Former BYU quarterback, and current offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Steve Sarkesian was awarded the Frank Broyles Award on Monday, Dec. 28. The award recognizes the top assistant coach in college football, and while Sarkesian’s squad had a remarkable year, current BYU OC Jeff Grimes is the deserved recipient. The Cougars outperformed their projected offensive output by almost every metric and Grimes made more with a lot less at his disposal.
Jeff Grimes has been recognized as a candidate for the 2020 Broyles Award, which honors college football’s top assistant coach.
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) December 9, 2020
To start, let’s look at the basic offensive statistics of both teams this year. Granted, Alabama slightly outpaced BYU in some major categories, such as points per game, passing yards per game and total offense, but to be completely honest, that was and always should be expected. As great as BYU was this year, Alabama has been a juggernaut for decades and one could argue the Nick Saban era is the most dominant dynasty the sport has ever seen. Needless to say, Grimes has had his offense punching far above their weight class to have a comparable stat line to Alabama.
Here is how the Cougars fared offensively in 2020:
Points per game: 43.5, 4th
Yards per game: 524.1, 7th
Yards per play: 7.9, 1st
Passing yards per game: 332.7, 8th
Rushing yards per game: 191.4, 43rd
While finishing in the top 10 in almost every offensive category is an achievement unto itself, this season alone doesn’t tell the entire story. Grimes took over as OC before the 2018 season, and during his three years in Provo he has averaged 33 points per game, 444 yards per game, 6.6 yards per play and 276 passing yards per game. Compared to the previous three years (2015-17) under Robert Anae and Ty Detmer, Grimes has increased yards per game by 16%, yards per play by 19%, passing yards per game by 20% and points per game by 24%.
If you compare the offensive numbers from this year to those of 2017 (the year before Grimes took over the offense), it is even more remarkable to see how far the team has progressed in just three years. Grimes has increased BYU’s yards per game from 325 to 524, a 61% increase, and points per game from 17.1 to 43.5, a 154% increase. Keep in mind that 2017 was an abysmal year for BYU, but ever since Grimes inherited that sputtering offense, he has seen better production every single year.
BYU's 43.5 ppg on offense is the 3rd most in BYU history, behind 1980 and 2001. BYU is 3rd in scoring offense (min 7 games)
— CougarStats (@CougarStats) December 23, 2020
Sarkesian has done well with the Crimson Tide, but their offense was good before he arrived, and it will still be good after he leaves. Grimes, on the other hand, built BYU’s offense up from the inconsistent version to the reliable, violent rendition of 2020.
BYU fans have been blessed with a plethora of talented, hard-working players over the years, many of whom were overlooked and under-recruited but made the most of their careers with the Cougars. Think Dax Milne, Tyler Allgeier, and even Zach Wilson. As great as they have been to watch, it doesn’t change the fact that Alabama is on a completely different planet when it comes to recruiting. The Crimson Tide could almost be considered a minor league affiliate team for the entire NFL — where the best high school athletes train for a couple of years before being called up to “the show.”
With so much talent pouring into Tuscaloosa, it’s no wonder the Tide had one of the best offenses this year. Since 2015, Alabama has boasted an average recruiting class rank of 1.83 and has landed the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in four of the last six years, per 247 Sports. Compare that to BYU, who ranks 70.5 on average, with a high ranking of 49th in 2016.
Considering the monumental divide between the two schools when it comes to recruiting talent, it is all the more impressive that Grimes (and the rest of the BYU coaching staff) turned this group into a top-five offense in all of college football.
As I said earlier, Sarkesian and the Crimson Tide offense have accomplished something remarkable this year and that shouldn’t be ignored. But coaching is about more than having great players, it’s about getting the most out of those players, which is what Jeff Grimes has done for the Cougars all season.
Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko
Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.