QB Max Hall

2007 Statistics

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
28-10, 3 years
2007 Record: 11-2
at UCLA LOST 17-27
at Tulsa LOST 47-55
at New Mexico WON 31-24
at UNLV WON 24-14
TCU WON 27-22
at Wyoming WON 35-10
UTAH WON 17-10
at San Diego State WON 48-27
UCLA WON 17-16

2007 Final Rankings
AP-14, Coaches-14, BCS-17

2008 Outlook

It has been since 1984’s championship team that BYU has had this much momentum rolling through its off-season happenings. This year looks like another double-digit win total, which would make three in a row for the first time since those glory days of more than two decades ago. The difference seems to be the hiring of Bronco Mendenhall, whose defensive insights have led the way (what wins championships?) He has embraced the traditions here – the lower level of prospects attracted to the program (due to the school’s religious foundation) means coaching and teamwork are the hallmarks which turn potential into wins. Many of his players come back from missions having matured in their outlooks on life (often times beyond their years), making the roster full of men, not boys. This pays huge dividends as the lessons on the field are learned faster, and hard times during games are overcome easier as the group comes together to work towards their goals. Mendenhall got his team back to basics, and the fruition will be seen again this year.

Cougar fans have to be salivating when they think of how good their team looks heading into the ’08 season. Six all-MWC selections return on offense, including underdog QB Max Hall and bruiser Harvey Unga, last year’s Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. But UCLA proved that the Cougar blocking can break down to the extent that the speed in the backfield isn’t enough when there are two of the bigger backs playing together. Ergo, newcomer J.J. DiLuigi appears to be just what is needed to prevent this eventuality from letting big, fast teams like the Bruins force their will defensively. The two-TE sets work nicely versus the seemingly over-matched Mountain West foes, but the ability of BCS-level teams to overcome this proves a new wrinkle is needed that emphasizes quickness over the “old school” smashmouth dimension Mendenhall loves. Even Arizona proved this, and neither the Wildcats nor Bruins is a consistent top 25 team…yet BYU couldn’t muster more than 20 points in any one game versus these Pac Ten foes. Results like these justify many of the lower rankings BYU receives when they have the same record as other BCS teams at the time. On a team that throws it as much as it passes the rock, balance is the key to moving the ball. As long as Hall remains on the upside of the learning curve, only top teams will have a shot at stopping BYU for the win.

The defense rebuilds its LBs and DBs (from scratch with the secondary), but a quality line will force foes into early throws to help the DBs come along. Jan Jorgensen is the point of attack on D, and the latest additions are as talented as any who have been through here in those past two resurgent years. These guys do the job against even the Pac Ten types, offering the fan-base good reason to be giddy. As fans remember, it just takes one magic season for it all to come together, and even the new guys realize how special the year could be if they can join to form a single-minded unit.

The nation’ s longest winning streak is still in Provo – 10 games. As usual, the first three games will tell the most as to where BYU is expected to finish. Like any mid-major, BYU knows it has to play the best to be the best, so the BCS-aligned opponents stacked for the non-conference part of the slate appear every year. Washington is not the same doormat they’ve been before Ty Willingham arrived, and the home rematch with UCLA assures the Bruins give 100% in search of payback. The tilts at TCU and Utah are the toughest MWC games, so it looks like at least nine wins this campaign.

This is a new era of parity in the college pigskin scene, and thus, this is a new era of BYU football, and anyone discounting them because they are from a smaller conference doesn’t get it. There is a reason they are our top mid-major, and you might as well realize now that this team will be in many final (AP) polls to come.

Projected 2008 record: 11-1
TE Dennis Pitta
QB - 4 DL - 4
RB - 4 LB - 3.5
WR - 4 DB - 2.5
OL - 4 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Max Hall, 298-496-12, 3848 yds., 26 TD

Rushing: Harvey Unga, 244 att., 1227 yds., 13 TD

Receiving: Dennis Pitta, 59 rec., 813 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: Harvey Unga, 17 TD, 102 pts.

Punting: CJ Santiago, 62 punts, 39.7 avg.

Kicking: Mitch Payne, 10-14 FG, 43-45 PAT, 73 pts.

Tackles: Jan Jorgensen, 77 tot., 40 solo

Sacks: Jan Jorgensen, 14 sacks

Interceptions: Matt Bauman, 1 for 3 yds.

Kickoff returns: Austin Collie, 28 ret., 25.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Bryce Mahuika, 21 ret., 6.8 avg., 0 TD


Mark Philbrick, Jaren Wilkey, Steve Walters and Kenny Crookston
OFFENSE: Joe Semanoff-RB, Matt Allen-WR, Sete Aulai-C, Manase Tonga-FB (academics)
DEFENSE: Bryan Kehl-SLB, Kelly Poppinga-MLB, Markell Staffieri-BLB, Chris Bolden-WLB, Kayle Buchanan-CB, Ben Criddle-CB, Andre Saulsberry-CB, Corby Hodgkiss-KAT, Quinn Gooch-FS, Eathyn Manumaleuna-NT

What many fans were worrying about at this same time last year was the transition from current-NFL QB John Beck to the current Cougar signal caller, junior Max Hall. That worry is now a confidence that the season is in good hands with the Arizona State transfer. A nephew of former Dallas Cowboy QB Danny White, Hall is a matured game manager, a guy who makes few mistakes as he leads the team via his example of gutsy play. Hall tucks and runs when needed, but needs to learn to also throw it away when he decides he is going to stand tall in the pocket. That’s really a small critique on the overall scale; most importantly, Hall makes sure he wins the game. BYU’s closing ten frames were perfect to give them the FBS’s current longest win streak, and Hall is one of the biggest reasons for this. Backup Brenden Gaskins is the former New Mexico 4A Player of the Year, but as a classmate of Hall’s, only an injury will get him the time he deserves. If that were to occur, he would need adjustment time, and a few losses would be a probable result.

The backfield is full of riches. First and foremost is 243lb Harvey Unga, the MWC Freshman of the Year and a load to bring down. Unga set freshman school records across the board, but most impressive is that he led all conference freshmen in receiving, too (14.9 yard per catch). Unga will continue to get the Cougar’s share of the carries, but look for the other guys to step their game(s) up looking for reps. Manase Tonga is the same sized runner and another set of great hands, making him a great second back who can also lead block. Fui Vakapuna is just another large ball-carrier in the same mold…oh, wait…that’s right, he came in fourth for the entire state in the 100-meter dash as a prep senior, making him the fastest of this sizable trio. Then there’s the fresh face of J.J. DiLuigi, the Old Spice/Red Zone Player of the Year (CA) who offers a needed change of pace size-wise and another pair of great mitts, too.
Modest ground gains last year will explode in 2008 with the senior-laden line returning four starters. UPDATE: FB Manase Tonga has been ruled academically ineligible to compete during the 2008 season. Tonga has been suspended from the University and may re-apply for admission in October for Winter Semester, 2009. Tonga will redshirt the 2008 season.

This team runs and works through its backs to set up those (deeper) passes – the top two WRs finished merely second and fourth in team receptions to prove just where the focus is on this offense. But that isn’t to say that Collie and Reed don’t have a huge impact, for they totally benefit from defenders having to focus on the RBs no matter what the play-call. Legacy Collie has decent size and is the deep threat who pulls a safety over every time he takes off, or else. Former Texas 5A Receiver of the Year Reed stays underneath and is a great downfield blocker. TE Andrew George plays like a receiver at 6’5 (ex-long jumper, 22’ best). But it is Dennis Pitta who has emerged as the top target. Back from the Dominican Republic where he served his mission, Pitta broke out in ’07 as the conference’s fifth-best snarler. The multiple-TE sets that facilitate the run so well also strike fear into opposing back-sevens as they telegraph little. This creative aspect of Robert Anae’s offense makes it so even BCS-quality foes cannot stop these innovative yard-producing alignments (3-3 versus BCS teams over the past two seasons).

The line is the one aspect that guarantees all of the other elements will work. As you can see by the depth chart, the senior group is loaded with talented starters back for a special season together. Former Freshman All-American Dallas Reynolds and Ray Feinga (Mr. Football for Utah in ’03) are solid on the left side. Dallas’s Brother Matt is reported to be making huge strides to bolster the two-deep. David Oswald is another in-state bigman who moves well for his 330lb listed weight. Travis Bright is not the most mobile guy, but he moves well for his inside slot with great footwork. The move at center looks to be Vandy-transfer Tom Sorensen, who looked good in seven games last year after he had torn his knee up to force a redshirt in 2006. The OL had its troubles with UCLA – the Bruins held BYU scoreless in the second half of their bowl game, the first time since 2004 the Cougars failed to score in a second half. This just proves that, though they may rule the MWC, BYU has to dig (in) deeper on its line if the team is to rise to that next level in the national perspective. Seriously, UCLA is the third opponent for this year, so that game will measure the line’s progress against where they were to end ’07, a nice gauge for fan expectations. Otherwise, the offense here is going to achieve on a grand scale against the leagues (often) over-matched defenses.


OT Dallas Reynolds


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Max Hall-Jr (6-1, 201) Brenden Gaskins-Jr (6-4, 215)
FB Fui Vakapuna-Sr (6-1, 245) Isaac Taylor-Sr (5-11, 218)
HB Harvey Unga-So (6-0, 243) J.J. DiLuigi-Fr (5-9, 196)
WR Michael Reed-Sr (6-1, 202) Bryce Mahuika-Sr (5-9, 186)
Spencer Hafoka-Fr (6-0, 183)
WR Austin Collie-Jr (6-2, 206) Luke Ashworth-So (6-2, 194)
TE Dennis Pitta-Jr (6-5, 250) Andrew George-Jr (6-5, 246)
OT Dallas Reynolds-Sr (6-5, 332) Nick Alletto-So (6-6, 280)
OG Ray Feinga-Sr (6-5, 331) Terence Brown-So (6-3, 334)
C Tom Sorensen-Jr (6-5, 306) Garrett Reden-So (6-3, 275)
OG Travis Bright-Sr (6-5, 329) Matt Reynolds-Fr (6-6, 315)
OT David Oswald-Sr (6-8, 330) R.J. Willing-Jr (6-5, 312)
K Mitch Payne-So (6-2, 207) Justin Sorensen-Fr (6-1, 222)



Coach Mendenhall has given the reigns of the defense to in-house assistant Jaime Hill, at least for most aspects, save play-calling during games. Officially the defensive coordinator, Hill has been part of the consistency seen here since his arrival two seasons ago. The former Academic All-American will keep the trends going – stopping the run first and managing foes need to pass in the process.

The line is coming off of a great effort. None of BYU's BCS foes, nor run-silly Air Force, had strong ground results in their games with BYU. One of ten schools in the country allowing under 3.0 yards per carry to foes last year, all three starters on the line are back. And if it all starts up front, then we have to begin our breakdown with the guy who had the breakout season in ’07, Jan Jorgenson. Only six people had more tackles-for-loss in all of the FBS, and only four had more sacks. Jan won the state wrestling title in his first year ever of competing in the sport, so this quick-study likely has more progress to make on the gridiron this year. His spring was huge, showing how he is definitively the best lineman here. Ian Dulan will go on a mission, as will Manumaleuna, so new blood will be found…like already-established Brett Denney, who got back from his mission last year. Matt Putnam has many excited, for the 6’7 frosh has been in everyone’s way in practice, both Hall’s and the RB’s. All of the ends are 250+lbs, combining mobility and enough girth so that decent sized OLs have trouble when facing the Cougars. Replacing Eathyn Manumaleuna at tackle is either hulking Russell Tialavea (knee injury shot his ’07 campaign down) and/or ex-Eagle Scout Tevita Hola, an All-American while at the JUCO level. Bernard Afutit, also a JUCO transfer, is another rare three-star find to bolster the revamped line.

The linebackers are looking for three replacements, but this area looks covered nicely. Coleby Clawson was an end in CC, but he is projected as an OLB (one who will be a fourth lineman in certain cases.) Grant Nelson was compared by his prep coach to Paul Posluszny, whom he also coached, so Clawson and he will battle for the spot, with the big winner being BYU’s stopping efforts. The other outside spot is where the only returning starter in the “back eight” resides, David Nixon. Nixon uses his speed to match up well with extra guys in the slot and/or TEs. Inside, Matt Bauman finished as the team’s 10th-leading tackler while still a backup, so he looks solid for one spot. Shaun Doman had fewer big plays but more tackles than Bauman to secure the other spot. Junior Terrance Hooks (ex-RB) is the guy in waiting who will have a huge year once given the chance. Moala, So’oto (changing sides of the ball) and Wagner all possess the level of skill needed to make the defense better, so this area is amply stocked.

The “rubber hits the road” with the secondary and its all-new lineup (five senior CBs left at once). How well the DBs adjust and gel will go the longest way toward defining the season for the entire team. Ranking 18th last year and 16th the prior one for defensive pass efficiency means there are big shoes to fill. Brandon Bradley worked against Collie all spring and did a pretty decent job, as did Scott Johnson, who actually was seen on the first-team squad more than Bradley. Brandon Howard is possibly the fastest overall Cougar DB; this ex-hurdler ran lots of intermediate distances and knows the system here the best of all the CB candidates, hence he is penciled-in for the start. But the quickest CB might just be G Pittman, whose first few steps are great but he needs fine-tuning so his hips are proper so as to not allow receivers to control his positioning on their cuts...then he'll be nearly unbeatable. New DC Hill is an expert working with DBs, so not as much drop off will be seen as expected by many. The safeties will be led by Andrew Rich, a JUCO All-American who turned down BCS-aligned programs to enroll early and lead the race for those deep spots. He has impressed, as has Dave Tafuna. An ankle injury ended ’07 for Tafuna before it started, making his intimate knowledge of the system a huge dividend for shaping the position’s potential. South Jordan-local Jordan Pendleton is a physical specimen fans already want to see, and Kellen Fowler is a solid leader who has the most experience since he started the last five games of ‘07. Fowler as a starter to begin the season might be best, for he is also physically gifted with speed and a gutsy style that rubs off. Repeating the top 20 finishes in pass efficiency defense isn’t a realistic goal, but one that may be reached if Hill can make all of these well-balanced cylinders fire together…turnover here is nothing new, so we think he gets this group to come together by no later than Early October.

More than 12 forced fumbles has to happen…this ’07 total was the one lacking stat. You can imagine how far the team will go if they can even come close to keeping foes limited to 40 combined first-quarter points like they did last year. Coach Mendenhall will make sure his guys play at their highest level, but with two- and three-star guys, will this be enough when UCLA comes calling again?


DE Jan Jorgensen


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Ian Dulan-Jr (6-1, 252) Brett Denney-Jr (6-4, 252)
NT Russell Tialavea-Jr (6-3, 300) Tevita Hola-Jr (6-1, 310)
Mosese Foketi-Sr (6-0, 276)
DE Jan Jorgensen-Jr (6-3, 256) Brock Richardson-Sr (6-2, 267)
SLB David Nixon-Sr (6-3, 223) Coleby Clawson-Jr (6-3, 220)
MLB Matt Bauman-Jr (6-1, 226) Dan Van Sweden-Jr (6-2, 214)
BLB Shawn Doman-Jr (6-2, 224) Matt Ah You-Jr (5-11, 227)
WLB Vic So'oto-Jr (6-3, 249) Matt Putnam-Fr (6-6, 237)
CB Brandon Howard-Jr (5-9, 164) G Pittman-Fr (5-10, 183)
CB Scott Johnson-Jr (5-11, 185) Brandon Bradley-So (6-0, 201)
KAT David Tafuna-Sr (6-1, 211) Jordan Pendleton-Fr (6-2, 220)
FS Kellen Fowler-Sr (5-11, 187) Andrew Rich-So (6-3, 210)
P CJ Santiago-Sr (6-2, 212) Justin Sorensen-Fr (6-1, 222)




Punter C.J. Santiago is a control type who allows his coverage the best chances to keep net results low. Kicker Mitch Payne has yet to fulfill his potential – he has a big leg but only went 1-for-4 from 40+. Mendenhall manages Payne’s attempts nicely, but more is needed to hold off the incoming foot of Justin Sorensen, this year’s No.6 kicking prospect. WR Bryce Mahuika and Collie have both return slots covered, but with modest results from ’07 as the proof of their assignment(s), look for guys like G Pittman and Spencer Hafoka to get their chances to supplant either if results again lag.