Provo • The man commissioned for a second time to revive a BYU football offense that has been less than stellar the past few seasons called all his offensive players together Friday night before the 2013 preseason camp began Saturday and posed a simple question.
Asked offensive coordinator Robert Anae: Do you trust me?
"We all immediately said yes," said quarterback Taysom Hill. "Offensively, we trust what he is doing and we like it. We feel like we are going to do really well in it."
And so continued the implementation of Anae's up-tempo offense, first introduced five months ago at spring camp. The veteran coach who spent the last two years at Arizona after voluntarily leaving BYU at the end of the 2010 season repeated Saturday the mantra he is trying to instill in his second stint in Provo.
"The culture of going fast, going hard, on every play," he said. "The task at hand is learning how to play fast and play hard. Right now, that is what we, as a staff, as a group, are focusing on doing."
New quarterbacks coach Jason Beck, handpicked by Anae last February to help him install the hurry-up system, said at June's football media day that the Cougars will run plays as fast as they can.
"Really, it just gets down to 'run a play, everybody hustle back, get the new play communicated, and snap it as quick as we can.' So that's our goal," Beck said. "If you kept a timer on it, it is probably 12 seconds or less. But really, it is as fast as we can do it, as fast as we can push it. That's what we want to do."
Does BYU have the talent on offense, the type of athletes necessary, to carry it out? After serving as Arizona's offensive line coach and run-game coordinator last season under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez and helping the Wildcats become the No. 7 offense in the country, Anae believes Hill, receivers Cody Hoffman, Skyler Ridley and Ross Apo and running backs Jamaal Williams and Mike Alisa are up to the task.
"Oh yeah, shoot, our skill guys, man, we have got very good answers," Anae said. "Very good answers. Guys can run, they are athletic, they have been conditioning hard. They look different, they sure do."
To get off plays in rapid-fire fashion, the offensive line has to be capable as well. All the false starts, blown assignments and other miscues committed by the injury-riddled and depleted offensive line last year will have to be reduced, Anae acknowledged.
Junior college coach Garett Tujague, a former Cougar lineman, was brought in to oversee the unit, and Anae will lend his expertise there as well. No fewer than seven new offensive linemen four junior college transfers and three freshmen are in camp to give help to holdovers such as Ryker Mathews, Solomone Kafu and Manaaki Vaitai.
"I think our offensive line is very capable. Yeah, they are," Anae said after Saturday's first practice. "Right now, they are all in shock. But I think by the time we get through camp, they will probably have a better grip, a better handle on what we are doing."
Saturday, the centers had trouble just getting the ball snapped back to the quarterback. Not exactly the best time to be taking baby steps.
For his part, head coach Bronco Mendenhall has put his complete trust in Anae, after contacting the former Cougar lineman following the release of two-year offensive coordinator Brandon Doman in the offseason. Mendenhall knows that his defense will be on the field even more this year, especially if the uptempo offense sputters.
"We have acknowledged from the very first day that Robert Anae and I got back together, that if you look at the statistics of speed-up offenses, they are going to average about 16 more defensive plays than we played last year, 16 to 20. That's the equivalent of one more quarter of defensive football," Mendenhall said. "And so, the very first day, I told our defensive players, that means more conditioning, and that means more pressure. But I like the trade-off. It might not be the same statistically, but I think it is good for our program. So we have been preparing for it since Day 1."
BYU's offense in 2013
Category Actual National Rank
Rushing Offense 153.1 64th
Passing Offense 247.2 50th
Total Offense 400.3 60th
Scoring Offense 28.6 64th
Turnover Margin -.23 76th
What we learned • Receiver Ross Apo is desperately trying to regain his starting spot, and he made a fabulous diving catch in the end zone on Monday before being mobbed by his celebrating offensive teammates.
Who stood out • Backup quarterback Ammon Olsen directed two touchdown drives in team drills and threw the 40-yard TD to Apo.
Who was missing • DE Bronson Kaufusi, who has added 18 pounds since basketball season, was held out, but not due to injury. Coaches just wanted him to have a day off from contact.