This week we have the pleasure of swapping Q&A's with the excellent BYU site VanquishTheFoe. Former BYU linebacker Markell Staffieri dishes the info on the Cougars.
1. Many Nole fans consider Saturday's forecast high in the low 90's as a disadvantage for the Cougars from Utah. Is the climate difference overblown, and how has BYU handled similar games in the recent past? Traveling 2 hours east is also a possible factor, correct?
Having played at BYU and traveled to different climates I will tell you that it is an issue. On one hand the BYU guys will feel a little more fresh due to the moisture in the air and being able to come down to sea level. However, it is not as nice as traveling to San Diego State, where there is humidity but it is relatively low. Out in Florida the humidity will be high and so the players will have to stay hydrated. They are used to hot, though. In Utah it gets into the high 90s throughout summer, but for many of the players this will be their first exposure to humid hot. Advantage FSU.
2. After starting every game as a freshman in 2007, defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna returns to the Cougars and the starting lineup after serving two years in the Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission for the LDS Church. Best known for preserving a 17-16 win over UCLA in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl by blocking a last-second Bruin field goal, Manumaleuna totaled 25 tackles and one sack during his first season. Coincidentally, Manumalenua thwarted a potential fourthdown conversion late against Washington by batting down quarter Jake Locker's pass at the line of scrimmage. He is now playing end in the Cougars' 3-4 scheme. How much has the return of Eathyn Manumaleuna meant to the defense?
Eathyn's return has been tremendous, especially with the lack of experience at linebacker. I was able to play LB behind Eathyn his freshman year and he makes a big difference. He is someone that the OL will need to double team at times, and that means there will be an unblocked player who is free to the ball. He has worked very hard in the offseason to become bigger and yet more agile, so we expect big things from him this year.
3. Quarterback time. Heaps or Nelson? Coach Mendenhall said Nelson would get the nod but that both would play. If you're coaching, who do you play and why?
If I am coaching I play Nelson at this point in the season and especially against a talented defense like FSU. It's no secret that when a freshman QB is in the game defensive coordinators love to bring the house and put mental and physical pressure on the young gun. It has been hinted to that Heaps was pulled from the Air Force game because he may have been getting a little flustered. If that is true, I really worry about what a faster, more complex defense like FSU will do when he is in. With Nelson, although he is young too, they will probably not bring as much pressure, because he is somewhat battle tested and will use his feet to escape pressure. No doubt you will see both, as we need Heaps arm to stretch the field.
4. With two rather average offensive performances so far, what are the issues facing this offense?
Experience and I sense a lack of leadership. We had to replace the all-time winningest QB, all-time leading rusher, and all-time TE duo at BYU, and we are doing it with lack of experience on defense as well. We had a similar situation in the transition from 2006 to 2007 but our defense was entirely veteran and coming off a year where they were ranked in the top 5 nationally. That takes a lot of pressure of the offense and allows them come along slowly. This year everyone is thrown into the fire and I think it is adding more stress to players and coaches and the sense of urgency is heightened. When you play uptight, sometimes you just forget how to be an athlete.
Another key is that the offense is lacking an identity and I think that comes from the 2 QB system because they are so different and yet they are splitting time 50/50. Right now our offense needs some aspect/play that is consistent that they can hang their hat on. They need that go to play when it is 3rd and 3 and the game is on the line. And they just don't have it yet.
5. What is the health of this team like right now? I saw that Ogletree might be out with an injury. Anyone else questionable?
From what I am hearing everyone is healthy and ready to go. Fullback Zed Mendenhall was out with a concussion, but should be back for this game.
Thanks so much to Markell and the crew at VTF. Please make sure to visit them to see our answers to their questions.