This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has a hiring decision to make in the offseason, after 14-year strength and conditioning coach Jay Omer announced his retirement last week.
Mendenhall said in his weekly press briefing Monday that he doesn't have a timetable to find Omer's replacement, but said, "I would love to start the offseason with our new strength coach in mind, our new strength coach in place. Balancing that between finishing our season, and recruiting, there is a lot on my plate right now. That would be ideal, but I won't be limited to that, or say that is going to happen, for sure."
I asked Mendenhall if any other assistant coaches will be moving on or retiring.
"I don't intend to make any changes, if that is the question," he said. "I am also not naive enough to [think] that the profession is not volatile. Coach O chose to go. And this was completely his decision. It is just time. I think he is looking forward to seeing his grandkids and he will be hard to replace.
But coaching is coaching, and hard to ever know who is staying and who is going."
The only coach on the staff who is even remotely close to retirement age is inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell, who is approaching 60, I believe.
What is Medenhall looking for in a new strength coach?
"There are a couple criteria," he said. "They have to absolutely be a great fit at BYU, meaning someone that loves the standards, loves the mission of the institution. They have to be a fantastic culture-developer, meaning I love guys that work hard. And I want our team to work very, very hard. So they have to be able to promote and push that. And then fabulous competency at what they do. So, great fit, with someone that can develop the culture, and be fantastically competent in developing speed and strength and agility and flexibility."
I wrote about BYU's post-Thanksgiving struggles in recent years for the newspaper. Here's the link for that.
Not a lot of newsy stuff came out of today's presser. With Mendenhall available to print reporters only once a week, a lot of our questions for Mendenhall tend to be broader-focus inquiries to help us write daily stories through Saturday.
However, there was a bit of personnel news.
Mendenhall said freshman linebacker Fred Warner's back injury that kept him out of the Savannah State game is not career-threatening, but will end his season. "It is a back injury, but the details, I don't know," Bronco said.
There was some scuttlebutt that some regular starters didn't start vs. SSU because they were suspended, but Mendenhall said Austin Heder made his first start at buck linebacker and Michael Davis started at field corner for other reasons.
"Not only [because of] consistency in practice, but the nature of the opponent, and resting some other players," he said. "I like them both. .. Austin Heder, I think helped himself so we could see some more of him, and Michael Davis, we could see some more of him."
Don't expect California coach Sonny Dykes to complain about BYU's "older" players this week, due to LDS mission service. The Bears have one of those types of players. Defensive end Harrison Wilfley, from Sacramento, Calif., got his first career start last week in the loss to Stanford. Wilfley served a mission for two years in Uruguay, and transferred to Cal after a stint at American River Community College in Northern California.
In a teleconference with reporters Sunday night, Wilfley said he grew up cheering for BYU and would have loved to have played for the Cougars, but was not recruiting by them out of high school. He said he's got two brothers in high school who are currently trying to catch some attention from BYU. Wilfley said when he got back from his mission, he sent some game film out to a bunch of schools, including BYU and Cal, and Cal was the first to offer him a scholarship, so he chose to go to school in Berkeley.
Monday, Mendenhall said he doesn't remember Wilfley.
Regarding the difficulty of trying to locate and/or recruit every Division-I caliber LDS player across the country, Mendenhall said:
"It is a delicate balance, because when we tell them we are loaded at a position most of the time they get offended and [are] saying 'we are better than who you already have.' So that kind of pushes me in a corner of me saying, 'I don't think you are,' and they usually go elsewhere. If I say, man, we would love you to come to our program, but this is who we already have, there are other positions we could need. Sometimes they are open to that, sometimes they are not. So, a lot of times how receptive they want to be has a lot to do with whether they come to BYU or not."
A few more comments from the coach today:
On Cal's prolific offense and whether BYU has enough firepower to stay with the Bears:
"They are scoring about 40 [points] a game. And so there is a choice to make, either keeping up and outscoring them at any cost with no regard for the number of plays your defense runs. Or, try to manage the tempo. Their defense has given up quite a few points, so, no question, we are going to have to score. The teams that have limited them only two teams have held Cal under 30 points this year. Washington held them to seven and Stanford just held them to 17. Turnovers have played a huge role anytime they are under 30 points.
So, turnovers are a huge factor in this game, and I think special teams play are a huge factor. The rest is about what it is going to be, or what I think they've done this year.
So to me, the ability to create turnovers, and conversely, hold onto the football, and special teams play with field position is going to be really important."
On whether offense can keep up in a shootout:
"Hard to say. I am not sure how many teams have kept up with Cal in terms of scoring. I think we have to play good enough defense to make sure it is not just that alone in terms of a scoring match only. We have to play good enough defense to where it just doesn't become that."
On Cal's quarterback Jared Goff and how good he is:
"The system makes him great. He certainly can throw the ball well, and makes good decisions, I think. Only six or seven interceptions on the year with a million throws. That's an exaggeration, but lots and lots of throws. But the system has him delivering the ball accurately, and on time, and he is difficult to get to.
So I think they do a really nice job with their system."
On Cal improving from 1-11 to 5-6 and how they did it:
"Consistency. The games they have lost, they have turned the ball over more frequently than in the games they've won. A year ago they turned the ball over much more frequently."
On offensive coordinator Robert Anae knowing Sonny Dykes' system and what he brings:
"We already have some ideas. In fact, the system we are defending was very similar to what we did here at BYU Robert's first time around, so there aren't many surprises. Cal is doing it with good talent at quarterback, and at running back, and at receiver. And so, the talent base is a little bit different, but we are familiar with what the concepts are, and Robert has been able to be helpful already….. not the [wide splits] to the extent that we did. But the pass concepts are very similar."
On whether he likes a Pac-12 opponent to finish regular season:
"Yeah, I do. I like as many good opponents as we can play, from beginning of the season to the end of the season. I see this as a step in the right direction for November scheduling."
On what can translate from SSU game to Cal game:
"About the first quarter, because that was really the execution and improvement we were hoping to see, and then we basically pulled as many players out of the game as we could. I thought our team handled it well. They were prepared well and they executed well to start the game."
On the secondary playing well:
"Making progress. Really the development of Jordan Preator has been really helpful. And having Michael Davis as a depth player to spell Rob Daniel has been helpful. And I think the emergence of Kai Nacua [has helped]. Kai has had his hands on more balls than maybe anyone else in our secondary in limited play.
When Dallin Leavitt got hurt a few weeks ago, and even against Central Florida it forced us to play Kai, and all of a sudden he is in a featured role, and he's making a lot of plays, so I would say Preator and Kai Nacua, those two coming along have helped us."
On getting pressure on QB and whether they can get pressure on Cal's QB:
"The pressure on Cal's quarterback is more difficult because of how quickly they throw the football. If you choose then to only rush three, he is certainly capable and accurate enough to give you trouble that way, so you have to do as many things as possible, with maybe different tempos, to keep him off balance. One tempo alone against this team is not the right answer.
We have played and have a lot better identity and sense of who we are defensively since starting from Middle Tennessee on, and we have some momentum going, so I think that ultimately will determine the outcome of the game."
On what four straight wins would mean to this team:
"It would be fantastic, and that's what our intention is. We have a lot to play for. I think it is an intriguing game, and it is fun at the end of the year to have an intriguing matchup, and a challenge."
On senior offensive lineman De'Ondre Wesley's contribution:
"De'Ondre has been a strong asset. We have needed him. He's played well, and through that stretch where coach Anae came in and we needed so many offensive linemen, De'Ondre has been one of the ones that has had a starting role and been really consistent."