Tuesday night, the BYU basketball program will stage its annual postseason awards banquet, and in the days to follow, head coach Dave Rose will meet with his returning players for end-of-season assessments. As part of his campaign-closing routine, Rose has traditionally sat down for one-on-one conversations with members of the local media.
Monday, I met with Rose, who was at the same time pleased with his team's 25-10 record and NCAA tournament appearance in 2014-15, and wishful of a few more wins--and a few less injuries.
The season began with the loss of forward Jamal Aytes to ankle surgery, and after only ten games, big man Nate Austin was lost for the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury. Additionally, Kyle Collinsworth, Corbin Kaufusi, Chase Fischer, Anson Winder and Skyler Halford all missed games while injured, contributing to the implementation of ten different starting lineups during this past season.
Defense gaining confidence, offense trying to avoid complacency during last week of spring practicesPosted Apr 1st - 2:35pm by Jaren Wood
PROVO — Just one more practice remains for BYU (on Friday) in its spring practices after nearly five weeks, and keeping up the intensity in the final week has been a challenge for the offense. Wide receiver Mitch Mathews spoke to the media about players' performances this week.
“The offense the last couple days hasn’t been our best performance, so it’s something that has been put on my shoulders, and Taysom’s shoulders to make sure we don’t leave three days in a row not at our best ball,” Mathews said.
Mathews has been instrumental during spring as a part of an offense that has played exceptionally the last four weeks, and he believes that there is a “mindset” that creeps up this time of the year.
On the same day BYU lost assistant hoops coach Mark Pope to the head coaching post at Utah Valley University, the Cougars added a player to their stable of future talent, as Richland (Wash.) HS combo guard Steven Beo verbally committed to head coach Dave Rose.
Beo, who set the Richland single-game scoring record with a 49-point effort during the 2014-15 season, will sign for BYU in November of this year and start his Cougar playing career in 2016-17.
A 6-foot-3-inch, 175-pound backcourt scorer who averaged 27.7 points per game during his junior season, Beo helped Richland to the state 4A quarterfinals as a junior; he also appeared in the state playoffs as a freshman (quarterfinals) and sophomore (championship game).
PROVO — As spring practices wind down for BYU, defensive players and coaches hope that the progression and identity developed throughout the spring carries over into summer workouts and eventually into fall camp.
BYU, known for it’s stalwart defense under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, experienced some defensive lapses last year that led to an increase in big plays by opponents, particularly in the secondary. In order to fix last year’s mistakes, the defense has focused this spring on creating a culture where every player “buys in.”
Junior defensive back Chris Badger talked about a lack of unity between the secondary players last season. Besides the injuries and other issues the defensive backs faced, Badger believes that lapses in cohesion and effort were the main cause for the decrease in the level of play.
PROVO — 17 former Cougar football players participated in BYU’s annual Pro Day in Provo on Friday.
Among the participants from last year’s team were WR Ross Apo, P Scott Arellano, DB Craig Bills, DB Robertson Daniel, OL Edwards Fusi, LB Alani Fua, DB Harvey Jackson, DL Marques Johnson, OL Solomone Kafu, RB Paul Lasike, WR Jordan Leslie, TE Devin Mahina, DS Kevin O’Mary, DB Skye PoVey and OL De’Ondre Wesley. Former linebackers Bryan Kehl (2002, 2005-2007) and Uona Kaveinga (2010-2012) also took part in Friday’s workout.
Of the 32 NFL teams, 28 of them had representatives in Provo. The only teams that weren’t in attendance were the Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.
PROVO — BYU took to the practice field one last time on Wednesday before Friday's spring scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium. When practice was over, the consensus was that the offense won the day.
“Offense had a really good day today, especially throwing and catching the ball,” said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. “We have a lot of weapons through the air right now and we are protecting really well.”
Backup quarterback Christian Stewart took the helm as starter last season when Taysom Hill went down with an injury. Stewart is currently practicing with the team, allowing for Hill to properly recover and take it slow. But what Stewart has managed to do for the players around him during practices is giving BYU’s offense a chance to prepare for those long balls through the air.
PROVO — When BYU brought back Robert Anae as offensive coordinator in January 2013, Anae re-instituted a fast-paced spread offense. This offensive system creates the opportunity for players to put up eye-popping statistics, evident from the prolific play of players like quarterback Taysom Hill and wide receiver Mitch Mathews.
This style has accumulated a lot of attention, which has continued during spring practices with the return of Hill from a leg injury. After practiced concluded on Monday morning, Anae made sure to single out BYU’s defense, its improvement, and its role in helping his offensive players develop.
When asked if BYU’s defense has been able to keep up with the offense during spring practices, Anae emphatically responded, “Our defense is a stud. Every play you just hang onto your seat and our guys are tested at the highest level. I think it is the other way around.”
The third week of spring practices has come to an end, and BYU football head coach Bronco Mendenhall is excited about the progress that the team has made. Two more weeks of practices remain for the team, which is preparing for a spring scrimmage in one week, next Friday, March 27.
Mendenhall spoke with the media following Friday’s practice, which was a coaches clinic. Coaches from surrounding high schools were invited to watch and participate in the practice.
“I really liked our practice today, probably the strongest practice of the spring,” Mendenhall said. “Maybe it was just moving inside, maybe it was the extra coaches. … Whatever it was, we had a really strong practice today that I was excited about. A lot of positive things today.”
PROVO — The BYU Cougars and Mississippi State Bulldogs announced a home-and-home football series to be played in 2016 and 2017.
The Cougars will host the Bulldogs on Oct. 15, 2016, in Provo, and will play in Starkville, Mississippi, on Oct. 14, 2017.
“It’s a great opportunity for our football team to play a very good SEC program,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. “It’s been more than a decade since we played Mississippi State, and we are excited to have them back on our schedule. Visiting Starkville will be a great experience for our football program and our fans, and we look forward to hosting the Bulldogs in Provo.”
ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported on Thursday that the SEC will consider games scheduled against BYU as fulfilling the league's "Power 5" non-conference scheduling requirements. The same report cites sources as confirming two scheduled games between BYU and Mississippi State, in 2016 (Provo) and 2017 (Starkville).
The reported series between BYU and Mississippi State would bring to 37 the number of future games scheduled between BYU and "Power 5" teams, not including four originally-scheduled games with Notre Dame that may or may not be played.