Hill beginning to flourish in new BYU offense
PROVO, Utah (AP)
This isn't exactly the pass-happy BYU offense that Jim McMahon, Steve Young or Ty Detmer used to run.
Instead, the school once known for producing prolific passers is relying on Taysom Hill's speed and split-second decisions in the read-option approach the Cougars have implemented this season.
So far, there's little doubt that Hill can beat teams with his wheels, rushing for 259 yards - second-most in school history - in a 40-21 win over Texas on Saturday. His reads were right on, too, with the Cougars (1-1) rolling up a team-record 550 yards rushing, the most the Longhorns have ever allowed and leading the team to not only tumble out of the Top 25, but to fire defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
And now, the next step in Hill's evolution: Showing he can keep defensive backs honest with his arm. Through two games, he's completed just 33 percent of his passes.
Not that BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is all that concerned. Hill already has proven to be a quick study in absorbing a revamped system from a new offensive coordinator. If it takes a bit for the passing game to come around, well, so be it.
''It's a work in progress,'' said Mendenhall, whose team has a week off before hosting rival Utah on Sept 21. ''I'm encouraged. Eventually it will (take care of itself).''
Either that or the Cougars will see safeties constantly creeping toward the line of scrimmage, forgetting all about the threat of a pass. It would be quite a contrast to the days of McMahon, Young and Detmer, when passing was the name of the game.
For the season, Hill is 22 of 66 for 304 yards with one TD and two interceptions.
''Passing lanes are going to open up,'' Hill said after the Texas game.
A healthy Cody Hoffman should help, too. The senior receiver didn't play at Virginia because of a hamstring injury, but had two catches against Texas to move closer to breaking Dennis Pitta's school record for receptions.
Hoffman could've possibly been more involved against the Longhorns, only the run game was clicking so well that there really was ''no need to go away from it,'' said Hill, a sophomore out of Pocatello, Idaho.
Hill's 259 yards were just 13 shy of tying the team record set by Eldon Fortie in 1962. Hill's 68-yard TD scamper in the first quarter also tied the longest ever from a BYU QB, a mark he established last season against Hawaii.
All this after the offense struggled in a 19-16 loss at Virginia. In that game, the Cougars couldn't get anything going. Then again, new systems, especially the read option, take some time to grasp.
At least that's what friends have been telling Hill through a string of text messages.
''They always said to me that players, offenses and teams make their biggest jump from Week one to Week two,'' said Hill, who was operating behind a retooled offensive line last weekend. ''We knew as an offense that we couldn't continue to play like that or we're not going to win many games.''
Hill played in six games for the Cougars last season, throwing for 425 yards and rushing for 336 more. This season, Robert Anae switched things up when he rejoined the staff as offensive coordinator, bringing with him a ''go fast, go hard'' mentality.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hill will be asked to make plays with his eyes and his legs, locate the hole almost before it develops and either hand it off to tailbacks such as Jamaal Williams - who had a career-high 182 yards against Texas - or tuck the ball and take off. On Hill's 68-yard TD run against Texas, the Longhorns barely touched him.
Mendenhall's only piece of advice to Hill was to perhaps slide more, especially when linebackers approach him.
''I love the way he ran,'' Mendenhall said. ''We know (the offense) is going to take time.''
And until it fully flourishes, the Cougars can always rely on the defense, which was one of the top units in the nation last season.
''I think (the offense) makes us feel more comfortable out there and to be able to put more pressure and do more things defensively,'' linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. ''It was fun.''
Hill couldn't agree more as the Cougars ran all over the Longhorns.
''We expected to run on them,'' Hill said. ''But didn't expect to break the school record. ... We were taking what the defense was giving us. When we have the options that we have off of our run game, it's tough to stop.''