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Anae Still Has Much to Prove as BYU’s OC

9 July 2014 Brett Richins
BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae (BYU photo).

BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae (BYU photo).

With the start of fall football camp just over three weeks away there are a number of key questions that BYU needs to answer on offense heading into the start of the 2014 season.

Will quarterback Taysom Hill be able to take the next step in his development as a passer?

Will the Cougars’ new additions at wide receiver be able to come up to speed in a timely fashion in the Cougars fast-paced attack?

And will the offensive line finally come together at the level needed to give Hill enough time to find his receivers down the field?

Those are all important questions for sure, but perhaps the bigger question this coming season is how much improvement will be made by offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Can he finally show his critics that he can be an elite coordinator?

Last year at this time Anae was in the initial stages of implementing the go-fast, go-hard brand of offense that he brought with him after his short stint under Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. He was hired for his second go around as BYU’s OC after serving just one year as RichRod’s offensive line coach.

Though he was the offensive coordinator at BYU from 2005 through 2010, Anae entered 2013 having never coordinated a read-option style of offense and had zero experience calling plays in it. Not only was he trying to get his team and a new offensive staff up to snuff in a relatively short span of time, he was also breaking new ground himself.

The offense got out of the gate slowly against Virginia in a disappointing 19-16 loss before exploding for 679 total yards and 40 points against Texas the following week. In the next game the offense was throttled by a Utah team that won just four games last year, scoring just 13 points.

That kind of inconsistency was the calling card for last season’s offense. In BYU’s eight wins the offense averaged nearly 40 points per game, but in the five losses it mustered an average of just 15 points per outing. As he was in his previous stint as the offensive coordinator in Provo, Anae was criticized for unimaginative play calling and an inability to make in-game adjustments.

In a 31-16 loss to Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl, his quarterback ended up carrying the ball an unfathomable 31 times. That insane stat further brought Anae’s judgement and ability to adjust to defensive schemes into question.

Last season’s results also beg the question if Robert fully understands the offense he’s been selling the past year-and-a-half and grasps all of its intricacies and nuances. There’s a lot more to that offense than meets the eye. Just ask someone like Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, who just might be the best in the country at running it. It would be difficult to pick everything up in just one year as an assistant, or have huge success in year one of implementation.

Year two should be a better barometer for both Anae and his team.

Taysom Hill enters the year as a dark horse Heisman candidate and has been working on his passing game with former Cougar QB John Beck and renowned passing coach Tom House. He also had the privilege of participating in the Manning Passing Camp this offseason.

The offensive line should also finally come together in 2014 after multiple years of mediocre play. The Cougar O-linemen expect to rotate less than they did last year and the group has been rated in the top 15 in the country by college football guru Phil Steele.

Then there is the expected infusion of speed and athleticism at the wide receiver positions with the addition of athletes like Nick Kurtz, Ashanti Blackmon, Mike Davis and UTEP senior transfer Jordan Leslie. That influx of speed has caused Anae to re-brand his offense as “go-fast, go-hard, go-deep”.

Combine all of that with a schedule that has a lower degree of difficulty than last year’s slate and the result should be an offense that is much more consistent, converts third downs at a respectable clip and scores a lot more touchdowns after penetrating the red zone. If it fails to do so the collective finger of Cougar Nation will be pointed directly at Anae.

In many ways offensive coordinator is a thankless job, especially at a school like BYU that has such a rich tradition of offensive excellence. The reality is that every OC at BYU has faced criticism–it simply comes with the territory. However, as a guy whose contract was not renewed following the end of the 2010 season, Anae still has a lot of work to do to prove himself to BYU supporters.

The 2014 season could be the opportunity for him to do just that. Or it may reveal that he is best suited as a position coach.

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