Talked to a lot of BYU football coaches and players this week about how the Cougars are preparing to face Georgia Tech's spread option offense on Saturday, and I learned one particular thing about BYU's team that I didn't really know before.
This third or fourth-string quarterback named Christian Stewart, a walk-on from Snow College, is quite the player. A junior, Stewart is pretending to be Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee in practices this week as he directs the scout team offense.
"Probably the best I've seen at doing it," defensive coordinator Nick Howell said. "He's done a really good job. Christian is a good player. It is fun watching him run the option. I love watching the option. It is fun to defend, too."
Actually, Stewart runs the scout team every week, and Howell isn't the first coach or player to say the former Timpanogos High signal-caller is good at what he does.
"I would say he duplicates Georgia Tech's quarterback really well. He can move and he can read defenses," said BYU linebacker Austen Jorgensen.
A few years ago, when BYU was preparing to face a triple-option team, receiver and holder Matt Marshall would serve as the scout team quarterback, drawing upon his experience running the wishbone at Skyline High for legendary coach Roger DuPaix. Players would also rave about Marshall's ability to play that position as well.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall's success against option football is the topic of this story in today's Salt Lake Tribune. Reporters weren't able to get much out of Mendenhall this week about how much loves the challenge of going against the spread option, aside from the one comment included in the article.
But other coaches and some players acknowledged it is Bronco's "specialty," as it were.
"I think we know what we are doing," Howell said. "And I think coach Mendenhall knows what he is doing. It is from experience. He puts a lot of time into it, a ton of time during the offseason, so we are all on the same page. I think we have a good system. The thing about an option team is they are always going to come out with a little wrinkle that you have never seen. It takes a ton of preparation."
More comments on how BYU's defense is preparing to deal with the option:
Linebackers coach Paul Tidwell on whether they can duplicate last year's success:
"Every year changes, and we are playing more plays now with our fast-paced offense. Can we do it again? Who knows? I think we will go out and we will play hard and we will play well. Guys will do their assignments and I am sure they are improved as an offense. They are putting points on the board. So it will be a good battle."
Tidwell on how Georgia Tech does
"They've added a few [new formations]. Studying them over the years, there is usually always a little twist with an option team, the way they block it. Maybe the way their running backs are approaching motion, or not in motion. So there is usually a twist or two. You have to keep your game plan simple so your players aren't thinking too much, and are just reacting. If you are thinking too much and have too many calls in and there are too many adjustments, they are going to get you. So you keep it simple."
Howell on how BYU was able to stop it last year:
"Guys did their assignment in our system, and then in my opinion we had really, really good players. When you have Ziggy and Romney and Russell playing the option, playing the front, you are pretty good. And they did their jobs exactly right, and Ogletree and Uona and Kyle and Spencer and those guys did a really nice job. Last year, our offense ate up the clock, and we were playing with a lead."
Howell on not getting beat by the pass:
"It is run, run, run, and then you fall asleep and you get beat by a deep pass."
Howell on how to get the edge against the option:
"You gotta have a negative play. I mean, if they chip at you three yards, three yards, three yards, they are going to go for it on fourth down. … You know, for them to go 0 for 10 last year on third down, that's unheard of. If you get them in third and long, you got a chance. If you get them in third and 2, they are going to get first downs."
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