Each week we will attempt to do a Q&A with the opposing teams SBN Blog. This week Markell Staffieri from the Vanquish the Foe (BYU) blog was kind enough to take some time to visit with us.
Markell: Steve Sarkisian is returning to BYU for the first time, for any reason, since graduating. He has obliged to be part of a game day ceremony that will acknowledge the All-American Quarterbacks from BYU, but what are Sark's true feelings towards BYU? Does he consider himself an Alumni? Or was it just a school to go to, to play football ala Jim McMahon?
John: From what I have read this will be the first time he has returned to the school since he graduated. He was a JC transfer whose main reason for attending the school was to play for Lavelle Edwards. He isn't Mormon and didn't spend much time there so there really aren't any close ties.
Markell: Jake Heaps, the #1 QB recruit in the country gets swiped from underneath Steve Sarkisian's nose and now faces the potential of starting for BYU against his #2 choice, and home school in Washington. What do the UW faithful want to see from Heaps in this game and in his future at BYU?
John: Heaps was as good as gone before Sarkisian arrived on the scene at Washington. You can credit the loss of Heaps to Tyrone Willingham. You have to give credit to Mendenhall and his staff for developing a relationship with Heaps that began at the beginning of his sophomore year.
John: What do we want to see from Jake Heaps? We just want to watch him see see purple all day while he is lying on his back during his debut. After that I hope he has a great career.
Markell: In the last meeting BYU won after another controversial PAC 10 officiating call on Jake Locker's celebration. Is that fresh on the minds of UW fans as we approach the rematch, or being two years removed is it truly in the past?
John: It was a terrible call that went BYU's way but since it was two years ago under a different coaching staff I don't think it will have much of a current impression. If it had been MWC refs perhaps we would hold a grudge.
Markell: Does Jake Locker have a new "Non Celebration" TD celebration prepared for Provo?
John: No...I think he will be extremely restrained in his celebratory style.
Markell: Washington is a team which many, myself included, feel is quickly returning to the upper tier of the PAC 10. How will a win at BYU shape the rest of a very tough season for the Huskies? What affect would a loss have on the Huskies?
John: We need to pick up a win on the road over a quality opponent to get the season rolling. We seem to be catching the Cougars during the start of a rebuilding year so that should give Washington the edge. A loss would be viewed as a setback even though we all know that Provo is a difficult place to play at.
Markell: Jake Locker used to be all feet and now he has developed into one heck of an all around QB. Do you see the Heisman Hopeful using his feet once again to move the ball against BYU ('08), especially once they see the tape of what FSU did to BYU last year with a running quarterback, or will a more mature Locker try and beat the Cougars with a finely tuned passing attack?
John: Jake is a completely different QB than he was two seasons ago. He also has quite a few more offensive tools surrounding him these days. Washington was completely reliant on Jake the last time these two teams played. That is not the case anymore. Look for Jake to throw first and run second. I think the most he will run this year is around ten times per game. If Washington gets ahead there will be no reason for him to run.
Markell: What type of year do you see the Huskies having both on a national scene and in the PAC 10?
John: I think we have the ability to knock on the door of the top 25 and win in the neighborhood of eight games this season. The Pac 10 is pretty wide open this season so everyone but WSU has a decent shot this season.
John: Who will be the starting quarterback for BYU on September 4th?
Markell: You will see Riley Nelson start for the Cougars because of the added pressure for Jake Heaps to make his first collegiate start against his home town team. That is not to say you won't see Heaps in the game though. Riley will take the first snap, but Jake will make an appearance. To start a true freshman against his home town team is asking too much. You know as well as I do that the UW defense will bring the heat if they see a rookie behind center. That adds a lot of pressure on opening day. I expect Coach Anae and Coach Mendenhal to yield to experience and let Riley ease Jake into the game.
John: Now that the WAC is dissolving will BYU still pursue being an independent in football?
Markell: If you asked me 4 days ago I would've bet the farm on BYU going independent. Even with the talk of putting the other sports in the WAC, BYU was just throwing a line in the water to see who would bite. When the MWC signed their TV deal it had a lot of hidden language and terms that nobody really took the time to read into. What BYU was trying to do with the Independent talk was to grasp the attention of the MWC and force them to make changes that would allow BYU to expand upon its broadcasting capabilities. BYU will remain in the MWC until they have an opportunity to play in a bigger conference.
John: We have heard that this is a rebuilding year on both sides of the ball for BYU. Do you think the Cougars will experience some growing pains during the first part of the season?
Markell: Defensively the Cougars are going to be hurting at LB to start the season. With only one spot solidified in the return of Jordan Pendleton, I worry about the integrity of the interior defense. However, the defensive line will be one of the strongest in the last 4 years and that can take some of the pressure off. Offensively I see a rebuilding at QB and TE. Right now the QB is the big IF. Neither QB is a proven starter at the collegiate level and all the tight ends are freshmen. Outside of those two spots you have a very talented and very experienced offense.
The fact of the matter is that BYU can't afford to have growing pains at the beginning of the season because their schedule is front loaded. 5 of their first 7 games are going to be against very tough opponents, including UW, Air Force and Florida State and Nevada right out of the gate. If there are lessons to be learned they better learn them early or the season could get out of hand.
John: Who is going to pick up the slack for Harvey Unga this fall?
Markell: The running back corps will most likely be by committee, but it is a very capable committee. Cougar fans have to be excited by the return of Bryan Kariya, knowing what he did against the Sooners last year in Texas. Along side Kariya will be DiLuigi who has also proven himself at this level. Add freshman Josh Quezada into the mix and you have three very different, but very effective runners. Utilizing them all in the right way will keep the opposing defenses off balance.
John: Who do we keep an eye on defensively for the Cougars?
Defensively for the Cougars I keep my eye on two people; Safety, Andrew Rich and Defensive End, Vic So'Oto. The last game So'Oto played was against the Huskies in Washington where he broke his foot on the first play of the game, so this is a fitting return for the senior from Carlsbad, CA. Vic is an amazingly talented player who just has had a hard time staying healthy. I expect and hope for big things from him this year. Andrew Rich is no secret to opposing receivers. He patrols the airs just waiting for a big hit, and you can count on him to deliver two or three a game. If the ball's in the air, I always want to know where Rich is.
MLB Cort Dennison and WR James Johnson returned to practice this weekend and said they are on track to play against BYU. Sark commented that DE Everette Thompson looks real good and will be fine to play which is real good news. OT Senio Kelemete should be close to 100% by game time. DE Kelani Aldrich is still having problems with his knee and is questionable.
BYU to go with two QB's
Riley Nelson will be the starter at QB for BYU but Jake Heaps is expected to make an early appearance. The competition between Nelson and Heaps resulted in a dead heat.
"I know this will give us an opportunity to have a highly successful season," Nelson said in the statement. "Jake and I both have the ability to lead our team and offer unique skills that will help us be successful as an offensive unit. I am excited about this opportunity and fully expect that we will carry on the great tradition and legacy of the quarterback position here at BYU."
The big story last week was Kasen Williams commitment to Washington. Williams is the type of game changing athlete the Huskies need to have to push it to the next level. Even more importantly it shows that Sark can keep the best local talent home.
On Saturday the euphoria turned to a bit of panic on the boards when info leaked out that QB Brett Hundley had not made it to Seattle as expected. The story from those close to Hundley is that he was bumped from his flight to Seattle because he was flying stand by and he was going to reschedule an official visit the week of the Syracuse game.
Hundley later released a statement that he had made a decision and would announce it on September 6th. The Syracuse game is on September 11th so you guys do the math. It isn't looking good for Washington at the moment. Coaches of course never give up so we will see how this plays out.
If Hundley heads to UCLA the focus will shift to Adam Pittser from Richmond, Illinois. Pittser opened up a lot of eyes at the Elite Eleven camp this year. He was under the radar until then because he plays in a run-heavy, Delaware wing-T offense with limited opportunities to statistically showcase his skill set as a passer.
Richmond, Illinois is about 30 minutes from where I live so if Washington signs this kid I will head up there to take in a game or two and share my honest opinion on what this kid is capable of doing.
USC loses another one
USC freshman defensive back Patrick Hall has been suspended from the team indefinitely for unspecified reasons, coach Lane Kiffin announced Sunday. Hall was informed of the decision Saturday, just five days before the Trojans' 2010 season opener in Hawaii.
Hall was a five star coming out out of high school who didn't immediately qualify and had to redshirt. He then hurt his knee, resulting in more time off. Obviously, Kiffin isn't pleased with the way he has progressed and decided to head in another direction.
In other Trojan news, Marc Tyler beat out Allen Bradford for the starting job at RB. Dillon Baxter is still practicing with the team but has been suspended for the opener.
"We have a team of 99 percent of the guys right now that are fully committed to being a championship student-athlete on the field and off the field," Kiffin said. "We didn't feel like Patrick was doing that."