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The former Cougar head coach joins Athlon to talk BYU and the future of college football.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary BYU Cougars football coach LaVell Edwards. The famed offensive guru touched on the evolution of college football, the current NCAA landscape, his favorite memories and the future of BYU Cougar football.
Braden Gall: Talk about your involvement in the Legends Poll.
LaVell Edwards: We began the poll about a decade ago, but its been a lot of fun to get on the line and visit each week, talk about the games and get each other’s perspective from their area. We’ve got people on the committee from all parts of the country and all conferences in the country. We have all been there and done it and now we have some time to look at film and actually get a real idea of what others are doing. And then we vote. It’s been a great experience and a lot of fun.
BG: You’ve had the pleasure of coaching a lot excellent quarterbacks, names like McMahon, Detmer, Young, and Sarkisian just to name a few. Talk a little bit about BYU’s current quarterback Jake Heaps.
LE: He really is in the same category, or at least has the potential to be in the same category, as those names you just mentioned. He has great presence, he is very astute and has a very good arm. So I think he’s going to develop, if he stays healthy. I think he is going to have a great career.
BG: Is there one quarterback who you could single out as the most talented? The most pure talent of any of the greats you coached?
LE: I don’t know cause each one of them had their own unique style. Jim McMahon had great vision and great awareness. He and Ty Detmer really had an awareness of everything around them. Steve Young could run better than any of them. From a pure throwing ability? Mark Wilks would be right up in there. You know, they just had a combination of different factors. And as I have thought about it even in my own mind, I start figuring out how I might rank them, and even I can’t deceide. So I give up trying! Although, even if I did know, I wouldn’t say it publicly, but in my own mind I have given up trying because it is just too difficult.
BG: What were some of your favorite places – both from a pure atmosphere standpoint and difficulty standpoint – to take your team on the road?
LE: One of the most fun places we ever played was at Wisconsin. It was when Dave McClain was coaching and they were just starting to get revitalized, but the fans were unbelievable. I have never been to a place where the people had more fun than what the people were doing at Camp Randall that day. Just a great atmosphere.
Another great place we played was Notre Dame. Of course, they have great tradition there, but they had great fans too. The people were very respectful and their band played our fight song. Just the whole atmosphere of South Bend was great.
As far as tough place to play? I would say going to Hawaii. The time difference and then they had the great fan support and they get after you pretty well out there. And trying to keep your mind on football over there is not the easiest thing in the world either.
BG: It’s a new era for BYU athletics. Talk about what it means for the program to be independent in terms of scheduling and all the things that go into now not being affiliated with a conference.
LE: It's something very new and I’ve always been a proponent of being in a conference. There was a lot going on in college football and the timing seemed to play a big role. I don’t think it was a knee jerk reaction, but I do think that they had been thinking about it for a while because of TV and other issues we had with the conference contracts. Then when Utah went to the Pac-12, I think they saw that as a great opening and a time to do it.
It’s all new territory and it's kind of exciting to see what they are going to be doing with it. I think scheduling is always going to be difficult. You are going to get some good teams on the front end of your schedule, but I think once they get into October and November, it’s going to be tough to come up with good quality opponents – to come to Provo especially. We’ve had a tall task in our early schedule this year, and later on we play TCU in the big stadium in Dallas. That is the kind of a one shot affair. It is going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
BG: In light of what has happened with Miami and all of the other sanctions/issues from around the country, and obviously things have changed since you were recruiting, is there anything we can do to fix how the NCAA athletics are operating right now?
LE: What makes it difficult now is social media. I think there has always been issues with people obeying the rules – although, maybe not the extent of what happened down in Miami.
I don’t know, to be honest. The climate and attitude that everyone seems to have is that everything is all about the dollar. How much money can I make? How much is being a part of the BCS worth? Getting so many million dollars for being this or that. I don’t know what the answer might be. I do know that somehow they need to get a handle on it and it’s going to take a lot of work. The bottom line is I don’t know if you can legislate it. Maybe you can cut down on all the rules, eliminate some, and then totally enforce the ones you keep. It still comes down to people’s basic honesty, both players, agents and the third party people in recruiting. But it’s all driven by the dollar.
BG: How much have offenses changed in the last two decades?
LE: Yes, considerably. We were pass happy – that was the term they used to describe us – but we probably threw it about 35 times a game. At the time we got going, people weren’t doing it that much and we got a jump on everybody. And you knew the defenses hadn’t caught up with the kind of stuff we were doing. From then on it has merged into a spread type formation with everybody spread out wide and in the shotgun. Then people like Urban Meyer starting running that read option out of the spread formation which added another element. Now everybody in the country is throwing it and running the spread. When we were doing it, there was nobody in the Big Ten or SEC who was throwing it like us. There might have been a couple of schools around the country trying to get things going, but they would always revert back to what everybody else was doing. So we just stayed with it and it went on from there. It’s certainly a different game today. Things have a tendency to go in cycles and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Will it go back around to things in the past or just continue to evolve?
Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll