Friday, January 8, 2010

Observations on BYU's Last Seven Freshman All-Americans

Braden Hansen, the freshman who started every game at left guard for the Cougars this past season, was selected as a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association. This is the seventh year in a row that BYU has had a Freshman All-American named, dating back to 2003. Here is the press release from BYU:
PROVO, Utah (Jan. 7, 2009) – BYU freshman offensive lineman Braden Hansen was named a Freshman All-America Thursday by the Football Writers Association of America.

A Sandy, Utah, native, Hansen started every game at left guard as one of four new starters on BYU’s offensive line in 2009. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound redshirt freshman was a key contributor in helping BYU achieve an 11-2 record, including a 3-1 mark against nationally ranked opponents.

Hansen and Wyoming safety Shamiel Gary represent the Mountain West Conference on the 28-man team. The FWAA and Aon Insurance announced their ninth annual Freshman All-America Team Thursday during the association's annual awards breakfast.

BYU has had a newcomer earn Freshman All-America accolades each of the past seven seasons. Hansen joins a list of consecutive honorees that include offensive lineman Matt Reynolds (2008), running back Harvey Unga (2007), defensive end Jan Jorgensen (2006), offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds (2005), wide receiver Austin Collie (2004) and tight end Daniel Coats (2003).
That is an impressive seven year run. I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at each of these players—how highly recruited they were, how productive they were in their sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, and if they have had any success in the NFL.

Daniel Coats (2003)
Recruiting: Class of 2002, 3 stars on Scout, ranked #42 WR, offers to Colorado and NC State
BYU: Always a solid blocker, though receiving stats never surpassed 2003
2003—30/378, 4TD
2004—13/160, 0TD
2005—21/189, 3TD
2006—22/239, 2TD
NFL: Free agent pick up, with Cincinnati Bengals, 3rd year in NFL, started 11 games, 16/150 yds

Austin Collie (2004)
Recruiting: Class of 2004, 3 stars on Scout, ranked #48 WR, offers to Stanford, Arizona State, Wash State
BYU: Increasingly productive at BYU, left after junior year as all-time leading receiver in yards (3,258) and receptions (215)
2004—53/771, 8 TD
2007—56/946, 7TD
2008—106/1538, 15 TD; Led NCAA in yards
NFL: 4th round draft pick of Indianapolis Colts, 60/676 yds, 7 TD; led all rookies in catches and TDs

Dallas Reynolds (2005)
Recruiting: Class of 2003, 3 stars on Scout, ranked #78 OL, offers to Colorado, Tennessee, Stanford
BYU: Started all 51 games while at BYU, first Team MWC
NFL: Free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, practice squad for most of year

Jan Jorgensen (2006)
Recruiting: Class of 2005, 1 star on Scout (unrated), not ranked LB
BYU: Started 51 consecutive games, 30 sacks in BYU career, career MWC leader, 3 time first team MWC, most productive sophomore season (14 sacks)
NFL: Will enter 2010 draft, projected as a free agent

Harvey Unga (2007)
Recruiting: Class of 2005, 2 stars on Scout, not ranked RB, offer from Utah
BYU: Started all three years and had 1,000+ yards each season; only a junior and already BYU career leader in rushing yards, third in all-purpose yards; 2009 first team MWC
2007—244/1,227 rushing 13 TD, 44/655 receiving 4 TD
2008—240/1,153 rushing 11 TD, 42/309 receiving 4 TD
2009—208/1,087 rushing 11 TD, 16/121 receiving 1 TD
NFL: Deciding whether to enter 2010 draft, projection uncertain

Matt Reynolds (2008)
Recruiting: Class of 2005, 4 stars on Scout, #8 ranked OL, offers from UCLA, Cal, Arizona, Arizona State
BYU: first team MWC sophomore season (2009)
NFL: Likely to participate in 2012 draft (or sooner), highly projected

Braden Hansen (2009)
Recruiting: Class of 2006, 2 stars on Scout, not ranked OL, offer from Stanford

A few interesting observations:

1. Overall a great group of players—we were lucky to have four of them together on the team this season. We actually had five of them last season (2008).

2. BYU owes a debt of large proportions to Mrs. Reynolds, showing tangibly that Bronco’s decision to retain Lance Reynolds on his staff has paid off multiple times over.

3. None of these players were true freshmen. Even those that didn’t go on missions (Coats, Jorgensen, Unga) still waited at least a year or two before starting as a redshirt freshman. Makes you wonder who on this year’s practice squad might be next year’s FAA.

4. All of them went on to have very productive four year (or three for Collie and possibly Unga) careers for the Cougars. They have also proven very durable with none of them ever missing any significant amount of time due to injury.

5. The first three, and only three to already have had a shot at the NFL, have made it with Collie and Coats as solid contributors this season.

6. There is one from every class 2002-2006. Three of them (Jorgensen, Unga, Matt Reynolds) come from the class of 2005. Hansen, this year’s winner is from the class of 2006. This again shows the lag that BYU experiences in recruiting (see article on the topic here:, as other schools are already graduating players from the class of 2006.

7. Interesting that three of them are on the offensive line, given that BYU doesn’t usually like to start freshmen there, allowing them time to learn the system. But then again, that also means that for a freshman to start on the line, they must be very good.

In 2009, besides Hansen and Riley Stephenson (punter), I can’t think of any other freshmen that started, and only Brett Thompson, Craig Bills, and a couple of backup O linemen seemed to get any meaningful reps.

Given the historical precedent of the past seven years, the classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009 likely still hold players who will be named FAA. Next year, with a number of key openings and many talented newcomers, could be a year that offers more opportunities for freshman than in several years. Among those most likely to get playing time and make themselves candidates for FAA status are whoever starts as QB (Heaps or Lark) if it isn’t Nelson, an RB if Harvey leaves for the NFL (either Malosi Teo or Josh Quezada), a TE (Devin Mahina, Austin Holt, or Mike Muehlmann), Ross Apo or Marcus Matthews at the WR spot (both will likely be in the rotation), a LB (Kyle Van Noy and Zac Stout will both have shots to play given that there will be three openings), and on the DL with all three slots open (Bronson Kaufusi and Kona Schwenke would be the leading candidates, although I am unaware of their mission plans). There may be more freshmen playing next year than in a long time. BYU will need these players to step up next season, so here is my toast to the freshmen of 2010… may one of you be the next FAA!

What other observations do you have to add about the 7 FAAs, next year's freshmen or this year's freshmen?


  1. Austin Collie was a true freshman, I think. But I'm not too sure where we have a position opening for a freshman to come in and make a big enough difference to become all-American.

  2. Dallas Reynolds was a true freshman as well (unless your excluding him due to a mission)... he'd only been home 4 months when he started.

  3. Good catch on both Collie and Dallas Reynolds. You are both correct, as neither of them took a redshirt year. Collie was a true freshman in the sense that he was right out of high school. Dallas Reynolds was also technically a true freshman, albeit a 21 year old true freshman (which actually is even more impressive for him to make FAA coming off of two years away from football completely).

    The the first poster's thought about open positions for freshmen to make an impact--I note a couple of them in the final paragraph: QB, TE, LB, DL. Of course there will also be non-freshman vying for playing time at those spots (except maybe at TE), which could lead to few if any freshmen seeing the field. Is that what you mean?