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.
Of the practice-ending march, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said "it's fun to see Riley connect with Cody and running backs make a play here or there; yeah, it's good."
The team has been practicing helmets-only for the first three days of workouts, but Mendenhall said that will change on Friday, when the pads will go on for the first time. NCAA regulations state the following about spring practice: no contact prior to the third practice session, while only 12 of the 15 sessions can have contact. The non-contact sessions are to be helmets-only; of the 12 contact-allowed sessions, only eight can involve tackling. For the four non-tackling sessions, institutions can determine which protective equipment will be worn.
Mendenhall says "we'll probably (have) even less of the contact (because)...we're fairly thin at offensive line." The coach coach added that despite the personnel limitations, "each day, there's a clearer idea--even after three days--kind of who's going to be emerging and what the two-deep might look like."
"I know it's early, but again the fall still is most important to me, so I would like to progress the team as fast as possible, but the risk of injury is always kind of in the back of my mind...so we'll probably go less than what the NCAA allows us to do."
The first few practices of spring ball have shown the emergence of a preferred number one backfield, consisting of Michael Alisa and Juice Quezada pairing up as ball carriers. Mendenhall says "I like the combination...it looks pretty good, so that might be something you see in the fall."
Early defensive standouts include lineman Ian Dulan, who Mendenhall says "has been the most productive lineman in camp so far. So sharp in terms of position mastery, trying really hard, loves to play; he's really, really been impressive. And Russell (Tialavea, injured) is still not out here. So, when you have a chance to have Romney (Fuga), Eathyn (Manumaleuna), Ian and Russell in the rotation--and it's all upperclassmen--it's going to be pretty fun."
Another defensive player jumping out is redshirt freshman linebacker Manoa Pikula, who saw second-team reps today and is "playing really well," according to Mendenhall.
"After three days, we've already determined that there's going to be a place somewhere for him. He'll probably be a great special teams contributor, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the two-deep."
Addressing his personnel issues at offensive line, Mendenhall said "all the experience is injured," so spring camp will help identify "players six, seven and eight...because players one through four or one through five are not participating. The great thing is we have built the program enough where we still have two-deep, so we can practice."
Mendenhall likened the maturation of Hoffman to the progress made by linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "(Hoffman) has had a really, really good off-season. His work ethic and just maturity; it's fun to see. (Van Noy and Hoffman) are both great players, bur each year they become more responsible. They're smart, they do a great job in the classroom, and it's fun to see the progress."
DAY THREE DEPTH CHART - OFFENSE
|Position||1st team||2nd Team||3rd Team|
|LT||Solomone Kafu||Corbin Kaufusi|
|LG||Manaaki Vaitai||Terrance Alletto|
|C||Blair Tushaus||Manaaki Vaitai|
|RG||Brock Stringham||Terrance Motley|
|RT||Michael Yeck||Quinn Lawlor|
|TE||Marcus Mathews||Kaneakua Friel||Darin Tuttle/Trevor Brown|
|QB||Riley Nelson||James Lark||Taysom Hill|
|WR-X||Cody Hoffman||Skyler Ridley||Rhen Brown|
|WR-Z||Ross Apo||Dallin Cutler||Kurt Henderson|
|WR-H||J.D. Falslev (injured)||Dallin Cutler||Cody Raymond|
|RB||Juice Quezada||Paul Lasike||Adam Hine|
|RB||Michael Alisa||Zed Mendenhall||Austen Jorgensen/Iona Pritchard (not full contact)|
DAY THREE DEPTH CHART - DEFENSE
|Position||1st team||2nd Team||3rd Team|
|LE||Eathyn Manumaleuna||Mike Muehlmann||Michael Doman|
|NT||Romney Fuga||Marques Johnson||Ray Forrester|
|RE||Ian Dulan||Moses Kaumatule||Simote Vea|
|SLB||Spencer Hadley||Alani Fua||Tanner Cox|
|MLB||Uona Kaveinga||Zac Stout||Tyler Beck/Manoa Pikula|
|BLB||Brandon Ogletree||Manoa Pikula/Tyler Beck||Riley Bushman|
|WLB||Ziggy Ansah||Kevan Bills||Seth Probert|
|FC||Jordan Johnson||Cameron Comer|
|Kat||Daniel Sorensen||Chase Pendley|
|FS||Joe Sampson (also BC)||Skye Po'vey|
|BC||Mike Hague (also FS)||DeQuan Everett|
Note: Safety Jray Galea'i and corner Robbie Buckner were out on Thursday. Galea'i had been backing up Sorensen at Kat, while Buckner was playing behind Johnson at field CB.
Asked about the frozen ground on the sidelines, Mendenhall joked that "who else could we schedule that would have ground like that?" When Wisconsin was suggested, Mendenhall said "Wisconsin maybe would be good...and there's a good chance that could happen, so let's just plan 'we came out here today because we might play Wisconsin.' We'll use that as our theme."
Among the observers at Thursday's practice: LaVell Edwards, former BYU player/coach and current defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell and members of the ECU staff, former BYU LB David Nixon, former BYU DL and current local radio personality Jan Jorgensen, and former BYU QB and longtime KSL Radio legend Marc Lyons.