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Arizona vs. BYU: Q & A with Vanquish the Foe’s Jake Welch

How do BYU fans feel about this Saturday’s game? We asked to find out.

Ty Detmer and Kalani Sitake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Before most Arizona football games, we reach out to the opposing team’s SB Nation blog to get their perspective on the upcoming match-up. This week, we talked to BYU’s Jake Welch to pick his brain about Kalani Sitake, Taysom Hill, and his prediction for this week’s game.

How do BYU fans expect things to change under new head coach Kalani Sitake after a successful run under Bronco Mendenhall?

Jake Welch: Overall BYU fans hope that Kalani’s passion and personality will translate to better recruits and stronger overall play on the field. Bronco was able to resurrect the program after it was set on fire by the previous head coach Gary Crowton (and BYU fans are forever indebted to him for this) but a portion of the fan base thought that Mendenhall would never get BYU to the next level. It’s a tall order but the expectation is that Sitake will build on the foundation that Bronco built and take the program to new heights.

In terms of X’s and O’s, there will be drastic changes on both sides of the ball for the Cougars. On offense, BYU will be transitioning from an up-tempo spread attack (similar to what Rich Rodriguez runs with Arizona) to more of a pro-style set that will feature less shotgun spread and more I-formation with the QB under center. On defense they will move away from Mendenhall’s patented 3-4 defense to Sitake’s 4-3 that had been running at Oregon State and Utah before that. BYU has the athletes on both sides of the ball to execute in these new systems but the question will be how quickly they can adjust to the changes.

What do you expect to see out of Taysom Hill this Saturday?

Jake Welch: It’s really hard to say at this point because no one has seen the new offense that offensive coordinator Ty Detmer has put in place. In seasons past BYU ran an offense that was tailored to Hill’s skillset, allowing him to run the ball on a regular basis and throw outside the pocket. I still think that Taysom will be Taysom and he’ll still run for big chunks of yardage but when you consider his injuries and the new pro-style offense, I doubt we’ll see him run for 100+ yards like we have in years past. I think we’ll see Taysom use his mobility to avoid the pass rush and move the ball down field with his arm as opposed to his legs.

That being said, when he does take off down the field, I don’t think he’ll be hesitant at all. In recent interviews he talked about his three season-ending injuries but insisted that he was still going to go all out and fight for first downs and extra yardage. I think we’ll see Taysom play very similar to how he played against Nebraska last year. Poised and looking to throw but running when he sees an opening.

What worries you the most about the match-up with Arizona?

Jake Welch: Obviously their offense has the ability to strike quickly with their spread attack and more than anything I’m concerned with BYU’s ability to stop the run. Arizona does a great job in spreading out the field to give their stable to running backs room to run. BYU will be breaking in a new defense (which is always an adventure no matter how talented you are) and their best defensive lineman Travis Tuiloma will be out with a foot injury.

What is your prediction for this Saturday’s game?

Jake Welch: Honestly, the first game of the season is such a toss-up because there are so many unknowns and a lot of guys are out there getting significant playing time for the first time at the college level. I think the fact that BYU is breaking in a new offense and a new defense will be a challenge for them, regardless of how talented they are at the quarterback and linebacker positions. Arizona is also adjusting to a new defense but their offense is tried and true. Like most first games, this one will be sloppy but Arizona will establish an early lead and hold off in the end. Calling this one Arizona 30 BYU 24.

Thanks to Jake for taking the time to answer our questions, though I don’t appreciate the attempt at a reverse jinx at the end there. You can follow him on Twitter @BYUAllBlue, and for more coverage from the BYU side, check out Vanquish the Foe.