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BYU: COUGS’ DYE STRIKES FEAR INTO FOES WITH HIS GAME-ALTERING SPEED.

SHARE BYU: COUGS’ DYE STRIKES FEAR INTO FOES WITH HIS GAME-ALTERING SPEED.

James Dye is one of the smallest players in major college football. He's generously listed in the BYU media guide as being 5-foot-9, 150 pounds.

But despite the diminutive size, Dye struck fear in WAC coaches last season. He could, and often did, completely change the momentum of a football game with one spectacular play - as a punt returner."He's the best (punt returner) in the country, perhaps the best I've ever seen," Dave Rader, the coach of new WAC member Tulsa, raved last season. "We didn't want James Dye to touch the ball."

But he did touch the ball against the Golden Hurricane - and returned it 75-yards to set up a touchdown. Dye had an 84-yard TD return against San Diego State, set up a pair of touchdowns with long returns against Colorado State and broke a Cougar Stadium record with a 90-yard TD punt return in BYU's three-point win over Wyoming.

Dye led the nation by averaging 20.9 yards per punt return. He was named the WAC Special Teams Player of the Year.

And he's back.

Teams will likely try to kick the ball away from Dye this year. But BYU should still gain an advantage in the field position wars since punters may shank short kicks out of bounds to avoid Dye's returns.

Dye along with speedy running backs Ronnie Jenkins and Brian McKenzie will handle the kickoff returning duties. Aaron Roderick, a transfer receiver from Ricks, was a dangerous return man in junior college, but he may redshirt this season.

Senior punter Alan Boardman, a three-year starter, is solid. He's averaged better than 41 yards per kick every season with a 43-yard average in 1993.

New place kicker Ethan Pochman, who has played soccer on BYU's club team, has a strong leg. His kickoffs go into and sometimes out of the end zone and he's hit 50-plus yard field goals in scrimmages. He is inexperienced, however, having never kicked a field goal in a real game.