PROVO — The BYU Cougars began the third week of spring football with a practice inside the indoor practice facility on Monday. Head coach Bronco Mendehall was genuinely pleased with the progress and effort that he’s seeing from his players.
“We had a good practice today, guys worked really hard,” Mendenhall said. “They’re not getting tired of running into each other. … I’m encouraged by what I see.”
Echoing the sentiments of his head coach, running back Jamaal Williams likes what he sees from his teammates and is encouraged by the team’s mindset.
“Spring ball is no joke,” Williams said. “It’s for people who want to get mentally tough … physically it’s just, you feel it every day, every time you go to practice. Today … I felt like spring was a good day to show how mentally strong we were.”
Williams, who enters his junior season with 2008 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, will once again be relied on to shoulder the bulk of the carries this season. His coaches are more than confident that he’s up to the challenge again.
“He's really been doing good this spring,” said running backs coach Mark Atuaia. “He knows what to do. Last year, everybody was just trying to get lined up correctly; I think now, more so than ever, he's knowing what we want him to do. Not just the lines that are drawn, but understanding his assignment and how to … adjust it whenever (the defense) makes adjustments.”
Another area where the coaches have been pleased is the way Williams and senior Paul Lasike have developed into leaders on the team.
“They're very introverted in their styles and the way they go about their business,” Atuaia said, “but for what we need from our team, we need them to be more vocal and to ask their teammates to do things that normally the coaches yell at them. From a peer standpoint, it really helps when the guys making the plays are the ones that are vocal and asking them to do those things, and I think Paul and Jamaal are doing a great job at that.”
Due to an offseason shoulder injury, Adam Hine has been unable to participate in spring ball. According to Mendenhall, he’s going to have a hard time breaking into the regular running back rotation.
“He’s expected back in the fall but he’ll have a hard time breaking in,” said Mendenhall. “Each day that he’s out, Algie (Brown) and Jamaal (Williams) and Paul (Lasike) are doing better and better; we expect him back, we want him back, but he’ll come back as the fourth (running back).
The passing percentage of quarterback Taysom Hill has been brought up quite often as one area where BYU can improve in 2014. Last season, Hill was 236-438 for 2,938 yards, good enough for 53.9 percent. Based on the first seven practices of spring, Mendenhall is seeing the progress he was looking for.
“Our completion percentage is really high,” the head coach said. “We have a very clear goal for the spring, and we’re above that right now. We have a very clear goal for third down percentage; we’re above that right now in the spring against our own defense. The things we’re emphasizing, we’re getting. I’m encouraged by that.”
Junior safety Craig Bills was donning a red jersey and an elbow brace during Monday’s practice. All Mendenhall would say is that Bills hurt his elbow. Coaches however aren’t concerned about any long-term ramifications.
You can listen to post-practice audio from Mendehall, Atuaia and Williams by clicking on the links in “Cougar Cuts,” above left.