Why BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick loves his ‘no-name’ offense
Cougars seemingly have all the pieces in place to have a spectacular offense this season — that is if key players can stay healthy
As his first group interview of BYU’s 2022 preseason training camp was winding down on Monday, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick was asked if his offense has a catchy nickname yet.
It was called RVO — Reliable Violent Offense — when Jeff Grimes was BYU’s OC from 2018 to 2020 and Roderick was quarterbacks coach, but Grimes apparently took that nickname to Baylor and Roderick hasn’t gotten around to coming up with something different yet.
“If you think of one, let me know,” he told reporters after the Cougars’ fourth practice. “I would love a nice nickname. Right now, we are just trying to score as many points as we can, and take care of the football.”
From the look of things the first week or so of camp, that first part should be doable. With veteran starting quarterback Jaren Hall in command, BYU’s offense has looked crisp, explosive and effective so far, according to most observers. Media members have only been allowed to watch 40 minutes of practice, combined.
“This is as good of a group as we have ever had. ... It is probably the deepest group of players since I have been here. I am very optimistic that we have enough depth to make it through this season and play at a high level for 13 games.” — BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick
“This is as good of a group as we have ever had,” Roderick told ESPN 960 radio. “… It is probably the deepest group of players since I have been here. … I am very optimistic that we have enough depth to make it through this season and play at a high level for 13 games.”
Roderick, who replaced Grimes as BYU’s OC after the spectacular 2020 season in which Zach Wilson led the Cougars to an 11-1 record, scarcely skipped a beat in 2021, despite Hall missing three games with injuries.
With not as many chances as they would have liked because the defense struggled to get off the field in a timely manner, the Cougars were 17th in total offense (452.2 yards per game) and 29th in scoring offense (33.1 points per game).
The best news is that a lot of that offensive production returns in 2022. The biggest losses were running back Tyler Allgeier, receiver Neil Pau’u, backup quarterback Baylor Romney and starting center James Empey.
Cal running back Chris Brooks, Stanford fullback Houston Heimuli and Oregon offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia have been brought in to replace them. Roderick said the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Suamataia has “freakish athleticism” for a man his size.
“I have never seen anything like it, ever,” Roderick said. “He’s the best athlete I have ever seen on an offensive line. He’s a very talented guy.”
Can the offense also be freaky good in 2022? Maybe there’s a nickname in there somewhere.
Because of the plethora of veterans on offense — ESPN college football analyst Bill Connelly says the Cougars return 80% of their offensive experience from 2021, ranking 28th in the country in that category — Roderick has installed 90% of the offense through four practices, he said Monday.
“That’s faster than we are used to, so sometimes the execution suffers a little bit,” he said. “But we did it that way because we have so many veteran players. We thought it would be better to challenge the vets than it would be to go slowly for the young guys. They young guys are drinking through a firehose, but the older guys are doing pretty well. It is a work in progress.”
This offense might lack a name, but it doesn’t lack big names. Rising superstar Hall, receivers Puka Nacua, Gunner Romney and Keanu Hill, tight end Isaac Rex and Brooks — who looks like a man among boys in the running backs room, to be honest — are all seeming on the verge of big seasons, if they can stay healthy.
“We do have a couple key question marks at some backup positions, so you can go from feeling really good to being a little nervous after an injury or two,” Roderick said. “But I really like our depth at a lot of positions right now.”
Those question marks are at backup quarterback — where Jacob Conover has emerged as QB2 — and backup running back, where mega-experienced senior Lopini Katoa is trying to hold off up-and-comers such as Jackson McChesney, Miles Davis and Hinckley Ropati for carries and playing time.
Roderick said history has shown, particularly BYU’s history, that those backups will be needed at key points this season.
“As we found out last year, your depth is going to get tested at some point, and it is going to happen at any position,” Roderick said. “I think we started eight or nine offensive linemen last year. We got to our third quarterback (Conover) against Utah State. And then in the USC game, I didn’t even recognize one guy who played on defense that whole game. So every backup you can get ready to play, is critical.”
The only question marks on the offensive line are which of eight guys with tons of starting experience will start and/or play the most.
“We are open to playing more than five guys, and there is a good (chance) that we will,” Roderick said. “I wouldn’t call it likely. I would say it is probable.”
With most of the installation in and veterans aplenty, is the former Utah offensive coordinator adding much to the offense this season to take advantage of what Hall, Brooks, Nacua and company bring to the table?
“Oh man, so many trick plays,” Roderick said, laughing.
BYU receiver Keanu Hill has been named to the 10th annual Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List, announced today at the Tyler Chamber of Commerce and SPORTyler 15th Annual East Texas Kick-off Luncheon. #BYUFootball #GoCougs @CampbellAward— BYU Cougars PR (@BYUCougarsPR) August 9, 2022
“Actually, I would say there aren’t a ton of differences in the offense,” he continued. “But I would say what you are going to see is us trying to feature our best players in maybe some ways you haven’t seen in the past. It is still the same offense. It has been a good offense for us. We believe in it. But we will always have some stuff that catches people off guard.”
One of the stats Roderick was most happy about last year was third-down conversion percentage. The Cougars were 15th nationally in that (46%) and 25th in red-zone offense (89%), another stat Roderick puts a lot of stock in.
Masen Wake, a hybrid fullback/tight end, said Roderick’s offense is designed to produce explosive plays — an element that was lacking before the 2020 breakout season.
“Every single play, whether it is a run or a pass, we always want it to be explosive,” Wake said. “It is our mentality as a team to put the team first. That collective is powerful. We play for each other, and I think that is because of Roderick and Kalani and their culture they’ve got going here.”