As was passed on to me....
Prior to practice last Friday, Bronco spent about 45 minutes with a small group of alumni. Here is a very brief report. Quotes are paraphrased as best as I can recall. I hope you enjoy the report a fraction as much as I enjoyed listening and interacting with Bronco.
Here are some highlights of what he said (not in any order):
- The team is going to be "really good". "I wouldn't say that if I didn't think it is true, but we could be really, really good."
- "Jake has a lot of players to spread the ball to." (I mention this only to show that Bronco is well aware that this is Heaps' team. Disregard the coach-speak. Bronco is not an idiot.)
- Talked about recruiting. BYU only offers a kid who has been to camp. Every 'miss' they've had in the past is because the kid didn't come to camp and they relied on film. Never again. Some kids can't come, for financial reason or other - so be it. This is a trade-off the program is willing to make.
- Bronco would like more "farm kids" in the program, but since there aren't many farm kids any more, he looks for kids who have demonstrated work ethic. There is a common element among every kid who has failed at BYU - none of them ever had a job. He wants kids who have demonstrated the ability and willingness to work. Early morning seminary is another sign he looks for - an indicator that a kid knows how to be disciplined.
- The football program has increased admission standards. A kid now needs to meet a 3.3 GPA and a 19 ACT. If his GPA is lower than 3.3, his ACT must be higher than a 19. They have developed a formula, and they have proven it to be an accurate determinate of success within .2%.
- Said he recently spoke at a coaches clinic and told of BYU's academic and HC standards. The feedback was, "You'll never win at the highest level like that." Said he thinks we can. Kids want BYU. A recent recruit he visited with had narrowed his choices down to Wisconsin, Michigan, and BYU. The kid and his father couldn't believe that BYU had so few scholarships available, and that Bronco was pressing for an immediate commit, while Michigan and Wisc seemingly had plenty of room still.
- Talked about the honor code. Said BYU and the church got a lot of positive press with the Davies situation. Said the #1 priority of the football program is the missionary aspect, but winning is directly related. Had BYU been a .500 team when Davies got suspended, nobody would've taken notice. But because BYU was ranked 3rd, the entire nation took notice, and the sports world turned to discussing the word of wisdom, LDS beliefs regarding premarital sex, etc. BYU needs to win in order to succeed in their overall mission.
- Talked about Independence. Said when it became clear that the mtn would not allow BYU to re-broadcast games, the decision was made to go indy. Utah leaving was a catalyst, but the decision had already been made. it wasn't until AFTER BYU made its intentions known that ESPN contact BYU (not vice-versa) about partnering.
- Talked about ESPN. Said ESPN has suddenly shown interest in BYU again. Up until recently, they had no real motivation to talk much about BYU. Since we became "their product", we are everywhere on their network.
- Talked about scheduling. Said their strategy is 2 top-10 teams per year, 3 BCS-tier programs, and 7 "intriguing match-ups" (i.e. Utah, Utah St., Notre Dame, Navy, etc.) Said he wants to expose the players to places like Annapolis, South Bend, Boston, and wants to play all over the country so members everywhere can connect with BYU and watch them in person. Said 2011 is not the ideal schedule...2012 will be better but still not ideal...by 2013 we should be in a groove.
- Said since entering the deal with ESPN, the phone is ringing off the hook. Teams want to play BYU on the biggest stage possible...Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field, etc. Said he took calls last week from Ohio St., Wisconsin, and Penn St., all looking to make a deal.
- Talked about the new staff in general. Said they were a good staff by all measurables (record for the past 5 years). Said he is not content to be 'good'....good is the enemy of great, and the program needs to become great. Said sometimes assistants are needed at a program for a specific purpose at a specific time, and the coaches that are no longer with them were needed while they were here. Said it is true that after the bowl game he made it clear to all that they were all being re-evaluated. "If you aren't committed to being the best, or if you don't believe we are capable of being THE best, I would look for other opportunities." (He did not suggest that those who left were uncommitted - just that he was demanding a renewed commitment and energy from everybody who wished to remain.) He did say there is a renewed energy and spirit on the current staff.
- Talked about the assistants specifically. Doman is one of the best in the business - a great coach and a fantastic recruiter. Reynolds is a stabilizing force on the staff...when the staff was in limbo, many players walked into Bronco's office pleading to keep Reynolds. He is loved and respected. Kaufusi is the "Spiritual Giant" of the program. Weber is the only non-LDS coach "and probably the best man among us all". DuPaix interviewed for the job 6 years ago but was not ready. He has pestered Bronco via email and phone relentlessly since then...this time he was the right choice. Bronco said he is already the best recruiter on staff. "I don't know where he gets his energy." Poppinga is a Mendenhall study and knows exactly what is expected...is very good at motivating and uniting the defense. Cahoon has a lot to learn about recruiting and office work, etc. but he can do what nobody else can - lace up the cleats and SHOW the receivers how to run a perfect route. "There are only 6 humans on the planet who have caught more balls than Ben...he is BY FAR our best route runner and we don't have a DB who can cover him." Said Tidwell is a long-time friend and one of his most loyal allies (Bronco played for him at Snow and Tidwell gave him his first coaching job). Tidwell would do ANYTHING Bronco asked - would run through glass for him. Said Tidwell is capable of being the DC...has stepped in many times and taken over a defensive meeting when Bronco needed to be elsewhere..."He does it as well or better than I do". Howell is loved by the players and is like DuPaix and Poppinga - energetic and demanding.
- Said defensive Grad Assistant is Shaun Nua. Nua played in the NFL for a few years, then returned recently and was baptized. Offensive Grad Assistant is "A name you all know - Rob Morris. And you should see how the players respond to him!"
- Talked about 3 transfers. Kaveinga is really good. He committed to BYU and then signed with USC without giving any notice. Bronco said Kaveinga told him he's felt uneasy for 2 years about how he handled the situation, and he's wanted to be at BYU. Paid his own way last year to show his allegiance and dedication. Said Fangupo is a "giant man...big and quick. You'll likely hear his warrior battle cries this year." Bronco couldn't remember the name of "The transfer from Oregon State", but he said he looks like a real player.
- Talked about his interview for the HC position. Said since then he's only had one other interaction with a GA. Said after the USU game last year he was in a foul mood and trying to get away from everybody who was bugging him. Told his secretary he was going for an hour drive - not to forward any calls. A short time later his secretary called, and he was at first ticked. "Bronco, I have Elder Oaks on the phone." "Hello?" "Hello, Coach, I'm wondering if I can apply for your head cheerleader position." "Uhhh...ha ha (awkward laugh)." "No...I just wanted to let you know that you have our full support. Carry on." Click.
- Said he believes BYU can be THE BEST. "Just so I'm clear, that means a national championship." "There are many of you who don't believe that. There are many in the church or at BYU who are OK with just being 'good'. I'm not interested in this job if that's the case." Quoted Muhammad Ali (his favorite athlete) about what "impossible" means - and said he doesn't listen to critics.
We were asked not to talk about specific plays or X's and O's, so I'll just state some general opinions and observations from practice:
- Kaveinga is a stud at LB, and one of the most impressive athletes on the field. Looks like the body of a 4-year veteran, has great footwork, and is clearly the leader of the D.
- Apo is smoooooth. Kid was uncoverable in one-on-one drills, and looked like a man among boys at times.
- Heaps throws a beautiful deep ball.
- Hague is going to be a player at safety. Reminds you of Scott Johnson at first glance. Looks surprisingly comfortable and is a very physical safety. Seems to love the contact.
- David Foote is a better player than he's given credit for. I know he will be buried on the depth chart, but he is more than a scrub and getting lots of opportunity to show his stuff.
- Riley looks like a pretty darn good backup - the kind most teams would love to have. Munns is a load - 6'4" and 250+.
- DB's overall looked very tight in coverage. I was impressed by our depth and ability.
- Mahina seems to be emerging as the main TE target, though others will certainly play.
- JJ, Q, and Kariya provide a pretty versatile backfield. I like our options, especially if we can throw Phillips there also.
- The pace of practice is high octane. Coaches are all up and down the field...encouraging, applauding, demanding, instructing. I love it!!