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PROVO -- With an estimated 7,200 fans in attendance, the BYU football team concluded its final practice of the spring Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Approximately 2,000 fans came early to watch or participate in the Kids Clinic put on by the team prior to the practice.
"We had an excellent spring," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We were able to achieve our intentions and goals, and I'm optimistic about the future of this team."
Among the points for optimism going into fall camp is the talent developing at several key positions replacing starters from last year's 11-2 team. Chief among them is the quarterback job where junior Riley Nelson, sophomore James Lark and freshman Jake Heaps have all competing well during spring drills. For the spring, Nelson completed 57 percent of his passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns, while Lark and Heaps each converted on 59 percent of their attempts for 253 and 774 yards, respectively. Heaps completed seven scoring throws during the spring.
Mendenhall likes the progress of the quarterbacks heading into fall camp. During Saturday's final practice Lark and Nelson both totaled 36 yards passing while Heaps accounted for 25 yards during 11-on-11 situations. Lark went 5-of-8, Nelson 3-for-5 and Heaps 2-of-5 on the day.
The defense played well on Saturday, allowing only one touchdown and a 48-yard field goal by Mitch Payne. Heaps directed the drive that led to the field goal, while Nelson engineered the touchdown drive with freshman running back Joshua Quezada getting in the end zone on an 8-yard run.
Some defensive highlights included sacks delivered by freshman linebacker Kyle Van Noy, senior defensive end Vic So'oto and junior linebacker Jameson Frazier as well as a combo sack by junior defensive linemen Romney Fuga and Jadon Wagner. Frazier also came up with an interception made possible by junior safety Travis Uale knocking a Lark attempt into the air.
Another highlight on offense was the running of Quezada, who totaled 34 yards on eight carries and added 18 yards as a receiver, including a 15-yard gain aided by his ability to successfully avoid several would-be tacklers.
The long play of the day came on a Nelson-to-Jordan Lower completion for 26 yards to open the touchdown drive. Lower, a junior transfer from Snow College, is one of a stable full of talented tight ends looking to help fill the void created by the departure of last year's outstanding tandem of All-American Dennis Pitta and All-Mountain West Conference performer Andrew George.
"We're going to be really good at tight end I believe," said Mendenhall, who indicated that Saturday's practice was a good opportunity for the younger and inexperienced players to play at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The team will open fall camp in August to continue preparations for the 2010 season. The Cougars will start the season in LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sept. 4 when they host the University of Washington.