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BYU football: Taysom Hill ready for challenge of another season

Published June 24, 2014 10:02 am

College football • Cougars' Taysom Hill aims to step up despite loss of some top targets.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • As another college football season approaches, all eyes at BYU are focused on junior quarterback Taysom Hill.

Why not?

Hill was outstanding last season, when he rushed and passed for nearly 3,000 yards and led the Cougars to an 8-5 record, despite the transition to offensive coordinator Robert Anae's high-speed system.

With another year of experience, greater things are expected from Hill and — by extension — the BYU offense.

Hill sounds ready for the challenge of the new season, which opens Aug. 29 at UConn.

"Last year, we had our base," he said Monday, during the Cougars' annual media day. "For me, personally, it gave a chance to give insights to coach Anae — what I like, what I don't like — and to add intricacies to our offense.

"Because we've had that experience, we can start to build on top of it. That's what we did this spring. I think, offensively, we've gotten a little better from where we finished last season to where we are now."

One problem: BYU lost its top three receivers from a year ago.

Cody Hoffman (57), Skyler Ridley (39) and JD Falslev (34) combined for 130 catches and more than 1,600 receiving yards. Hill threw 19 touchdown passes, including 10 to the trio who won't be around.

Reinforcements have arrived, however, in the form of four transfers.

BYU has high hopes for Nick Kurtz (Grossmont College), Devon Blackmon (Riverside Community College), Jordan Leslie (UTEP) and Keanu Nelson (Stanford).

If they play well, the effectiveness of the Cougar offense could jump.

"They will have a really big impact," Hill said. "It's hard to say right now because we haven't seen them much. … We haven't been able to work with [them], so it's hard to assess.

"But with our offense — because we go so fast and run so many plays — we have to have guys who sub. We should be able to rotate and not lose much. That will give us a chance to maintain that go-fast, go-hard mentality."

Anae simply said: "We're looking forward to a couple of major tweaks — not with scheme, but with personnel."

As BYU reacts to pressure defenses, the presence of the new receivers might help make Hill more efficient. He completed only 53.9 percent of his passes as a sophomore and also threw 14 interceptions.

"As I went back and watched our games from last season — games where we struggled — they came in and loaded the box," Hill said. "They dared us to throw. They man-pressed us, and that's something we saw. …

"Our [new] receivers are lifting. They are trying to get stronger to give us an opportunity to get off 'press' and get down the field. If we do that, they won't be able get up on us like they did."

Another priority?

BYU must improve its production in the red zone, where defenses are even more compact and often made it more difficult for Hill to scramble.

The Cougars went 46 for 56 in the red zone last season, but got across the goal line only 27 times. That's less than 50 percent. Their other 19 scores came when BYU settled for field goals.

Those numbers are magnified when close losses to Virginia (19-16), Utah (20-13), Wisconsin (23-13) and Notre Dame (27-17) are considered.

Asked about the need to improve BYU's red zone offense, Hill nodded.

"I think we will script some of our stuff in the red zone," he said. "We looked at last year — what worked for us and what didn't — and I think we'll put our best stuff our there this year. … We worked on that this spring and it helped us."

luhm@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sluhm —

BYU's 2014 schedule

All times Mountain

Aug. 29 at UConn 5 p.m.

Sept. 6 at Texas 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 11 Houston 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 Virginia TBA

Oct. 3 Utah State 8:15 p.m.

Oct. 9 at Central Fla. 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 18 Nevada TBA

Oct. 24 at Boise State 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 at Middle Tenn. 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 15 UNLV TBA

Nov. 22 Savannah St. 1 p.m.

Nov. 29 at California TBA