As we head into tomorrow's game, let's take a look at the coaching staff and special teams for the Cougars.
Let's start off by saying this: BYU is a well-coached team. Under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, they have played in a bowl game every year since 2005. Since he took over in 2005, BYU is 92-39.
Things have certainly gotten a little bit tougher for the team since the school opted for independence instead of being affiliated with the Mountain West Conference. The team has gone 8-5 each of the last three seasons.
All the "extracurricular" stuff notwithstanding, Bronco Mendenhall is a good football coach. His record shows it. His name was suggested as a head coach for UCLA during both of our last two coaching searches.
When he was first hired by BYU, the Deseret News ran an extensive profile on Mendenhall which provides a pretty deep look at Mendenhall. It talks about Mendenhall's work ethic which he learned at an early age cleaning out horse stalls in the family barn.
His background is on the defensive side of the ball. He served as the Cougar DC before replacing Gary Crowton.
Speaking of the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars DC is Nick Howell. Despite being only 35, Howell has worked his way up the ranks at BYU from a graduate assistant and intern to defensive coordinator. He has risen through the ranks at BYU very quickly despite not having played college football at his alma mater Weber State.
Offensively, the Cougars' coaching staff has lot more experience. Robert Anae has coached in 19 bowl games. Anae is in his second stint as BYU's OC, but it was his time away from Provo that seems to have changed his coaching philosophy.
Anae spent 2011 & 2012 as the offensive line coach at Arizona, under Rich Rodriguez. When he returned to Provo, he brought the up tempo offense with him.
As a result, BYU's offensive results are very similar to UCLA's over the past few years. They run a lot of plays. Last year, BYU's offense ran about 50 more plays than UCLA but gained similar yardage and averaged similar yards per game.
It's almost downright scary how similar the two teams' statistics were last season.
Of course, the difference should be seen in the talent and the experience on the field. UCLA holds the edge there. Playing in the Pac-12 Conference and facing tougher opponents should ultimately prove to be the difference maker for UCLA.
Let's take a look at BYU's special teams.
The placekicking duties will be handled by senior Trevor Samson whose career long on FGs is 41 yards. He's only made three attempts in excess of 40 yards hitting two of them from 41 yards out. So, don't expect him to go trotting out for a long attempt. His lack of range may be explain why BYU has relied on the Hail Mary this season.
Punting will be done by a junior from New Zealand Jonny Linehan. Through two games, he's punted thirteen times and averages 43.5 yards per punt. His long is 77 yards. So, don't be surprised if Linehan really nails a kick or two.
Moving to the return guys, there isn't much to say here. So far this season, BYU has only returned two kickoffs. One was returned 19 yards by Eric Takanaka and the other was for 15 yards by Devon Blackmon. Takenaka has also returned one punt for three yards and has returned two punts for 11 yards and 4 yards, respectively.
That wraps up our look at the coaching staff and special teams for BYU.