We are a mere four weeks and one day away from the football season opener, and I'm as giddy as a little girl. As I type, BYU football players are gathering from around the country - not unlike the ten tribes of Israel - to report to fall camp, which begins tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the day when veterans like Bryan Kehl and Sete Aluai are united with newcomers like J.J. DiLuigi, Jordan Pendleton and Ryan Kessman. And the cosmic ballet that is college football will commence.
Until the season actually starts, though, all we sports fans can do is sit back and prognosticate in our different forums- be they cross-cubicle discussions, late-night chats with the wife or seldom-read sports blogs. I have already employed the former two, and now it's my turn to publish my feelings to the blogging world.
So, without further adieu, here is my preview for BYU football 2007.
Record: 9-3. It pains me to predict losses for the Cougars, but I can't convince myself that BYU will repeat it's 2006 MWC run. I don't think BYU will run through the conference undefeated again, not without Beck, Harline and Brown. The losses will come at UCLA, Wyoming and New Mexico. BYU will continue to dominate at home, starting off with a win over Arizona and ending with a second-straight victory over the Utes. Its other non-conference games are at Tulsa and home against Eastern Washington. Both should be easy BYU wins. New Mexico and Wyoming are tough games on the road against two improving teams, and as much as I don't like to admit it, BYU just won't be perfect this year. Even though they should win every game, they'll probably let some slip. The Cougars will finish 6-2 in the MWC- good for second place. The good news: We'll win our second straight bowl game. Bad news: it won't be in Vegas.
Offense: BYU is going to be a defensive team early this year, but the offensive weapons are there. Austin Collie (No. 9) is back after an all-American year in 2004, and hopefully he'll be back to his former self. Fui Vakapuna (No. 1) has put on some weight, reportedly, but I'm excited to see him fill the No. 1 running back slot. He'll be fun to watch, especially as he gets the majority of carries. BYU has a great offensive line, a deep core of receivers and some solid running backs. The only question mark is Max Hall.
Question Mark: Max Hall. The only time I saw Hall play was the Spring scrimmage. He was blanketed all day by a great defense, but that scrimmage is just a skeleton of what a real game would be. I am anxious to see if Hall has the timing that Beck had. I wonder if he'll be able to hit receivers right on the money at the right time, like Beck could. I predict he'll be more like Jason Beck than John, though. I think we'll see a lot of bootlegs and running out of the pocket. I just hope he can get the ball to the receivers, and not exclusively to the running backs.
Defense: The Cougar defense will be the team's strength this year, especially early on. Jaime Hill, the BYU defensive back coach, worked miracles with Justin Robinson last year, and knowing he is in the system again this year is a great comfort to me. It makes me feel like Ben Criddle, Brandon Bradley, Cole Miyahara, Andre Saulsbury and Kayle Buchanan are going to be a strength at corner back, and not a liability. Our linebackers will be just fine- Kehl, Poppinga, Nixon and Stafferi will anchor the defense. The D-line will be another bright spot for BYU with young, talented guys like Russell Tialavea, Ian Dulan and Jan Jorgenson.
Most Anticipated: Quinn Gooch. I am way excited to see Gooch play this year. He is smart on the field, and he hits hard. I think he'll surprise a lot of people this year.
Best Newcomer: J.J. Diluigi. This freshman running back from California is going to fit into BYU's system perfectly. He'll catch passes out of the slot and he'll get a few carries in the backfield. He'll be a quicker, shiftier, speedier Nate Meikle. He may even return kickoffs/punts.
Adam's top five players to watch: TE Dennis Pitta, CB Ben Criddle, WR Austin Collie, LB David Nixon, S Quinn Gooch
Let the games begin!