Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Plenty of uncertainty heading into UConn/BYU game

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall watching Notre
Dame, Virginia, UConn tape to prepare.
Season openers can always be a bit of a dicey proposition. How many people out there were predicting Towson to beat UConn or BYU to fall to Virginia in the 2013 openers?

For BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, preparation is all the more challenging because other than some highlight clips from the UConn spring game he has almost nothing to go off of in trying to figure out not only who will line up for the Huskies but how they will line up as well.

Defensively he does have some idea of what makes new UConn football coach Bob Diaco tick since Diaco was the defensive coordinator of the Notre Dame teams that beat the Cougars 23-13 a season ago and 17-14 during the 2012 season. Also, defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter and co-defensive coordinator Vincent Brown were defensive assistants on the Virginia squad which knocked off BYU a season ago.

"That is a starting place," Mendenhall said. "I am sure he has assessed his own personnel, depth and how the matchups might look like, there might be a wrinkle or two as happens every year but when you look at the success that Notre Dame has had and that Coach Diaco has had over his career, that would be the place to start. We project similarly based on where his staff connections have come from and what those systems might look like."

So what does Mendenhall thinks is the key to Diaco's coaching success?

"Hard to know, I don't know Coach personally. Normally you can see some personality traits through how players play and I think players play exactly as they are prepared to play so his players played tough, they played physical and I thought they played sound. Having no met the head coach, my guess is he loves tough football players, is probably a stickler for detail and likes them to play physical. That is what I saw on tape and experienced playing Notre Dame."

While watching BYU tape against Notre Dame and Virginia might give Mendenhall and his coaches some sense of how the Huskies might line up and handle certain game-day situations when BYU has the ball, it is a little more challenging to figure out what UConn will look like on offense since he has little connection to Central Michigan where UConn offensive coordinator Mike Cummings came from or Buffalo where quarterbacks coach Don Patterson spent the last three seasons.

"We certainly have watched UConn tape and did pay particular attention to the games that they were winning to find out exactly what the difference are, if it was strength of schedule, if it was late in the season, if it was home or away, you try to figure out as much as possible but it had a lot to do with how the team played. I think the quarterback is very capable, he added some spark and added some consistency so I was impressed there," Mendenhall said. "I like UConn's receiving corps and I think they have some big play potential there and a nice blend of size, speed and athleticism so they are capable and it showed in the last three games."

On the other side of the ball the biggest question is who will suit up for BYU and not as much of what the formations will look like. Top tailback Jamaal Williams (who ran for 1,233 yards last season), receiver Devon Blackmon and offensive tackle Ryker Matthews are the players reported to have been suspended by the BYU media while receiver Nick Kurtz is injured. We'll see if others are left behind as well.

On the conference call the Connecticut media had with Mendenhall yesterday I asked him if he was expecting to have everybody else for Friday night's kickoff.

"At this institution we have very unique standards here that are extremely high so I have learned over the time to never say never but I hope everybody else will be in good standing and will be able to make it but until we show up and play there is always some room for someone's choice here or there that ends up costing them a game or two," Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall said that he views last year's nightmarish opener at Virginia has little bearing to the matchup with UConn but he is making one change in the preparation process.

"We are coming a day early," Mendenhall said. "We are leaving on Wednesday and luckily for the opener we have a chance to do that without (missing school time) because school hasn't started for us yet.:


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