RB Fui Vakapuna

2006 Statistics

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
17-8, 2 years
2006 Record: 11-2
at Arizona LOST 13-16
at Boston College LOST 23-30 (2OT)
at TCU WON 31-17
at Air Force WON 33-14
at Colorado State WON 24-3
at Utah WON 33-31
Oregon WON 38-8

2006 Final Rankings
AP-16, Coaches-15, BCS-20

2007 Outlook

This is a strong, consistent program that recruits well and plays solid ball against BCS-aligned teams. So, did you ever wonder why BYU sometimes flares up to have stellar years (like 1984, ’87, ’89-’90, ’94, ’96, ’01, ‘06), but falls short other times? Many forget that this is a Mormon school, and Cougar footballers who go on missions become dual-edged swords – they often leave in the midst of their development as players, but they return, usually past the normal college ages of 18-22, as matured men who know more about life and themselves as people, and therefore more about how to get along with others (especially playing football). Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has only a few critical areas to develop, with the most obvious one being at QB. Strong candidates exist (Hall, Cooper) so that the team shouldn’t have to take much of a step back from where they are. On a team that had a RB and TE tops in catches, filling these slots and achieving the same results are two different things, huh. A good line will help. Finding some quality corners to compliment Criddle and the all-senior two-deep at safety is likely to define the upcoming season as much as the quality of play at QB. Another ambitious slate of non-cons, added to the improving quality of the Mountain West, means that BYU will have to prove they are again on top of their game to earn another conference crown and/or national ranking.

Projected 2007 record: 9-3
LB Bryan Kehl
QB - 3 DL - 3.5
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 3.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: None

Rushing: Fui Vakapuna, 92 att., 445 yds., 8 TD

Receiving: Matt Allen, 27 rec., 420 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Fui Vakapuna, 11 TD, 66 pts.

Punting: None

Kicking: None

Tackles: Bryan Kehl, 70 tot., 35 solo

Sacks: Jan Jorgensen, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Quinn Gooch, 2 for 38 yds.; Kelly Poppinga, 2 for 33 yds.; Ben Criddle, 2 for 0 yds.

Kickoff returns: Corby Hodgkiss, 1 ret., 6.0 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: None


Mark Philbrick, Jaren Wilkey, Steve Walters and Kenny Crookston
OFFENSE: John Beck-QB, Jason Beck-QB, Curtis Brown-RB, Zac Collie-WR, Nathan Meikle-WR, Daniel Coats-TE, Jonny Harline-TE, Eddie Keele-OT, Jake Kuresa-OT, Jared McLaughlin-K, McKay Jacobson-WR (mission)
DEFENSE: Hala Paongo-DE, Cameron Jensen-MLB, Aaron Wagner-MLB, Justin Robinson-CB, Derek McLaughlin-P

The bad news about establishing a new starting QB after four years under a solid guy (Beck) who wound up the nation’s No.2 passer is that it most often takes a team down some pegs in the rankings…the unknown is scary to both fans and pollsters. Max Hall has been named the starter as spring ball wrapped up. Hall, a native of Mesa, Ariz., transferred to BYU for the 2006 season after redshirting the 2004 season at Arizona State. JUCO transfer Cade Cooper was expected to push for time in the QB rotation before suffering a season-ending leg injury in the spring scrimmage. Brenden Gaskins, a walk-on transfer from Glendale CC, will assume the no. 2 position. The Cougar’s backfield is rounded out by a RB-FB combination that is also hard to tell apart. Junior Fui Vakapuna and Manase Tonga are a step slower than now-departed Curtis Brown, but with both hulksters at 230+, staying home to protect the new QB in their one-back sets will be important with so many quality early (non-con) challengers. Expect more inside running, for sure. RB Harvey Unga is also going to see his share of carries as evident in the spring. Senior Matt Allen and junior Michael Reed, leading the revamped receiving corps, will again produce downfield. Watch out for Austin Collie as he comes back from a mission. In 2004 he was tabbed a Second Team All-American by The Sporting News and has been the primary target for the new QBs in the spring. On a team that had its starting RB and TE as its leading snarlers (with each earning twice the catches in ’06 as any WR), we can anticipate more of the same, even with new TEs. Just back from his mission to England, Andrew George is ready to continue this Cougar tradition at TE, as is Vic So’oto and four-star recruit Devin Mahina (No.11 prospect, rival.com). Both tackles depart, but junior Dallas Reynolds has enough (starting) experience to ebb outside fears up front. All-MWC senior center Sete Aulai, with both starting guards back, will assure those inside rushing yards are compiled. Expect their highly ranked offensive results to take a step back, but they will be reestablished and consistent by midseason.


C Sete Aulai


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Max Hall-So (6-1, 200) Brenden Gaskins-So (6-5, 220)
FB Manase Tonga-Jr (6-0, 234) ..
RB Fui Vakapuna-Jr (6-1, 234) Harvey Unga-Fr (6-0, 221)
WR Michael Reed-Jr (6-1, 202) Bryce Mahuika-Jr (5-9, 185)
WR Matt Allen-Sr (6-0, 177) Andrew Beck-Jr (5-10, 187)
WR Austin Collie-So (6-2, 212) Ryan Neeley-Jr (6-0, 176)
TE Vic So'oto-So (6-3, 233) Andrew George-So (6-5, 240)
OT Dallas Reynolds-Jr (6-5, 328) R.J. Willing-So (6-5, 300)
OG Ray Feinga-Jr (6-5, 322) Rick Wolfley-Fr (6-3, 326)
C Sete Aulai-Sr (6-1, 297) Garrett Reden-Fr (6-3, 273)
OG Travis Bright-Jr (6-5, 314) Tom Sorensen-So (6-5, 315)
OT David Oswald-Jr (6-8, 325) Jason Speredon-Fr (6-5, 275)
K Mitch Payne-Fr (6-2, 201) ..



Most of the starting front seven back will equal improvements to last season’s No.31 pass defense. As freshmen starters, end Jan Jorgensen and tackle Russell Tialavea far surpassed expectations. Developed depth to this well-sized front will match with BYU’s revamped LB corps to create run stuffers fresh and effective deep into the fourth quarter. DE Matt Putnam is also back from his mission and has made an immediate impact. Putnam will prove extremely valuable in terms of steady minutes and tackles. Heady senior LB Bryan Kehl finished third on the team for tackles with his speed that contains his entire side, while junior David Nixon slips blocks easily to often get ball-carriers behind the line of scrimmage. The Cougar’s ILBs are solid reserves who have earned their new starting roles. This quick, agile corps will use its athleticism well, recovering on play-action and efficient in coverage as they barely miss Jensen and Wagner inside by midseason. What has to be determined is who will fill the missing corner slot – the rest of the two-deep on the outside is also a competition. This area should develop, but with such a tough September slated, the trial-by-fire at corner will go a long way toward defining how good the entire team can be. There is huge help at safety - four seniors comprise BYU’s two-deep so that any struggles at corner will be quickly overcome. All-MWC Quinn Gooch in the deep middle is a huge reason the Cougars can (come close to) again finishing in the top 10 for scoring defense. Coach Mendenhall is a defensive specialist, so expect most holes to be filled in time. BYU held four of their last seven foes to eight points or less, and with the team’s 10 game win streak to end, the momentum the defense rides into 2007 should pay dividends after two early losses last year cost BYU their place in the BCS.


DB Quinn Gooch


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Ian Dulan-So (6-1, 274) Judd Anderton-Sr (6-5, 270)
DT Russell Tialavea-So (6-3, 300) Romney Fuga-So (6-1, 301)
DE Jan Jorgensen-So (6-3, 260) Matt Putnam-Fr (6-7, 245)
OLB Bryan Kehl-Sr (6-3, 231) David Nixon-Jr (6-3, 223)
MLB Kelly Poppinga-Sr (6-2, 240) Terrance Hooks-So (6-1, 218)
MLB Markell Stafieri-Sr (6-3, 232) Shawn Doman-So (6-2, 219)
OLB Chris Bolden-Sr (6-0, 248) Dan Van Sweden-So (6-2, 221)
CB Ben Criddle-Sr (6-0, 185) Brandon Howard-So (5-9, 170)
CB Kayle Buchanan-Sr (6-1, 191) Andre Saulsberry-Sr (5-10, 178)
KAT Dustin Gabriel-Sr (6-1, 213) Corby Hodgkiss-Sr (5-11, 206)
FS Quinn Gooch-Sr (6-0, 196) David Tafuna-Sr (6-1, 206)
P Mitch Payne-Fr (6-2, 201) ..




Redshirt freshman Mitch Payne is in line for both kicking duties, and if he is anything like his older brother (Matt, who handled the dual duty well), only a new long snapper will stand between BYU and another big season. More vacant slots at their return positions also need steady performers, but expect new faces to handle these chores well with so many burners on roster.