For the first of our probably ten part installment of Blogger Q&A for the 2011-2012 season, we asked VanquishTheFoe, SBNation's BYU blog, five questions about the Cougars and the season ahead of them. Check out their answers here. If you want to read what I had to say when asked about the Rebels, their post should be up shortly at VTF.
RCR: What would you say Bronco Mendenhall does well as a coach? Do you view him as a coach who is good enough that you have to worry about another team swooping in for him after significant success at BYU?
VTF: Bronco Mendenhall is a great motivator and a defensive mastermind. Bronco is a great coach and I'm sure there would be teams that would be interested in his services. However, I'm not too worried that he would leave BYU for another school. I would say he is like Lavell Edwards in the respect that he won't leave BYU until he is run out of town or he is ready to retire.
RCR: Name the best defensive player on your team about whom we probably know nothing. Offensive?
VTF: Defensively, I'd say Kyle Van Noy is someone who is flying under the radar from those not familiar with BYU. He is only a sophomore and last season, he showed lots of promise at linebacker. After playing in every game and starting in two of them last year, he is poised to be a full-time starter.
On offense, watch out for our three-headed monster at running back. So much hype is made of Jake Heaps' and the BYU passing offense that if you sleep on JJ Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya or Joshua "Juice" Quezada, you will pay. Di Luigi gained 917 yards to go along with 8 TDs, Kariya had 537 yards and 6 TDs and Quezada had 505 yards and 5 TDs last season.
RCR: I recently wrote an article about Jake Heaps' progression as the season played out. What do you think accounted for his success? What types of routes does Heaps do best with? Is he more of a precision guy or a deep threat?
VTF: I think the biggest thing that accounted for Heaps' progression as the season went on was stability. Last year, as an True Freshman he was touted as the next great BYU quarterback but then he was thrust into a rotation with Riley Nelson who plays a completely different style than Heaps. Last years offensive coordinator did a horrible job of playcalling for both quarterbacks and he seemed to not trust Heaps fully. Nelson was injured and Heaps became to full-time starter and then a few weeks later the offensive coordinator resigned. Once these two events occurred, you could see his confidence rise.
To me, Heaps is more of a precision passer than a deep threat but that in no way means that he can't throw the long bomb, as well.
RCR:You've probably heard about our mammoth offensive line. We actually are of the opinion that they're overhyped and struggle in pass blocking. Is BYU equipped with pass rushers who are capable of drawing our ire from the stands? Also, what does BYU do schematically to get after the passer?
VTF: I don't know the measurements of your "mammoth" offensive line but BYU has generally had one of the largest offensive lines in college football too. Matt Reynolds is a pre-season All-American OL and he along with center Braden Hansen are on the Outland Trophy watchlist. Now, I know the question wasn't about our offensive line. So...while BYU may not have many D-linemen that can bull rush and overpower the Ole Miss line (maybe Romney Fuga) we have a few linebackers and defensive backs that can surprise off the corners with their speed and get into the backfield to cause trouble. I don't know how much he will play at the beginning of the season but I am excited to see what Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah can do from the linebacker position. Ziggy is a guy that came to BYU from Ghana to run track but last season he joined the football team. This kid is a beast! 6-6, 270 pounds and with speed. He has potential to be something special.
RCR: What is your prediction on the outcome of the game? Give a score as well as how you wound up there.
VTF: This game is not going to be a lopsided win for either team as I think both have their problem areas that can be exploited. BYU is going to try to force Ole Miss to pass the ball early and often while Ole Miss will try to run the ball down our throats. I believe that the game will come down to an untimely turnover or a last-second field goal. BYU is capable of forcing turnovers and also has a kicker with a strong leg that can win the game from distance if needed. I gotta have faith in my Cougars and we need this win to gain confidence for a tough game at Texas the following week. I predict a 27-26 victory for BYU