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August 16, 2014

In Pursuit of the 2014 BYU BIFF

-- Introducing one of the author's many unspoken college football rituals

Long before he was named the 2004 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, before he beat Utah on a 4th and 18 miracle grab, before he led the nation in receiving yards in 2008, and before he became my favorite BYU player of all-time, Austin Collie held a lesser known, though still impressive title: he was my first ever BYU BIFF.

What is a BIFF?  The acronym -- crafted by yours truly, with a nod in the direction of Mr. Tannen -- stands for Best Incoming Freshman Footballer, and is a title I bestow every August on the BYU rookie I predict will have the best freshman year and overall career.  This prediction is based on such non-trustworthy indicators as pedigree, number choice, hair, coolness of name,11.  If all you know about two players is that one is named Jaterrius Gulley and the other Michael Wadsworth, who would you predict to be better? home state, religious preference (like all BYU fans I'm a sucker for the non-members), and most importantly,  the magic of his recruiting video because man-oh-man am I a sucker for recruiting videos.

It was in the year 2004, on a computer boasting dial-up internet, that I first discovered that recruiting videos existed.  The first I watched was Collie's, although 'watched' might be a stretch considering the high school tape of that era was the grainiest video you'll find this side of the Mountain Network.  Now maybe it was because his was the first video I saw, maybe it was because BYU needed receiver help so bad at the time, or maybe it was because I felt like a scout with all this inside info but all I could do that summer was tell everyone that Collie was going to be a beast for BYU.  Six months later, when Collie went on to earn Freshman All-American status I deemed myself the great BYU prognosticator, capable of weeding out the good freshman from the bad.  Thus the art of picking the BIFF was born.

The selection of the BIFF has grown into a favorite of my pre-season football traditions, alongside the annual memorizing of the roster and the crafting of the U of U quarterback voodoo dolls.  Going into year 11 I've had some good picks (See 2004 and 2011), some beyond obvious picks (2009) and some I wish could be taken off the record (gulp ... 2007, 2008, 2012). 

What follows is a history of who I've picked as BIFF over the last decade, along with who I actually should have picked if I had a brain.  If you're not a history biff buff skip to the bottom for the dramatic reveal of which incoming freshman will earn the 2014 title.

My pick: Austin Collie 
Should have picked: Austin Collie
My most impressive freshman prediction to this day. Beginner's luck I guess, because things get ugly from here on out.

My pick: Kyle Luekenga 
Should have been: Ray Feinga
This is a regrettable one.  Luekenga went to Granger and I went to Granger so based on that alone Kyle earned my title.  How'd that prediction work out for me? Kyle did nothing at BYU, while Ray eventually made it to a team you might have heard of called the Miami Dolphins.  What's ironic is that despite Kyle and I having attended the same high school, I knew Ray WAAAAAY better than I knew Kyle, as I once upon a time did Ray's homework in junior high.  How I forgot this when it came time to pick the BIFF, I have no idea.22.  Well, actually I have some idea.  I was on a mission at the time so my forecasting skills weren't at their strongest.  What's that you ask?  How did I know who the incoming freshman were while on my mission?  What, did you not get the paper on your mission?

My pick: McKay Jacobsen 
Should have been: McKay Jacobsen
This one was easy.  What BYU fan wasn't expecting the Texas speedster to come in and make immediate contributions?

My pick: (Looks around sheepishly) ... Mitch Payne 
Should have been: Star Lotulelei33.  Joke, of course.  I just wanted to point out once again that Star was a Cougar commit before grades got the best of him and he had to transfer to a less accomplished institution.  Also, Star graduated high school in 2007 yet didn't exhaust his college eligibility until the end of the 2012 season, and that was without the use of a redshirt or a mission.  His is an interesting story indeed.
Actually Should have been: Harvey Unga 
What can I say?  I simply had no idea who Harvey Unga was or what he would become; he was absolutely non-existent on my radar going into fall camp 2007. Mitch Payne meanwhile was the brother of the great Matt Payne -- "Bring the Payne!!" -- and as such received my immediate adoration.  (When it comes to me and BYU football, my fan nepotism knows no bounds.)  Of the three names listed above, one was a first round pick in the NFL, one holds the BYU career record for rushing yards ... and one had a career with exactly zero remarkable moments.  I'll let you do the research on that one.44. In my defense Matt Payne was really, really good. He owns the national record for accuracy on FG tries of 40-49 yards in a season (14/15, aka 93.3%) and the national record for consecutive FG makes of 40-49 yards (14 straight from 2003 to 2004).

My pick: Brother O'neill Chambers!! 
Should have been: Matt Reynolds
Ohhhhh, Bruthaaa Chambaaahs!!  I'm not sure I ever loved so much one player that did so little.  Coming all the way from Florida, as a non-member, with size, speed, blackness, my favorite number (11) and an incredible name to boot I was hooked from the get-go.  Unfortunately O'neill's most memorable moments were fumbling on the goal line against Oklahoma in 2009 and making fun of the Utah State student section as a freshman in 2008 (a pretty great moment, actually). Please remember though, in all your hating of O'neill, that the guy did single-handedly turn the tide in BYU's favor the last time BYU triumphed over Utah. Somehow I'll always remember you fondly, Brother Chambers.

My pick: Craig Bills 
Should have been: Craig Bills
As with 2006, this was an easy one to call. Bills was a solid contributor as a freshman in 2009, despite the presence of established starters Andrew Rich and Scott Johnson at the safety spots.  Nowadays he does incredible stuff like this.

My pick: JAKE HEAPS!!! 
Should have been: Cody Hoffman
Technically you can argue that Kyle Van Noy is the player that deserves the 'should have been' designation for 2010, but remember part of this exercise is to identify who will contribute immediately as a freshman. While you can debate who had the better overall career out of the two, Cody gets the nod for having the more impressive freshman campaign.  As for Jake, well that whole thing just makes me sad.  To this day I profess he threw one of the nicest touchdown passes in recent BYU history (seen here).  Good luck to you Jake at the real U.

My pick: Nobody 
Should have been: Nobody. 
This pick might actually be my most best of the lot.  I thought it was a bad recruiting class then and predicted so by failing to identify a candidate worthy of BIFF.  Time has proved me right.  Take a look at the list of 2011 recruits and see if you can find anyone who has made even average contributions thus far in their career.  I think you'll find there are none, though to be fair, due to missions a few players on that list missed the '11 through '13 years and are only now getting their freshman opportunities.

My pick: Bronson Kaufusi
Should have been: Jamal Williams
My oh my do I regret this pick.  The Williams thing was staring me right in the face from the moment he signed his LOI.  Jamal has a great name, comes from a great state, has a genetic superstar for a mom, is a non-member, and boasted a prodigious age (17) going into the season.  The only reason I picked Bronson is because I figured Jamal wouldn't get much playing time due to the presence of Michael 'the next Harvey Unga' Alisa.  And that would have been the case were it not for an injury to Alisa paving the way for Jamal's jump to stardom. Coincidentally it was another injury from the same year, suffered by Eathyn Manumaleuna, which opened the door for Ziggy Ansah to likewise explode onto the scene.  Two superstars from the same season who may have barely seen the field if it weren't for random intervention?  I'm not sure what this says about the coaching staff and their roster choices, but it can't be good.  Sports are crazy.

My Pick: Dallin Leavitt 
Should have been: Jury's out
I've been a huge fan of Dallin Leavitt ever since he evoked Austin Collie comparisons and trotted out with the number 11 and a sweet coiffe (plus I hear Oregon is a cool place).  Sadly, thinking of Leavitt makes me think of the time I could've grilled him about the football team during an hour drive to Salt Lake International.  Stupid work.

Leavitt had a nice rookie campaign, but another freshman may have had a bigger impact last year: Kyle Johnson, an offensive lineman that recorded 8 starts last season who I somehow thought was a 30-year old senior on his last leg as a Cougar.  Whoops, sorry about that Kyle.  Considering the amount of criticism heaped upon the o-line last season, I don't think I can award  the BIFF to Johnson just yet.  Let's give this one another year to simmer.


My Pick ... What a great year we're in for with BYU freshman.  Where 2011 was the famine, I now officially welcome you to the feast.  Fred Warner, Troy Hinds, Ului Lapuaho -- aka HORSE MEAT -- Tyler Cook, Tejan Koroma, Michael Shelton, Jaterrius Gulley and Sione Takitaki could all have a chance to play meaningful minutes and shine this season.  As a result, this has been the hardest year yet to bestow the coveted prize. For the longest time my heart belonged to Fred Warner due to loving the name Fred55.  Great Freds throughout history: Fred Weasley, Freddie Mac, Fred Meyer. and loving the idea of replacing Kyle Van Noy with Kyle Van Noy's disciple.  Horse Meat lured me in for a while too and Sione Takitaki actually has the best high school film of the bunch.  However, there is one freshman I've not yet listed ...

In the magical year of 1996 BYU boasted a kickoff and punt return master by the name of James Dye.  He was as unstoppable as he was adored, evoking chants of, "You punt, you die!" from fans whenever special teams took the field.  He was a one man game-changer and a caliber of weapon BYU hasn't had for going on 18 season now.  The picture above is of his son, who makes his rookie debut this year. Going into August I didn't think Trey Dye would get much of a chance to play this season and so I shelved him for BIFF consideration, but with injuries and suspensions flattening the receiver corps, and with rave camp reviews becoming a daily occurrence, and with videos like this coming out of the interwebs ... I'm starting to get that familiar tingling in the chest.  Having been around long enough to officially cheer for a father and now his son makes me feel very, very ancient, but if Trey is half as good as his old man, I won't feel the pain for long. Good luck Dye junior and congrats on being the 2014 BYU BIFF.  Make us proud.

1 comment:

  1. 1-O'neill Chambers is about equal to your boy Ross Apo. Sorry.

    2- I played on Kyle Lukenga's baseball team 3 or 4 times, and you had reason to select him. A physical specimen, just mean enough. Roids? Probably. 90% sure.

    3-I feel HEAPS of guilt as well.

    4-"YOU PUNT, YOU DYE!!" Jarom Jordan and I agree. Good call.