PROVO — In his debut season as BYU's head coach, Gary Crowton focused on revamping the renowned Cougar offense.
As a result, he grabbed the attention of the college football world by producing the nation's top-scoring team, the school's first-ever recipient of the Doak Walker Award (Luke Staley) and 12 consecutive victories to open his Cougar coaching career.
In Year Two, Crowton will have some more offensive tinkering to do, what with the departure of Staley and quarterback Brandon Doman. But in preparation for next season, he will make his mark on other parts of the program.
"We have areas to work on," he said on Wednesday, "and we will work on them."
Namely, on defense and special teams.
Crowton has already started that process, in fact. Since BYU fell to Louisville, 28-10, in the Liberty Bowl, he has been meeting with his assistant coaches to discuss what went wrong and what went right in 2001. They have talked about ways to improve in the future.
"We can get better," Crowton said.
That both special teams and the defense will receive a major off-season overhaul comes as no surprise. The Cougars were rated No. 102 in total defense and their opponents ran wild on them at times — particularly on kickoff returns (see the Hawaii and Louisville games).
This past season, Barry Lamb served as the special teams coordinator as well as the safeties coach. Next year, the entire staff with be heavily involved in all phases of the kicking game.
"We will assign each coach to an area of special teams," Crowton said.
He believes another solution is using his best players on special teams.
"All of our starters will be required to be on special teams — on at least one aspect of the special teams and no more than two," Crowton said.
Defensively, the Cougars will sport a different look. Both before and after spring ball (which begins March 2) BYU's coaches will visit other campuses to study defensive philosophies and schemes employed by teams around the country, Crowton said.
"Our style of defense will change drastically against teams with spread offenses," he said. "We did well this year against teams like Air Force and Utah that like to run the ball but we had trouble with teams that like to spread you out."
Still, he added that because his style of offense is so aggressive, his defense will be compromised somewhat.
"When you score as quickly as we did at times during the season, it affects the defense. It wears them down," Crowton said. "I don't care who you bring in there, it's not going to be a score of 50-3 in every game. When you're aggressive offensively, you are going to give up points on defense. I want to be better on defense, but stay aggressive on offense."
Not long after Crowton was hired one year ago, he retooled the offensive coaching staff. Roger French retired, Chris Pella was reassigned and Crowton gave Lance Reynolds and Mike Empey different responsibilities. Robbie Bosco remained the quarterbacks coach, but Crowton hired Mike Borich as offensive coordinator and Paul Tidwell as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
Could a similar shakeup happen to the defensive staff?
Last year, Crowton retained all of LaVell Edwards' defensive assistants on a trial basis of sorts. At least one new face is expected to join the staff next season, as longtime defensive line coach Tom Ramage has retired. According to some reports, Utah D-line coach Steve Kaufusi, who played for the Cougars in 1986-87, will return to Provo to replace Ramage.
But there has been no official announcement of anything yet. "When the time is right, I will do it," Crowton said. "I don't have a timetable." He did indicate that Ramage's spot will likely be filled before national letter-of-intent signing day in early February.
Asked if there will be any shuffling of assignments within the defensive staff or new coaches brought in, Crowton replied, "Not right now."
Crowton emphasized that he and his assistants enjoyed a chemistry that played a big role in BYU's success.
"That's why we had 12 wins," he said.