A week and a day before his team's season-opening game with Washington State, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said on Wednesday that "I like where we are, and I feel comfortable at least at this point today, that we'll be in good shape."
"I have high expectations for this team."
Nine days ahead of their season-opening game with Washington State, the BYU Cougars have moved into game-prep mode, with Tuesday morning's practice being the first featuring the offense and defense facing scout-team opponents.
The helmets-and-shoulder-pads session was also the first of what head coach Bronco Mendenhall called "basically three extra" practices added to a traditional game-week format.
With "Camp Cougar" having wrapped up and BYU now beginning Washington State prep, we ramped up the build-up with a Monday afternoon live chat.
If you missed it, don't fret--just re-live the drama and the drivel with the almost-as-good-as-live replay.
With "Camp Cougar" going in the books today, it's a good time to reflect on the last two-plus weeks of BYU Football practices and what they might mean for the season ahead.
More than a month ago, I previewed preseason camp with a Cougar Tracks list of "20 Questions"; today, I'll do my best to answer those questions with the benefit of hindsight.
A final day of two-a-days on Friday, followed by a single practice on Saturday, and BYU's 2012 preseason camp will be in the books, with Washington State game prep getting underway on Monday.
Friday morning in Provo, the Cougars held the first of two scheduled sessions; the practice was closed to the media, as all practices will be moving forward and into the season.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said "there wasn't any easing back today; the number of (practice) periods was less, but what we were trying to get done was still (with) a lot of urgency."
Note: A former BYU receiver and return specialist (2005-2006), Nate Meikle returns to the KSL Radio airwaves in 2012, reprising the role he previously occupied as sideline reporter for BYU Football broadcasts (2007-2009). During the season, Meikle will post his weekly thoughts in "Nate's Notes."
When in 2011 I first learned that Michael Alisa was going to switch positions, from linebacker to running back, my immediate reaction was frustration.
Exactly two weeks before BYU's season-opener with Washington State, the Cougars brought a little gameday atmosphere to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday morning.
With players divided into teams and coaches putting on the headsets, a competitive and lively scrimmage was the product, with head coach Bronco Mendenhall saying "that was the intent" in regards to the game-like feel, adding that "we had a little fun" at the same time, by dividing into separate squads and selecting "celebrity coaches" in former Cougars Chad Lewis and Curtis Brown.
"It was fun, and good to have guys cheering for each other a little bit," said Mendenhall afterward. "Basically,a fairly clean conclusion to what camp is going to be. A couple of 'clean-up days' tomorrow and the next day, then...Washington State (prep) starts Monday. And no injuries today. You kind of keep your fingers crossed, but we held out quite a few players to make sure that didn't happen."
According to head coach Bronco Mendenhall, camp has reached its "grind" phase, as the Cougars prepare for a second final stadium scrimmage on Thursday.
"Players and coaches get tired of each other, which was manifest yesterday," said Mendenhall after practice. "Then there's a 'reset point' which happened today, then there will be a building and in about another week it will happen again."
"Then we'll finally get to play an opponent."
Saying "it's getting difficult to practice against each other," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall guided his team through a Tuesday morning practice session, two days before the team's final scheduled scrimmage of camp.
"They're starting to not like each other very much," said Mendenhall after practice. "Coaches and players, which is about typical for this time of year, so...(we're) trying to make it through one more scrimmage before we break up into scout teams."
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman echoed the head coach's feelings. "The guys are trying so hard," said Doman. "You can see it, you can feel it. It's a little bit out of hand."
The BYU Cougars went indoors on Monday afternoon for the second of two practices on Day 10 of fall camp. Bronco Mendenhall seemed pleased with the effort that his players gave him in both practices today.
"Got a ton of work done and some situational work", Bronco said. "I've been impressed with their day-to-day effort and their willingness to work."
BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose on Monday announced that sophomore-to-be guard Damarcus Harrison is transferring to Clemson for the 2012-13 season.
In BYU's official press release on the matter, Rose says "we appreciate the hard work and dedication Damarcus gave to our program this past season. Damarcus is great young man from a wonderful family. We wish them the very best with this new opportunity." The transfer brings Harrison closer to his South Carolina home.
Orem High School star Dalton Nixon has committed to play basketball for head coach Dave Rose and the BYU Cougars.
Nixon committed to Rose in his campus office on Friday night, in the presence of Dalton's father Kevin and Rose's assistant coaches. Nixon becomes the fourth son of a former Cougar hoopster to commit to Rose, joining Tyler and T.J. Haws (father is Marty; played 1985-90), and Jordan Chatman (father is Jeff; played 1985-88).
A versatile 6'7" forward, Nixon told me Saturday night that he was "excited to play with a lot of local kids like T.J. (Haws), Nick (Emery) and Eric (Mika)"--all three of whom play together at nearby Lone Peak HS and have committed to BYU. Nixon added that he was "happy to be close to home; I love Provo, and I love BYU."
After Saturday morning's session in Provo, the Cougars are on the downhill side of the "camp" portion of preseason practice. In previous years, head coach Bronco Mendenhall has closed camp and begun preparing for the season-opening opponent after Day 15 or 16; today was Day 9, and practice no. 11.
Mendenhall said that at this point of the month, he thinks his players have handled the workload well, and doesn't sense the "dog days" settling in.
"I'm pleased with how they're working," said Mendenhall after practice. "They're improving each day--small things, position mastery, effort is consistent. I think we're actually gaining momentum...through day number nine, I feel like we're on track."
For the first time in eight days of camp, clouds graced the outdoor practice fields in Provo, cooling things off for the second second day of BYU's two-a-days.
With players in shells (helmets/shoulder pads), the morning session featured the team ending practice with some 11-on-11 blue zone work, and plays were made on both sides of the ball.
QB Riley Nelson was 7-for-9 passing for 65 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception (Craig Bills). Scoring tosses went to Cody Hoffman (20 yards and 10 yards) and Mitch Mathews (10 yards). JD Falslev scampered in on a 20-yard score. In addition to Bills' pick, DB Preston Hadley recorded a pass break-up in the end zone.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall called it "fairly vanilla on both sides," but Thursday morning's 76-snap stadium scrimmage had enough exciting plays to encourage fans, only three weeks before the Cougars' season-opener with Washington State.
On a day when many if not most first-stringers remained on the sidelines, Mendenall said "we saw a ton of young defensive players play, and every young quarterback (got) a chance to play. (It helped) a ton in hopefully evaluating personnel, establishing depth, doing some great teaching, and evaluating a scheme here or there."
After five days of single-session practices, Wednesday introduced the Cougars to the "two-a-days" routine. BYU has five such days scheduled for camp between today and next Friday.
This morning's practice followed a now-typical pattern, with 11-on-11 "team" work preceding a team-wide conditioning drill and ice-plunge. On a sixth straight day without hitting, the defense was disruptive in "team," with Spencer Hadley recording an interception of Riley Nelson, along with two would-be sacks. Defensive backs Sawyer Powell and Micah Hanneman had pass break-ups.
In limited reps, Nelson was 2-of-5 passing for 17 yards, while adding a 20-yard run. James Lark went 1-for-2 for 20 yards, while Taysom Hill was 1-for-2 for nine yards. RB Adam Hine had a 40-yard TD scamper, with RB Michael Alisa and Hill also getting downfield with long runs.
The Cougars held their first scrimmage of fall camp Thursday morning; Thursday night, we did a Cougar Tracks live chat to break it down and discuss BYU Sports.
Click below to re-live the excitement that only two straight hours of keyboard-rattling can create.
The shoulder pads were on for the first time in camp, but on Tuesday in Provo, the practice field was still a "no-hit zone" on head coach Bronco Mendenhall's orders.
The players had a difficult time obeying those orders in the 11-on-11 session to end practice, so Mendenhall called an early end to the proceedings, choosing to put his players through a lengthy conditioning gauntlet in place of live snaps.
The hit that caused the shut-down was delivered by safety Daniel Sorensen, who knocked running back Michael Alisa off his feet after a run. Alisa responded by knocking the helmet off of Sorensen's head, and following a brief scuffle and some angry words, Mendenhall had seen enough. The Cougars' first camp practice in shoulder pads ended before its scheduled completion.
On day four of BYU's preseason practices, QB Riley Nelson was sharp in the session-ending 11-on-11 segment, completing all eight of his passes for 108 yards and a 49-yard touchdown to RB David Foote.
The last of Nelson's eight completions gets an asterisk, as it was deflected (and could have been intercepted) by DE Eathyn Manumaleuna, before landing in the hands of right tackle Braden Brown. But hey, 100% is 100%.
Nelson's reps most approximated actual drives, as the other plays run with backup QBs were set for specific downs and distances, with a frequent rotation of signal-callers. Nelson was essentially allowed to move his team down the field in the limited-contact, no-pads "team" session.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall continued to ease his players into contact on Saturday, conducting a third consecutive camp practice without pads, on a day when shoulder pads were permissible for the first time.
The two-hour practice was the first morning session of the preseason, held on a warm morning with no wind. On limiting contact with the no-pads approach on what has previously always been a days for "shells" (helmets and shoulder pads), Mendenhall said the team is "continuing to work on the pace that we're working on without pads, and I wanted to see one more day of it."
"We're getting a lot done," said Mendenhall, "and so I thought it would be a good way to start. Rest through the weekend, and then keep increasing intensity, as camp is more of a marathon than a sprint."
|Scott Stadium, Charlottesville||8/31 1:30 pm|
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