Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stats show Nelson was clearly a better passer than Heaps

By John Ahlander, 

Quick -- name some of the top 10 college quarterbacks this season.  You'd be right if you said any of the following: Robert Griffin III (Baylor),  Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), Case Keenum (Houston), Kellen Moore (Boise St.), Andrew Luck (Stanford), or Matt Barkley (USC).

Wait, you missed one.  Riley Nelson (BYU).  Yep, you heard right.  Riley Nelson had the 7th best pass efficiency of all QBs in college football this season.  Unfortunately, he didn't show in the official rankings, since he didn't play in 75% of the games.  However, his 163.6 puts him in the top 10.  Right where a BYU quarterback should be.

What about Heaps?  His 111.0 rating ranks him 106th in the nation, just above the QBs from Idaho and Idaho St.

That's just this season.  Let's take the last couple seasons put together, to get the whole picture.  Here are their BYU career passing stats:

Heaps: 363-635, 3768 yds, 24 TDs, 17 Ints
Nelson: 126-212, 1771 yds, 19 TDs, 6 Ints

Looking at the total yards, it appears Heaps clearly was a better passer...until you look at the averages.

QB ratingComp. %Yds/AttTDs/Att ratioINTs/Att ratio

Heaps only has more games and more attempts, but Nelson is vastly more efficient in yards and TDs.

Well, Nelson may have been more consistent, but Heaps had more highs, showing his potential...right?

Actually, Nelson had the best single game passing performance among the two.  His 363 yards vs. Hawaii bested Heaps' 305 yards vs. Utah.

Here's how their pass efficiency ratings game totals break down:

QB ratingHeapsNelson
Great: 175+23
Good: 140-17534
Average: 100-14081
Awful: < 10071

Nelson performed good to great in 78% of his games.  Heaps in 25% in his.

Could this be a true reflection?  Didn't Heaps play better competition?  Heaps clearly is the better passer, so this can't be right, can it?

Here are the combined winning percentages of the opponents that each has played against in the last two years:

Heaps' opponents: 50%
Nelson's opponents: 49%

So, how is this possible?  How could Nelson actually be a better passer than Jake Heaps?  Three reasons:
  1. Using the middle of the field

    How many times did you see Jake Heaps throw a 5 yard out pattern (many times on 3rd and 6)?  Did you wonder why the tight ends did almost nothing last year and the beginning of this year?  Jake Heaps can't see the middle of the field.  His default throw was always the out pattern.  Once Riley took over this year, all of a sudden BYU was getting passes to tight ends and slot receivers in the middle of the field.
  2. Athletic ability and toughness

    Nelson's ability to extend a play, and his willingness to take a hit gives receivers an extra second to get open.  This has led to more completions and bigger plays. I probably don't need to remind you about Heaps lack of prowess in these areas.
  3. Leadership

    When you trust your leader will do anything to succeed, you follow his lead.  Running backs fight for extra yards.  Receivers make hard catches.  Offensive lineman block longer.  Leadership is the most important skill of a QB.  Just look at Tim Tebow.
The most telling statistic is 3rd down pass efficiency.

Heaps: 91.3
Nelson: 166.8

The three reasons above are all critical on 3rd downs.  Nelson had it, Heaps didn't.

When you watch the two, it's impossible not to be impressed with Heaps throwing potential, but when you look at the results (stats), we've all learned a lesson.  Beautiful rocket spirals on 5-yard out patterns don't make a great QB.

12/7 Follow-up:

Some of the comments below have contended that Heaps played much more difficult defenses or the change in offensive coordinators or running game explains the statistical differences. Since it's very difficult to guess how a player would perform against a team he hasn't played, there will always be room for dispute.

So, let's compare the performances in the 5 games that both QBs played in together in the last two seasons. Same teams, same defenses, same offensive coordinators, same running backs. Here you have it:

Heaps: 56-105, 552 yds, 3 TDs, 2 Ints, 103.1 rating
Nelson: 34-61, 405 yds, 5 TDs, 1 Int, 135.3 rating

You decide.

View all BYU sports news at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Things BYU Should Demand from Big East

In every negotiation, there are demands from both sides that need to be considered.  Here are the 10 demands BYU should bring out in Big East negotiations.

Football Scheduling

  (1) Final game with Boise St. each year

The western division game with Boise St. must be the last regular season game.  This will give BYU and Boise fans something to look forward to all season long, creating a regional rivalry and providing a late game that will likely have conference championship and BCS implications

  (2) Seven or eight game Big East conference schedule

BYU needs to play Utah, Utah St. and a couple other non-conference games each year.  The Pac-12 decided to do a 9-game conference schedule, allowing only 3 non-conference games.  This limitation threatens rivalries and would reduce the number of games BYU plays against Pac-12 it needs to maintain recruiting exposure in the West.  A 7-8 game Big East conference schedule would allow BYU to play all 5 teams in the Western Division and 2-3 cross over games each year.

   (3) Conference weekend considerations

BYU has always avoided playing football games on the Saturday of conference weekend.  The WAC and the MWC conceeded this, and more often than not Utah St. was the opponent (for the same reasons).  The Big East will need to allow this same arrangement.

Exit Restrictions

   (4) No penalty exit (time or money), if Big East loses BCS automatic bid

Current Big East bylaws require a 27-month notification and $10 million to leave the conference.  The only reason BYU would join the Big East is to be part of a BCS automatic qualifying conference.  If the Big East loses their automatic bid, either due to poor performance, or because all automatic bids go away, BYU should be allowed to exit without delay or penalty.

TV Contracts

   (5) Maintain ESPN contract until Big East gets new TV contract

BYU has a better television deal than the Big East.  Not only is it more exposure, it also pays more.  Under a 12-team league scenario, the current TV contract would only pay $3.5 million per team, which would be a significant drop in revenue from BYU's current contract with ESPN.  The Big East is up for a TV contract renewal --and presumed major increase in revenues -- after the 2012-13 season, at which point BYU can switch TV contracts.

   (6) Replay rights for BYUtv on all conference games

BYU has invested millions of dollars in BYUtv...and not so it can show 1980s re-runs of "Anne of Green Gables".  Thousands of BYU fans have been able to watch BYU football game replays on BYUtv this season.  BYU will want to retain this option.

   (7) BYUtv option to pick up any game that is not on a national channel

If there is one thing that BYU fans enjoyed this season, it was easy TV game access.  If the Big East TV deal doesn't put a BYU game on a national channel, BYU should have the right to broadcast it nationally on BYUtv.

Championship and Bowl Locations

    (8) New western bowl tie-in

All the Big East bowl games are, not surprisingly, on the east coast.  In creating a Western Division of the Big East, the conference must create a bowl tie-in in the west, where fans of BYU, Boise St., Air Force, etc. can travel more easily to.

    (9) Big East championship game in mid-west

In going to a 12-team league, the Big East will create a championship game.  This game needs to be somewhere in the "middle" of the new conference, instead of on the East Coast.  How about the Cowboys stadium in Texas?

Basketball Scheduling

    (10) Guaranteed basketball games vs. Big East teams

There's no doubt that the basketball team has been the caboose in these conference discussions.  It's too bad, since Dave Rose has built a great basketball program. BYU basketball has always had a hard time getting big name non-conference programs to come to the Marriott Center. In joining the Big East, BYU should demand a guaranteed 3 basketball games per year in the Marriott Center vs. Big East basketball conference teams.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Boise St. as Independent? Great for BYU, ESPN

It's been reported that Boise State is trying to convince BYU to jump with them to the Big East.  Why not turn it around?  What if BYU convinced Boise State to go independent in football?

Boise State has already entertained the thought of joining the Big East in football only.  This means they are open to having their other sports in a different conference (possibly back in the WAC).  Why not take the football team and go independent?

TV Coverage:  ESPN loves Boise St. and could give them a contract like they did with BYU.  ESPN featured Boise St. during their time in the WAC and has often created "for TV" non-conference games with Boise St. Both sides are likely missing that relationship now.  During the last few years, Boise St. has built a national following due to their wide-open, high scoring, risk-taking offensive style.  With the poor TV contracts in the current Mountain West Conference, they are losing the fans they had converted over the last 10 years.

For games that are not on the ESPN networks, BYUtv could take their HD truck the short drive up I-15/I-84 to Boise and broadcast the game.  This would give BYUtv more exposure to people nationwide.

Competition:  Boise St. has suffered from playing only a couple good teams per year, and the rest terrible teams.  This year, they have exact one good conference matchup, with TCU, but that will end next year with TCU going to the Big 12.  Being independent would allow them to play more good teams on national TV.

Rivalry: Boise St. has never had a true rival.  BYU has lost their rival to a different conference.  Having Boise St. independent would allow BYU to play Boise St. the last week in November and create a new, but still regional, rivalry.

Bowls: If Boise St. doesn't make a BCS bowl game, they can always play in their "own" bowl game, the former Humanitarian Bowl (now called the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl). This is the bowl game played at the Boise St. stadium each December. In addition, Boise St. and BYU could negotiate together for deals with two bowl games. The better team goes to the better bowl each year.

From BYU's perspective, having the winningest college football team in the last 10 years as an partner in independence would provide validation to their position and give more bargaining power with the BCS to allow independents better access.  BYU would regain a regional rival they could play annually to end the year.  BYU fans would always have a nationally-relevant game in November to look forward to.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Possible change to BCS could dramatically alter BYU's access

Dennis Dodd from recently posted an article about a possible change to the BCS that could dramatically alter BYU's access to the biggest bowls and their discussions about joining the Big East.

Here's a snippet:
There is growing support toward eliminating automatic qualifier status in the next evolution of college football’s postseason... 
Removing AQ status would, in part, continue to benefit the power conferences who are currently bound by a two-team limit in the BCS. But it would also allow so-called non-AQs a more consistent, fair entry into the BCS. No changes would take effect until the 2014 season. 
There are currently 10 slots among the five BCS bowls. One discussed configuration would allow the top 10 teams in the final BCS standings at the end of the season to play in BCS bowls no matter what conference affiliation.
So long Big East.  BYU no longer needs you.  The main reason BYU is in discussions with the Big East is to be part of an AQ conference.  If this change were to occur, BYU has a clear path to a BCS bowl no matter if independent or part of a conference.  Just be in the top 10.

This proposal is fair and makes a lot of sense.  So, the BCS will likely reject it.  However, given the chance it could occur, BYU may want to sit tight in independence until the next BCS changes are announced.

Being independent brings a lot of great things (exposure, money), but it has four main drawbacks:
  1. BCS access: If the above change were to occur, it would eliminate the first drawback. Since BYU hasn't ever finished in the top 10 in the final BCS rankings, it's still a long shot, but at least it's possible.
  2. Scheduling: Especially in November, scheduling is very difficult.  This year, the November schedule is downright awful.  This could improve in future years, with ESPN's help.  It would be great if BYU could play the three other independents (Notre Dame, Army, Navy) each November, when they also need games.  So far, that is not panning out, but it shouldn't be long before we find out the future.  Bronco Mendenhall told KSL this week: "we're about four years out right now with our schedules completed."
  3. Lack of conference race: There's no way around this.  If you are not in a conference, there is no conference race.
  4. Build up to a rival game at the end of the season: As an independent, unless you have another independent as a rival, this is virtually impossible.  Creating a rivalry with Notre Dame could be fun, but it would take time.  Joining the Big East with Boise State could provide a nice year-end rivalry with  a regional flavor.
This brings us back to the conference vs. independence debate.  My previous post "Big 12? Big East? Big Waste of Time?" discussed this topic, and prompted quite a few comments, with a pretty even split among "independencers" and "conferencers".  Here's a follow-up on a one of the comments.
Dustin: How many times would BYU have won a Big East conference without Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia?
My comparison was a historical one, against the past Big East teams.  Comparing against a future Big East is pretty hard, since it hasn't been settled which teams will be in the Big East.  However, let's take all the teams mentioned as possible Big East additions and re-calculate.  The teams are:

Current Big East teams that are staying: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida

Potential Big East expansion teams: Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Navy, Temple, San Diego State, Southern Methodist

Year BYU national rank BYU rank among possible future Big East teams Record of possible future Big East team in that place
2010 58 7 7-5
2009 18 3 10-3
2008 22 3 7-5
2007 17 3 9-3
2006 19 4 7-5
2005 53 5 8-4
2004 49 5 6-5
2003 75 11 5-7
2002 80 9 4-8
2001 22 2 8-4

Better potential records, similar conference standings.

With the madness in college football realignment, there will surely be many more topics to debate in the future.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big 12? Big East? Big Waste of Time?

BYU's Athletic Director, Tom Holmoe, finally broke the month-long silence a couple weeks ago and talked with the media about the Big 12.  In response to the question, "So BYU has not turned down an invitation? ":

"That’s right. It’s hard to turn down an offer when one hasn’t been extended.".

The reason this is not newsworthy, is because it's double-talk.  It may be true that BYU didn't receive an offer and didn't turn down an offer.  However, BYU won't receive an offer until all the negotiating points are worked out and the Big 12 is certain they will accept it.  Now there are rumors of the Big East possibly looking to add BYU and the negotiating starts again.

So, the real question is "What is keeping BYU from coming to an agreement with a BCS conference?".  Let's look at the factors.  (Note that I compare often to Utah, since they just made a jump to a BCS conference, and for the past 10 years have had very similar football success to BYU, if not slightly better).


While BYU never talks about money -- and always says it is about "exposure" -- money matters.  Would BYU make more money as an independent or as a member of the Big 12 or Big East?

BYU's TV revenue this year is estimated at about $10 million.  In addition, BYU gets to keep all bowl revenue.  As a comparison, BYU made $2 million last year in the MWC.

Big 12 TV revenues are estimated at about $15-17 million per year per team and expected to grow substantially when the ABC/ESPN deal comes up for renewal in 2016.

Big East TV revenues are estimated at about $7-10 million per year per team, but also are expected to grow substantially when their contract comes up for renewal in 2014.

Seems like a clear increase in revenues for the Big 12.  Well, that's true in the long run, but not necessarily in the short run.  According to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, TCU receives 50% the first year ($8M), 67% the 2nd year ($11M), 84% the 3rd year ($13M), and 100% the 4th year ($16M).

In the first 4 years, TCU will make an estimated $48M.  BYU, as an independent in the next four years, will make an estimated $40M.  Utah got accepted to the Pac-12, but won't receive any revenue this year, and won't be full revenue until the 4th year.

For Utah and TCU, the finances are a no-brainer, because the MWC was only paying $2 million.  For BYU, the finances are not as overwhelming, although still very enticing in the long run.

TV Exposure

Besides the greater revenues, the main reason BYU went independent was for increased national TV exposure on the ESPN networks, along with the ability to broadcast other games nationally on BYUtv.  The ability to re-broadcast all games on BYUtv was an added bonus.  The TV arrangement has been one of the great successes of BYU's first year in independence, as 11 of BYU's 12 games are on live, national TV.

In contrast, in Utah's first year in the Pac-12, only 2 games are on national TV and both are due to the opponents' TV contracts (BYU, Pitt).  Utah has various games on Fox Sports regional network, but three games are on Utah-only TV (KJZZ).  Once you are in a conference, the TV rights are relinquished, and you have no control.

In negotiating TV rights with a conference, BYU will want to maintain national exposure, and the ability to broadcast games on BYUtv that are not picked up by the national TV partners, as well as the ability to rebroadcast games. This is not a minor point for BYU administrators, and shouldn't be minor for BYU fans that are outside of Utah.  Hundreds of thousands more BYU fans have had access this year to live broadcasts of BYU games, whether on an ESPN channel, or via rebroadcasts on BYUtv nationally, internationally and online.  National broadcasts are pretty much guaranteed to drop if BYU joins a conference.

Will the thousands of BYU fans in California be happy if BYU plays Oklahoma and they can't see it?  This could happen if the game were on Fox Sports Regional channels, but Fox Sports Pacific chooses to show USC-Washington at the same time.


As we've seen with Utah's move to the Pac-12, the competition in a BCS conference week-in and week-out is much stiffer.  After an 0-4 start in conference play, and a serious risk of not becoming bowl eligible, Utah fans are left wondering how good of a move it was.

How would BYU fare in the Big 12?  It's very difficult to judge this, but we'll just take one measurement to see how they would rank in past years.  Taking the ranking composite (computer and humans) from this web site, we'll see how BYU would rank in the Big 12 and Big East in each of the last 10 years:

Year BYU national rank BYU rank among Big 12 teams Record of Big 12 team in that place BYU rank among Big East teams Record of Big East team in that place
2010 58 9 5-7 4 7-5
2009 18 2 9-4 3 9-3
2008 22 6 8-4 3 8-4
2007 17 4 9-3 4 9-3
2006 19 3 9-4 4 11-2
2005 53 10 5-6 6 5-6
2004 49 8 4-7 6 7-4
2003 75 10 3-9 8 5-7
2002 80 10 3-9 8 4-8
2001 22 5 8-4 5 7-5

As Utah has discovered, the weekly grind in a BCS conference can take a toll and turn into more losses than expected.  While BYU fans are used to 2-3 losses per year and a bowl game, in the Big 12 or Big East, it would more likely be 4-7 losses per year, with no bowl game every third year.

Bowls/BCS Access

The Big 12 and the Big East champions have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl, so on the surface, it seems that if BYU were in the Big 12 or Big East, it would have better access to the BCS.  This is only true, however, if BYU wins the conference.  From the statistics above, in the last 10 years, BYU has never ranked above the Big 12 nor the Big East champion in any year.  It is possible that BYU would never win the Big 12 or Big East conference and get the automatic bid to a BCS game.  For example, Oklahoma State has never won the Big 12 and never gone to a BCS game, even though they have had a really nice program for many years.

In contrast, Utah, TCU and Boise State all went to multiple BCS bowl games from non-AQ conferences.  Most observers would say it's actually easier to get to a BCS bowl from a non-AQ conference than from a BCS conference.  I'd be willing to bet that neither Utah nor TCU will make a BCS bowl in the next 10 years, due to the increased competition in their schedules.

So, BYU would technically have greater BCS access, but in reality would rarely, if ever, make a BCS bowl as a member of the Big 12 or Big East.  
As long as Notre Dame stays independent, there will always be some way for an independent to get to a BCS bowl.  If Notre Dame joins a conference, BYU should jump on board really quick. 


There have been reports that the Big 12 TV partners weren't happy with BYU's no Sunday rule.  TV partners want the option to show a basketball championship game, for example, on Sunday.  BYU will also want to avoid games on Conference Saturday in October.  These two demands may be the main thing that keeps them out of every major conference.  Remember, TV pays the bills, so TV wants to decide when games are played.  This is why BYU's deal with ESPN is so unique.

Of course, the scheduling nightmares of being independent are immediately resolved by joining a conference.  Meaningful games in November are built-in.


One argument fans always bring up in these debates is, "If we are in a BCS conference, we will get better recruits".  This can be debated for years (and has been).  There is no way to know this, but I don't believe going to the Big 12 or Big East would change much.  BYU already has a very limited recruiting pool, due to the honor code.  When BYU loses a recruit, more often than not, it's to a Pac-12 team.  In fact, over the past 5 years, when BYU has lost a recruit that it offered a scholarship to, 55% of the time the recruit chose Utah or another Pac-12 school.  BYU recruits chose Big 12 teams only 9% of the time.  The reason for this is that most BYU recruits are LDS kids from the western U.S.  They have grown up in Utah or Pac-12 areas and have  followed Pac-12 teams.  If BYU were to join the Pac-12, recruiting may improve, but going to the Big 12 or Big East vs. Independence...I'd say it's a wash.  Again, very debatable and impossible to predict.


Be careful what you wish for.  While there may be more money in the Big 12 or a future Big East, it's very likely that national TV exposure, wins, and BCS bowls could be harder to come by.   As it stands right now, Independence looks like a perfect fit for BYU football.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why the Big 12 invited TCU over BYU

With the news that the Big 12 invited TCU, instead of BYU, many fans are asking 'why'?  Some accuse BYU of "turning down" an offer, or at least holding too strongly to certain demands.  While there may be some truth to those rumors, analysis shows TCU was a better fit.  Here's why:

Location:  TCU is located in the heart of the Big 12.  Literally.  It's 20 miles from the Big 12 headquarters.  TCU is within 200 miles of Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor.  In fact, TCU is located exactly 187 miles from both Oklahoma and Texas.  Dead center between the two Red River Rivals.  Serious, check it out.  I know, weird.  The proximity allows for regional rivalries to flourish.  Located a couple minutes from DFW airport, TCU is a very easy travel destination for all Big 12 conference teams in all sports.    

Conference Competition: With TCU previously going to the Big East, the Big East was going to get a foothold in Dallas, which gives them fans, mind share and media access right in the middle of the Big 12, in the biggest media market in Texas, and the 5th largest in the nation.  This would be on top of letting the SEC into Texas with the "acquisition" of Texas A&M.  If for no other reason, inviting TCU was a very good defensive move for the Big 12.

Availability: The Big 12 needed a 10th team for the 2012 season, since Texas A&M was leaving so fast.  There were only two teams that could change for the 2012 season: BYU or TCU.  They couldn't get a Big East team, because the Big East requires a 27-month notification before exiting.  Most other conferences require at least a 12-month notification.  TCU just happened to be in transition from the Mountain West conference to the Big East and so it could change direction halfway down the road.  BYU, of course, doesn't have a conference exit restriction, but read on...

Ease of Negotiations: Or better said, "no baggage".  Let's face it, BYU has a lot of baggage.  You may agree with the reasons for the baggage, but that doesn't make it easy on a new conference.  No Sunday play, Conference weekend scheduling, own TV station to deal with, own TV contract with ESPN to figure out how to merge in, tons of future contracted games that would need to be cancelled or rescheduled, and a mission beyond education and football.  TCU doesn't have baggage.  They are willing to come in and do whatever the conference says.

Football Program: We all know that conference expansion is about football.  Forget that TCU has a pathetic basketball team.  TCU has been one of the most successful football teams in recent years.  Since 2000, they have won more games than all but 5 teams (Boise St., Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio St., USC, Florida).  They have gone to two straight BCS bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl last year.  The Big 12 now has 3 of the top 6 winningest programs in the last decade.

When you look at these factors, TCU was an easy choice for the Big 12 at this time...even if it hurts us BYU fans.

Will BYU eventually get an invite to the Big 12?  Should it even want one?  I'll explore that in the next post.

Public comments?  Post below.  Private comments? Tell us here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sources: Report: BYU Joined Big 12 Last Week

Multiple sources have told that an unconfirmed rumor of BYU having already joined the Big 12 was reported by an internet site you've never heard of.  

According to the report, high level sources with knowledge of the situation at BYU have told the neighbor of a guy that just started a blog that BYU actually joined the Big 12 last week, but held off the announcement, so it could be made during General Conference Priesthood session this weekend.  Church leaders wanted to make sure that Catholic communities were not offended by the brief one-year stint in the WCC, so they will publicly promise more women's soccer games against Notre Dame as an olive branch.  "We want to show respect to other religions," one church leader was overheard saying in the Church office elevator heading to a high floor.

By announcing this in an official church meeting, officials hope to sway active LDS members who are fans of other universities to shift their loyalties to the church-sponsored university.  To provide incentives for the reluctant, the church will offer a 1% rebate on tithing donations if a member can show proof that they brought a non-member to a BYU sporting event.

This report coincides with a report at that flights occurred between Dallas (home of the Big 12 offices) and Salt Lake City airports.  Salt Lake City airport officials did confirm that multiple flights from Dallas to Salt Lake occurred in the last couple of weeks.

We will continue to monitor this situation and will bring you details as they become available.

In other developments, an anonymous government official has confirmed that the Internet has officially stopped being a reliable source of any real news.

( If you got to this point and are still wondering if this is real or are ready to send a flame email to  Just an attempt to bring some humor to a ridiculous situation where unsourced rumors based on supposed sources about BYU and the Big 12 run rampant on the internet. Laugh and enjoy Conference weekend.  You never know what they might say in Priesthood Session...  :-) )

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sam, Mike, Buck, Will and Other Confusing FB Terms

We've had emails at asking for explanation of terms used in practice reports (namely Greg Wrubell's great practice reports).  So, here are some terms and short explanations.

Sam, Mike, Buck, Will Linebackers

  • Sam is the nickname for the strong-side linebacker, or the linebacker that lines up on the side where the offensive tight-end is positioned.  The Sam linebacker is generally better against the run than the Will linebacker.
  • Mike is the nickname for the traditional middle linebacker.  He generally has responsibility to call the defensive plays, so is sometimes referred to as the “quarterback” of the defense.  In a 3-4 defense, he will be the middle linebacker on the strong side. (see below for explanation of 3-4 defense)
  • Buck is the nickname for the second middle linebacker in a 3-4 defense, which plays on the offense’s weak side.  In a 4-3 defense, Buck is sometimes used for the weak-side linebacker, so as to not offend his manliness by suggesting he is “weak”.
  • Will is the nickname for the weak-side linebacker, or the linebacker that lines up opposite the side where the offensive tight-end is positioned.  

Boundary corner, Field corner

  • Boundary corner is the cornerback on the short side of the field, or the side closest to the nearest sideline.  For example, if the ball is placed on the right-hash mark, making a shorter field to the right sideline, the boundary corner will defend that side.
  • Field corner is the cornerback on the open side of the field, or the side furthest from the sidelines.  This cornerback is generally better at one-on-one coverage, since he will be out in space more.

Kat Safety

This is a unique name used by BYU to refer to the strong safety, as opposed to the free safety.  The strong safety has more run stopping responsibilities.  The name is actually a holdover from Bronco’s 3-3-5 defense when he had a free safety, a strong safety, and a Kat safety (or rover).

X, Y, Z, H receivers

In a west coast passing offense, like BYU runs, these receiver designations are not as strict as in a pro-style, one tight-end, two receiver offense.

  • X receiver is the wide receiver that generally lines up opposite the tight end.  Your deep threat wide receiver, trying to stretch the field, make big plays and pull the safety away from the receivers on the other side.  (Think Austin Collie)
  • Y receiver is a slot receiver lined up between the X or Z receiver and the nearest lineman.  In BYU’s offense, it is often a tight end, who is flexed out in a receiver position.  Your tough, inside receiver, used to get 5-15 yards and first downs.  (Think Dennis Pitta)
  • Z receiver is a wide receiver generally lined up on the tight end side, one step behind the line of scrimmage.  He may go in motion before the snap.  Your versatile wide receiver, inside and out. 
  • H receiver is a fourth wide receiver in certain offensive sets that acts as a smaller, quicker version of the Y (slot) receiver. He may go in motion before the snap. 

vs. 4-3 (and other) defenses
  •  3-4: This refers to the type of defense that has three down lineman and four linebackers (and 4 defensive backs).  This is the defense that BYU employs.  The three down linemen are generally two defensive ends and a nose tackle.  It gives you less short yardage run support, but more flexibility in pass coverage and blitzing.
  • 4-3: This refers to the type of defense that has four down lineman and three linebackers (and 4 defensive backs). The four down linemen are generally two defensive ends and two defensive tackles.  It gives you more short yardage run support, but less flexibility in pass coverage and blitzing.
  • 3-3-5: This refers to the type of defense that has three down lineman, three linebackers and five defensive backs.  It maximizes speed and pass coverage, but is more vulnerable to strong running teams.  This is the defense Bronco Mendenhall ran at New Mexico and when he initially came to BYU.
  • Nickel package: This is a type of temporary defense that has five defensive backs (5=nickel).  This is used against likely passing situations (3rd and long, or late in a game to stop a passing comeback).
  • Dime package: This is a type of temporary defense that has six defensive backs.  Since it was invented after the nickel, it was named the dime, even though the numbers don’t match the description.  This is used against *really* obvious passing situations (like 4th and 35 with 30 seconds left).