good as expected. Brown has the body to take a beating over a full game, but also has the speed (4.5) and svelte to elude back-seven defenders. Second-leading rusher Fahu Tahi also returns. Not a lot speed here, but Tahi is a bruiser who will be leaned upon to get the tougher yards. Tahi actually had the better average per catch, though Brown caught more total passes, so this unit has the hands to make the spread scheme work this way, too. Together, the duo will exceed what they did a year ago (102.5 yards per game, 11 TDs), but unproven depth means a step back if health issues arise.

The Cougars have Austin Collie (MWC Freshman of the Year) for three more campaigns, but he won't be back until 2007 (serving his mission). Todd Watkins is back, though. The big, sure-handed senior secures the underneath pass, but also has the speed to stretch a defense - he rated as Sports Illustrated's top deep threat. Beyond Watkins, the Cougars are inexperienced, but have real potential to soar. Early on, this group will lean heavily on Watkins, but as the inexperienced players - namely Matt Allen (clears 6'10" high jump), Michael Reed (Texas 5A WR of the Year) and senior Michael Morris - get comfortable, this will develop into an area of strength.

Tight End
Junior Daniel Coats has to be salivating - BYU's new spread offense calls for the TEs to get much of the attention. The former Utah (prep) Player of the Year and freshman all-American has a huge upside not yet fully realized, so expect his receiving role to bolster the corps of newbies. Philip Niu returns from a knee injury to give BYU (literally) even more receiving depth - his 19.0 ypc average from 2003 proves he, too, adds the dimension(s) needed for the spread approach to be fully realized.

Offensive Line
For the skill position players to be as good as expected, the offensive line has to better at protecting their quarterbacks (gave up one sack for every 10.8 pass attempts - 39 total) and opening holes for the backs (3.0 ypc). Returning four players with starting experience, BYU will be better here. Lance Reynolds is a tough guy (former LB) who made a smooth transition into one of the conference's best centers. Right guard Jake Kuresa (All-MWC honorable mention) has quickly become a force on offense. Despite his size, he's very athletic. Returning to left guard will be Brian Sanders, who has actually slimmed down about 20 pounds in the last two years. As always, the BYU line is huge, averaging about 310 pounds per man, so the battle here is clearly in the mastering of footwork.

Known for its love of air, BYU will throw the ball in classic Cougar style. Mendenhall's spread offense means Beck will be busy, which is a good thing, because he's got the talent to lead them to success. The Cougars ranked 102nd in rushing (103.2 yards per game), but that will improve. The real deal is going to be how well the balance of run and pass can be maintained. Mendenhall is no offensive guru, and OC Rob Anae did not have the parity needed for the spread approach to have its desired (scoring) impact. BYU will push the run more than half the time (only ran it 47.5% in 2004) and will go down doing such, if necessary. Spreading the field will allow the large backs and linemen to have one-on-one success more than they did in trying to utilize a "gang push" mentality.


QB John Beck (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Photo Services)


Returning Starters in bold
QB John Beck-Jr (6-2, 212) Matt Berry-Sr (6-5, 231)
RB Curtis Brown-Jr (6-0, 205) Naufahu Tahi-Sr (6-0, 240)
WR Todd Watkins-Sr (6-3, 190) Michael Reed-Fr (6-1, 201)
WR Nathan Meikle-Jr (5-9, 175) Bryce Mahuika-So (5-9, 187)
WR Matt Allen-So (5-11, 174) Zac Collie-Jr (5-11, 190)
TE Daniel Coats-Jr (6-3, 256) Jonny Harline-Jr (6-4, 226)
OT Eddie Keele-Jr (6-5, 312) Ray Feinga-Fr (6-5, 334)
OG Dallas Reynolds-Fr (6-4, 345) Scott Tidwell-Sr (6-2, 295)
C Lance Reynolds-Sr (6-2, 303) Jeff Rhea-So (6-3, 292)
OG Brian Sanders-Sr (6-3, 348) Terrence Brown-Fr (6-4, 326)
OT Jake Kuresa-Jr (6-4, 339) David Oswald-So (6-8, 303)
K Jared McLaughlin-So (6-4, 198) Tyler Holt-Fr (5-9, 176)



Defensive Line
The Cougars were vulnerable against the run (3.7 ypc allowed), but they also registered 34 sacks. This is a good line, though, so the run defense will tighten without giving up anything on the pass rush. This is one of the deepest units on the team, led by returning starter Manaia Brown, BYU's best pass rusher. The former Nebraska product is as strong and powerful as his size suggests, but he's also quicker than expected. In the 3-3-5 defense, Vince Feula and Daniel Marquardt fill out the starting lineup - literally. Both powerful tackles combine to give BYU a 925-pound line. Feula has to make more big plays, for the potential of this former-JUCO stud has yet to be seen.

There are some holes here, but the Cougars have a very athletic group of players to fill them. Middle backer Cameron Jensen will be the leader here. He's got ideal size for the middle, and it is tough to escape his grasp. Jensen's speed makes him versatile enough to track down runners behind the line of scrimmage, as well as cover Rbs, TEs, and WRs. The competition for the two outside spots will last into the fall, but ex-Wazzu transfer Aaron Wagner will figure into the mix with his athleticism.

Defensive Back
In the Cougars' system, they often play three safeties at a time, so BYU's depth is an important variable. Spencer White is the lone returning starter, and he spends his Saturday afternoon's all over the field. He makes plays equally well against the run and/or the pass. Dustin Gabriel and ex-LB K.C. Bills (catback) will also be strong in run support. Both are big, strong players who can put a hurt on ball carriers. The corners are inexperienced and will therefore get tested early. Nate Soelberg is a returning starter, but is just an average cover man who doesn't make enough big plays, but he has the head for leading this dimension. There's not a big playmaker in the bunch at secondary, and a good quarterback will eventually burn the Cougars.

The Cougars represented the I-A median (58 teams gave up fewer total yards per game, 58 gave up more), and that'll likely be where they wind up again. The front seven is better than a year ago and will be solid against run while providing a consistent pass rush. The untested DBs, however, will prove to be BYU's downfall. The opposition will make them work early and often, and it will be a long year in the defensive backfield. Hey, if a 3-3-5 scheme is already known to have a weak secondary (where the nickel is the norm), what can a coordinator do to compensate (10¢ for your thoughts)? Mendenhall had the secondary ranked 8th after 2003 (his first as current DC), so his ability to produce results in this marginally weak area could be founded, too. BYU had much greater success on D in the first and third quarters, meaning that opposing teams adjusted to the Cougars' schemes well - opponents' late drives at the ends of both/either half/halves usually scored.


LB Cameron Jensen (PHOTO - Mark Philbrick, BYU Photo Services)


Returning Starters in bold
DE Manaia Brown-Sr (6-4, 313) T.J. Sitake-Sr (6-4, 274)
NT Daniel Marquardt-Sr (6-2, 337) Hala Paongo-Jr (6-2, 280)
DE Vince Feula-Sr (6-1, 302) Justin Maddux-Sr (6-3, 267)
LLB Paul Walkenhorst-Sr (6-6, 266) Aaron Wagner-Jr (6-3, 247)
MLB Cameron Jensen-Jr (6-2, 241) Dan Bates-Jr (5-11, 228)
RLB Justin Luettgerodt-Jr (6-3, 240) Bryan Kehl-So (6-2, 219)
CB Nate Soelberg-Sr (6-0, 174) O'Neil Howell-Sr (5-10, 180)
CB Kayle Buchanon-So (6-1, 197) Justin Robinson-Jr (5-7, 154)
CGR Dustin Gabriel-So (6-1, 201) David Tafuna-So (6-1, 198)
S Spencer White-Sr (6-0, 198) Corby Hodgkiss-So (5-11, 196)
S Quinn Gooch-So (6-0, 194) K.C. Bills-So (6-1, 218)
P Derek McLaughlin-Jr (6-1, 203) Jared McLaughlin-So (6-4, 198)




For the first time in three years, the Cougars will be breaking in a new kicker - Trent Williams. The sophomore, who grew up in Provo, is a good athlete who was also recruited for soccer. He hasn't kicked in a game since 2001, but he has a strong leg that'll make him a weapon from beyond 50 yards.

The Cougars are also looking at a new punter for the first time in three years. In the spring, Jared McLaughlin handled those duties. Taller than your average punter, McLaughlin also has a big leg that will help the Cougars in the field position battle. He will be pushed in the fall, though, when Derek McGlaughlin (Washington transfer) becomes eligible to play.

Return Game
The return game is all about Bryce Mahuika. The short receiver/returner handled all but one punt return and 60 percent of the kickoffs in 2004. As a punt returner, he's average, but gives the Cougars a big lift on kicks. His speed gives him the ability to break away on any play, though. The kick return coverage was poor in 2004, and the punt coverage was average. Patrick Higgins was brought in as the new special teams coach to help shore up both areas.