BYU

BYU offense still searching for identity under Detmer

September 16, 2017

Facing the local media that covers BYU each week is not the toughest room Ty Detmer has played.

Simply dealing with the Heisman hype in Provo during the 1990 season was a feat in itself. Just hours after winning the trophy as the best college player in the country, Detmer had to face the media following a devastating 59-28 loss at Hawaii.

As a senior, Detmer answered the tough questions after throwing an interception on the last possession of a 13-13 tie with Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.

As a quarterback in the NFL, Detmer could have hidden in the shower after tossing seven interceptions in a game in 2001 but patiently answered every question the Detroit Lions media threw at him.

Detmer always faced the grilling with his Texas drawl, a crooked smile on his face and sincere honesty.

It’s the same now as he answers questions about the current struggles of the BYU offense, which has scored just 33 points in the first three games of the season.

Heck, when Detmer played at BYU the Cougars once scored 36 points in the FOURTH QUARTER (a 50-36 win against Washington State in 1990).

He knows something isn’t working.

“It’s constantly, ‘What can we do better? How can we help these guys? How can we be better as coaches?’” Detmer said. “As an independent, the schedule is going to be front-end loaded. We’ve got a young team, and we’re going to have some struggles. We’re playing really good teams so you don’t have a chance to get your feet underneath you a little bit.”

Detmer said the assistant coaches have been up early and in the football offices late trying to figure out a way to jump-start the BYU offense.

It’s something you think about constantly,” Detmer said. “There’s no down time to get away.”

On Saturday the Cougars face another daunting test at LaVell Edwards Stadium against No. 10 Wisconsin, and will likely do so without starting quarterback Tanner Mangum. The junior injured his ankle on the final offensive play against Utah and has been seen around campus in a walking boot and using a disability scooter to get to classes.

The BYU coaches aren’t talking. When Detmer was asked who would start at quarterback on Saturday, he jokingly replied, “J.J. Nwigwe,” a 275-pound offensive lineman and tight end.

There’s been nothing amusing about the BYU offense in the first three games of the 2017 season. Mangum, who threw for 3,327 yards and 23 touchdowns as a freshman in 2015, has looked uncomfortable and inconsistent in Detmer’s pro-style offense. The running game has been slow to come around and a new group of receivers isn’t making plays.

Detmer isn’t the one overthrowing receivers, dropping passes or missing blocks. But ultimately, the offensive coordinator takes the credit or the blame for the results.

The first 16 games of Detmer’s tenure as the offensive coordinator have produced numbers that pale in comparison to his predecessors.

Here’s a look at BYU’s offensive coordinators and their first 16 games at the helm following the LaVell Edwards era.

Gary Crowton (2001-02)

Crowton replaced Edwards as head coach in 2001 with a reputation as an offensive guru. For most of that first season, everything Crowton touched turned to gold. Bold moves in play calling resulted in big plays and every bounce seemed to go the Cougars’ way – until injuries began to take their toll late in the season. Even with Brandon Doman and Luke Staley gone, the first two games of the 2002 season produced 77 points in wins against Syracuse and Hawaii, but the unraveling began the following week at Nevada. Crowton infamously flew the Cougars to Reno the day of the game and the 31-28 loss sent the program into a slow death spiral that ended with Crowton’s resignation/firing after the 2004 season.

Robert Anae (2005-06)

Anae brought the Texas Tech spread offense with its huge offensive line gaps to Provo and produced exactly one field goal in his first game as offensive coordinator, a 20-3 loss at home to Boston College. But the offense kicked into gear with 45 points against Eastern Illinois the following game and two weeks later 50 points in an overtime loss to TCU. John Beck started to come into his own during the 2005 season and would become the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2006. He had a ton of talent around him in running back Curtis Brown, receiver Todd Watkins and tight end Johnny Harline.

Brandon Doman (2011-12)

Doman was a Bronco Mendenhall favorite as a quarterbacks coach and helped develop both John Beck and Max Hall. But when he was handed the reigns of the offense in 2011 and 2012, his relationship with Mendenhall started to show some cracks. Doman was offensive coordinator during the Jake Heaps-Riley Nelson era at quarterback and the freshman season of Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams. Doman was let go after the 2012 season.

Robert Anae 2.0 (2013-14)

After leaving the Cougars for a two-year stint with Arizona, Anae returned and installed his “go fast, go hard” offense. With Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams healthy for the entire 2013 season, the Cougars were an offensive machine. The following season with Hill and Williams both out for most of the year, Anae was able to adapt the offense around pure passer Christian Stewart.

Ty Detmer (2016-17)

Detmer had zero college coaching experience when he was hired to take over the BYU offense. He walked into a pretty good situation with Hill and Williams both coming back for their senior seasons. Riding a strong running game, the Cougars were able to control the clock and finished 9-4, with the four losses by a combined seven points.

2017 has been a different story for the BYU offense. Hill and Williams both graduated and are on NFL rosters. The top three receivers — Nick Kurtz, Colby Pearson and Mitchell Juergens — also graduated, and no one has stepped forward from the new group.

The numbers produced by Detmer’s offense are the lowest of all the coordinators in the post-Edwards era. The offense without Hill, Williams and an experienced group of receivers has been, at times, painful to watch.

However, it should be noted that half of Detmer’s first 16 games have been against Power 5 opponents. Anae also faced eight Power 5 teams in his first 16 games during his second stint but by then was a veteran offensive coordinator. Crowton faced only three P5 teams, Anae five in his first 16 games and Doman seven.

The heat from social media and disgruntled BYU fans is part of the gig. The only way Detmer knows how to fix the problem is with hard work and time.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said he understands.

“It’s difficult because everybody wants to score now and score a lot of points,” Sitake said. “We’re looking at what we’re trying to build here as a program. Patience is not my best virtue, either. I want to win, and I want to win now. I want us to score a lot of points.

“What Ty does well is he knows what his talent is and he’s trying to get the best out of our players. If things don’t work well, you adjust and move on to other things, whether it’s players or schemes. We have some strengths on offense. Not to tip our hand, but there are some guys that give us some mismatches and we’re trying to take advantage of that.”

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