Provo • The average person dropping by LaVell Edwards Stadium surely was struck by the tempo of BYU’s offense, how quickly the Cougars were launching one offensive play after another.
By offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s standards, that was nothing. If the Cougars resembled Arizona, where Anae coached last season under Rich Rodriguez, the plan is for them to do it even quicker and better than they showed in Saturday’s Blue-White Game.
That’s clearly the view of Anae, who has his own bit of polishing to do in how he delivers his messages to the media. Addressing about a dozen print and electronic reporters on the field, Anae used expressions such as "your goofy columns" and "your little papers."
This episode came two weeks after a group interview in which Anae kept asking the purpose of questions he was fielding. In contrast, he handled himself well during an introductory news conference in February, marking his return to the program.
Personally, I’m not at all bothered by his demeanor this spring. I’ll judge Anae only one way, by his offense’s yards and points in games from August through December.
Having said that, this can’t be the approach the school’s administration wants from someone who’s basically being given an opportunity to audition for a head coaching position someday, can it?
Brushing aside that weirdness for the moment, the takeaway from Saturday’s session — actually, the 12th of 15 spring practices — is there’s hope for the Cougar offense.
There’s danger, as Anae pointed out, in making too much of the offense’s performance against a defense that was missing star linebacker Kyle Van Noy and other starters. Then again, No. 1 quarterback Taysom Hill and receiver Cody Hoffman were held out as well.
And the format that created two squads and matched the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense (and No. 2 vs. No. 2) gave some credibility to an offense that produced three long touchdown drives on nine possessions and did not commit a turnover, although a wrestled-away interception was nullified by an offside penalty.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall described the offense as "coming along nicely" after "a positive day overall."
Hill went through warmups but was not scheduled to play, still recovering from the knee injury that sidelined him six months ago. But the coaches have liked his work this spring. Backup QBs Ammon Olsen and Christian Stewart generally looked good Saturday, although Olsen’s spring may have ended with what Mendenhall believes is a minor knee injury.
Mendenhall wanted the quarterbacks to be tackled — they were sacked five times — to better gauge their decision-making and ball security in a live setting.
Anae liked that part. Avoiding turnovers is a huge component of his offensive approach. But he definitely believes faster is better, kind of like the kids in those AT&T commercials.
"We’ve got a long way to go in terms of playing fast and playing hard," he said. "Whatever you write in your goofy columns, write that. … Apparently, in our practice arrangement, we have not done a [sufficient] job to teach them how to go fast in a game situation."
Mendenhall actually was impressed with the offense’s tempo, without the coaches being on the field to push the pace, as they are in practice.
As for the offense’s achievements Saturday, Anae said, "You guys got to take this within context. Our ‘D’ was resting their studs. So write that in your little papers, OK?"
Ultimately, Anae settled on a conclusion regrading his offense that everyone could agree with, based on a spring scrimmage evaluation: "It’s not that great and it’s not that bad."
It will be fun to watch this offense evolve in 2013 and beyond, I’ll say that. Same with the guy coordinating it.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.