BYU Football's four-week, 15-practice spring schedule came to a close last Friday--"Alumni Day"--as upwards of 800 former Cougars and their family members attended the final workout in Provo.
You can hear post-practice interviews with head coach Bronco Mendenhall, quarterback Riley Nelson, receiver Cody Hoffman, running back Josh Quezada and linebacker Spencer Hadley in "Cougar Cuts," left.
It started simply enough: the day after BYU's basketball season ended, someone tweeted me about how much the Cougars will miss Noah Hartsock, and I agreed, saying he was one of the best BYU players I had ever seen as the team's radio broadcaster.
Which then got me wondering...since I began calling games on the radio in 1996-97, who are the best BYU players I've seen?
As a result, I came up with a list of 14 players; a typical 13-man roster, plus one, for selective latitude and roster flexibility.
BYU held its second-to-last practice of spring football Wednesday at the team's outdoor fields--the last time the entire squad will use those fields before fall camp opens in August.
Following a day off today ("Pro Day" for last season's NFL hopefuls), Friday's practice will be an "Alumni Day" session at LaVell Edwards Stadium, bringing to an end the Cougars' spring workouts for 2012.
18 months after inviting BYU to join the West Coast Conference, the league has expanded again. In a statement released Wednesday the WCC announced the University of the Pacific has accepted an invitation to re-join the conference it helped create in 1952.
"We are pleased to welcome back the University of the Pacific as the 10th member of the West Coast Conference," Saint Mary's College President and WCC Presidents' Council Chair Brother Ronald Gallagher, F.S.C., Ph.D, said in a statement released to the media. "The University of the Pacific is an outstanding fit with our membership as an independent institution with a strong academic reputation and rich athletic history. It is a great opportunity to bring one of our founding members back into the Conference and once again extend our footprint into the rapidly growing markets of Sacramento, Stockton and the Central Valley."
"Pacific brings to the West Coast Conference a strong geographical rival with excellent on-campus facilities and a recent history of athletic success in sports that are priorities for the WCC," WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich added.
The final week of BYU's spring practice schedule started with a slightly-shorter-than-normal session at the indoor practice facility Monday afternoon.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall eliminated two scheduled 11-on-11 periods after a 20-minute "skelly" (no down linemen) series that featured the offense running an all-pass, no-huddle hurry-up against BYU's nickel defense.
Five quarterbacks combined to complete around 40 passes over eight series, with the coach saying that "with the offense going up-tempo the entire skelly period, that means we probably doubled the number of plays, so at that point, I thought we'd had enough."
With most of BYU's projected front-liners watching from the sidelines, players fighting for spots in the fall two-deep took center stage at Saturday's spring scrimmage, giving the first-stringers a rest, yet providing glimpses of potential play-makers.
Coaches went into Saturday with a scrimmage depth chart that looked like this:
Two days before the team's LaVell Edwards Stadium spring scrimmage, the BYU Football team ran through a no-helmets practice that began with a precision and conditioning drill called "Perfect 10s"--a drill that was run imperfectly enough that players spent roughly 40 minutes on the exercise before satisfying head coach Bronco Mendenhall's demands.
The drill (pictured above) consists of three groups of players (divided by body type/position) approaching a line in unison, getting set with a hand on the ground in unison, taking off on the snap of the ball in unison, and then running hard, through a line ten yards downfield. Coaches are arrayed on either side of the field, looking for specific indicators of "perfection." As the title of the drill states, Mendenhall is looking for "perfect tens"; ten yards run perfectly, according to the stated standards.
Today, the team needed to net eight "perfect tens" (Bronco said the number was "based on eight unclean lockers"), with every unsuccessful rep increasing by one the number needed to end the drill.
BYU's injury-addled football team took another personnel hit on Tuesday, an otherwise great day for spring practice in Provo.
Projected starting field corner Jordan Johnson went down and left practice about midway through the two-hour session; head trainer Kevin Morris said Johnson "just kind of tweaked his knee" after getting tangled up in a one-on-one drill.
"ACL is good," said Morris of his on-field assessment, with a further evaluation pending.
A Sunday night snowstorm and cooler temperatures moved the BYU Football team indoors to start the third week of spring practice on Monday, with the extensive injury/absence list also serving to chill the competitive environment.
Compared to what the Cougars' two-deep will ideally look like on September 1st, Monday's depth chart was barely recognizable at some spots. Existing conditions or pre-spring injuries had already knocked out or limited more than a half-dozen expected starters/front-line players (LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Preston Hadley, DL Russell Tialavea, OL Braden Brown, OL Houston Reynolds, OL Ryker Mathews, WR J.D. Falslev, TE Devin Mahina, TE Austin Holt, TE Richard Wilson, PK Justin Sorensen), while in-camp injuries have sidelined a handful of other prominent or would-be contributors (WR Mitch Mathews, WR Jordan Smith, WR Ross Apo, OL Brock Stringham, TE Trevor Brown, LB Brandon Ogletree, CB DeQuan Everett).
The offensive line has been the hardest hit; with very few experienced players available, head coach Bronco Mendenhall has significantly curtailed Saturday's scheduled spring game, with the LaVell Edwards Stadium affair now termed a "short scrimmage."
The most recent season of BYU Basketball's Dave Rose era ended where five consecutive seasons before it concluded: in the NCAA Tournament.
Including BYU's NIT bid in Rose's rookie season of 2005-06, BYU has set a new school record for most consecutive years with a postseason appearance, at seven--all seven years of Rose's tenure.
The BYU Cougars wrapped up the second week of Spring Football today. The Cougars practiced in front of an estimated 300 + high school coaches from around the country. BYU held an all-day coaches clinic that will conclude tonight.
Injuries have been a hot topic for the Cougars during spring. Several offensive lineman and tight ends have been held out due to injuries. The good news is that quite a few of them were able to participate today in drills. Houston Reynolds, Ryker Matthews, Ryan Freeman, Austin Holt and Richard Wilson all participated in non-contact drills today.
Less than 24 hours after pulling off the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history, the BYU Cougars were in Louisville, preparing for their Second Round meeting with Marquette.
"All of us are excited to be here," said center Brandon Davies at an afternoon press conference preceding the team's practice at the KFC Yum! Center. "We're excited for a chance to play another game and do our best to get another win."
In a season that featured the BYU hoopsters entering a new conference, a new experience awaits the Cougars as they make their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, the Cougars will play in the second-ever "First Four," a First Round meeting with fellow 14 seed Iona for the right to take that seed into a Second Round game with 3 seed Marquette Thursday in Louisville.
"It's a neat feeling," said senior forward Noah Hartsock on Monday afternoon, "because it's the First Four, and it's still exciting...just being part of the tournament once more."
The BYU Football team began their second week of Spring practices today in Provo. The team did not practice in pads but will put them on for tomorrow. As is the tradition on Mondays, the players' families were invited to watch practice, but families weren't the only ones checking things out today; former Cougar running back Harvey Unga showed up to watch his old team (Unga didn't talk to the media) It will be interesting to see if he tries to get back into the NFL.
Every quarterback on the roster made an appearance at practice today. Jason Munns was with the quarterbacks during drills but did not throw as he continues to come back from injury. Alex Kuresa was on the sidelines during the team's scrimmage but did not participate in any way. Bronco Mendenhall said Kuresa is still being evaluated academically.
There was a lot of waiting and probably some stressful moments for BYU this week, but it was all smiles after Sunday's announcement that the Cougars would once again be in the NCAA Tournament. BYU will face Iona on Tuesday night at 7:00 pm MT in Dayton in a First Round matchup in the "First Four." The winner of Tuesday's game will take on Marquette as a 14 seed in Louisville.
BYU senior forward Noah Hartsock said he's not disappointed in playing in the "play-in" game.
"We didn't necessarily play well in our last game, and I'm sure the committee saw that and everything, but I think we deserve to be in the Tournament and I'm really glad with the spot we have right now".
The last day of the first week of BYU's spring football practices had the players donning pads for the first time, and head coach Bronco Mendenhall pronounced his satisfaction with the hard-hitting session, saying "I liked it a lot; it sounded really good."
"It was hard to keep guys on the sidelines, because they want to go in," said Mendenhall. "Guys with slings are trying to go in and hit people."
Following a day off on Wednesday, the BYU Football team was back at it on Thursday, going outside for the first time during spring drills.
The Cougars took to the Student-Athlete Building practice fields for a roughly two-hour session that concluded with 20 minutes of 11-on-11 team work, during which QB Riley Nelson led a smart touchdown drive.
In the scoring drive, Nelson was 5-for-5 passing, for 60 yards and a five-yard TD toss to WR Cody Hoffman. On the day, Nelson was 9-for-10 for 86 yards, the TD and an interception by Joe Sampson. Hoffman caught three balls for 36 yards, while RB Michael Alisa hauled in a 22-yard reception to set up the Hoffman score. James Lark was 0-for-4 passing (with a couple of drops), while third-stringer Taysom Hill did not attempt a pass.
The second day of BYU Football spring practices concluded after a 21-period, nearly two-hour helmets-only session at the IPF on Tuesday.
What followed, for the defensive players, was an extra half-hour of conditioning that consisted of nothing more than running through, around, and over blocking pads assembled on the field, with a hurdle at the end thrown in for good measure. Simple, right? Well, yes, unless the objective is for every player to do the drills perfectly, without touching the pads. Roughly 40 huffing and puffing defenders ran through those particular paces to frustration and exhaustion, until Bronco Mendenhall was satisfied.
"I'm not sure (how long it took)," said Mendenhall. "Seemed like a long time. I know that (wife) Holly is not excited with me right now, but sometimes that's one of those sacrifices you have to make," he added with a smile.
The first day of spring football at BYU was accompanied by what head coach Bronco Mendenhall called a "surprising" intensity that translated into a pair of multi-player donnybrooks inside the team's indoor practice facility in Provo.
The scraps were otherwise inconsequential, but Mendenhall said the opening day spirit was "surprising, for the first day--no pads...I think the team wants to be good."
"There were a couple of battles, a couple of confrontations," said safety Mike Hague. "It's football. Whether it's football in March or football in August, it's football. If we don't approach it (in March) the way we approach it in August, we won't get any better."
Day 1 of BYU Spring Football is in the books. As you would expect everyone was very optimistic and happy to be back playing football. As most BYU fans would do, I paid close attention to the quarterbacks.
This year's group of QB's seem to have a good chemistry together. At different times today, Riley Nelson, James Lark, Taysom Hill, Ammon Olsen and McCoy Hill all took snaps for BYU. Alex Kuresa was listed on the roster but was not in attendance at today's practice.
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