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The first day of BYU's preseason camp concluded at around 6:30pm on Thursday evening, more than 2 1/2 hours after it began beneath a sweltering sun at the Cougars' outdoor practice fields.
Something new at the 2012 camp is the collection of ice tubs assembled at the south end of the fields, and as practice concluded, there was a rush to take advantage of the cool-down aids. The tubs are more than a desired destination on a hot day--they are also deemed a therapeutic necessity as part of the program's new fitness and conditioning regimen.
Practice concluded with an 11-on-11 "team" session, but as players were in helmets-only (no pads), the chains were not moving; plays were run to the whistle, with no ball advancement.
"Once the chains move, you're playing football," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "And when you're playing football, it's competitive. When it's competitive, guys like to tackle. When they tackle without pads--that's the reason you put on pads. And we don't have pads on today."
Mendenhall said 2012's camp will feature "maybe a little bit more distinction in tempo, when we're in pads, no pads or shells (helmets and shoulder pads), and trying to maintain health, focus on execution and just keep cleaner play."
"The volume of team plays is going up, so hopefully that can add to consistency, early on."
Of the 105 players on the camp roster, 104 were present for opening day; the only exception was offensive lineman Walter Kahaiali'i, who was recently married and was delayed on his return from Hawai'i.
There were just a handful of injury notes, with DL Russell Tialavea and OL Houston Reynolds leaving practice early. Tialavea suffered a sprained left ankle in warm-ups, while Reynolds has shin soreness.
OL Fono Vakalahi is being limited after an offseason surgery, while newly returned missionaries Tui Crichton and Bronson Kaufusi are being eased into the practice routine and were doing conditioning work on the side for much of the session.
DE Ian Dulan was present, but sat out of most portions of practice with a sore neck; nothing to worry about.
A couple of players who underwent offseason shoulder surgeries are having their activities limited for the time being. Mendenhall says linebacker Kyle Van Noy will be evaluated by a doctor on the 14th, and the coach anticipates clearance on the 15th. Mendenhall says Apo is scheduled for one practice week with no contact, followed by full clearance.
You can hear post-practice interviews with Bronco Mendenhall, Cody Hoffman and Kyle Van Noy, in "Cougar Cuts," above left. You can also hear Jason Shepherd's interview with Riley Nelson in "Shep Talk," above left.
More highlights from Mendenhall--
On day one: "It was just good to be back with the guys again. Preparation is past what I expected it to be; enthusiasm is good, execution is a little rusty, but good leadership."
On QB Taysom Hill's role in 2012: "The abilities that Taysom Hill has, as one of the fastest players on the team...there is a chance that he might play in addition to regular quarterback, possibly he plays 'wildcat,' something like that. Maybe he's in there when the other quarterbacks are are in. Rather than just saying 'quarterback,' he could be getting experience maybe in a different role."
On whether Hill's age makes it less likely that he redshirts in 2012: "I think certainly, especially if another role he could play could help our team immediately, and if that role can be significant enough, it would make sense (to play him in 2012)."
On senior DB O'Neill Chambers not earning an invitation to camp, and whether his days are done with the football program: "That's the way it looks right now...I'm hopeful that O'Neill can just live a quality life and do what he needs to do."
On his team, after being with the players for 24 hours: "They're confident, they're optimistic, they're excited and realistic about where the program is, what they're going to have to do and how much work lies ahead...but they think they're capable."
In addition to the coaching staff's four graduate assistants, BYU is fielding three student assistants during camp: former BYU QB Max Hall, who is helping with the quarterbacks, while Jray Galea'i and Jordan Richardson are assisting with the defense.
Rules state that former players without eligibility who are enrolled and pursuing undergraduate degrees can serve as student assistants. Hall's eligibility was exhausted in 2009, while Galeai and Richardson had to conclude their careers due to incapacitating back injuries, bringing to an end their collegiate eligibility.
"They all want to be around the program," said Mendenhall, "and that's the good thing--maybe the story behind the story, that guys are coming back and wanting to be a part of the program, rather than just disappear."
About Hall's return, Mendenhall called it "a fantastic thing for our staff, for Coach (Brandon) Doman to have basically an assistant quarterback coach, while he's now an offensive coordinator. That's a great thing for us."
It was a great thing to see RBs Michael Alisa and Iona Pritchard looking so good on opening day. Mendenhall was asked about his offensive backfield minus Josh Quezada, who left the program in the last couple of weeks, and he said the results is "just one less" back, with "more ability for Paul Lasike to possibly shine, more opportunity for maybe Jamaal Williams to emerge, certainly more opportunity for David Foote to have a more significant role."
"Then when you have Iona Pritchard, who can be a big-back ball carrier...I still think there are plenty of bodies there, with Mike Alisa being the primary ball carrier."
In a change from my previous routine, I will not be putting out a daily camp depth chart, but will rather update the camp depth on an occasional basis.
Today's chart will give you a good idea of where things stand to get camp underway, and I'm certain to report on players making moves up the two-deep in the days and weeks ahead.
OFFENSIVE DEPTH CHART, DAY 1
|Position||1st Team||2nd Team||3rd Team||4th Team||5th Team|
|LT||Ryker Mathews||Braden Hansen/Walter Kahaiali'i (absent Thursday)|
|LG||Solomone Kafu||Famika Anae|
|C||Houston Reynolds/Blair Tushaus||Houston Reynolds/Blair Tushaus||Ryan Freeman|
|RG||Brock Stringham||Manaaki Vaitai||Terrance Alletto|
|RT||Braden Brown||Michael Yeck|
|TE||Austin Holt||Marcus Mathews||Devin Mahina||Kaneakua Friel/Richard Wilson||Kaneakua Friel/Richard Wilson|
|X WR||Cody Hoffman||Skyler Ridley||Jordan Smith||Kurt Henderson||Mitch Mathews|
|Z WR||Ross Apo||Dallin Cutler||Brett Thompson||Terren Houk||Dylan Collie|
|H WR||JD Falslev||Cody Raymond||Alex Kuresa|
|RB||Michael Alisa||David Foote||Adam Hine/Jamaal Williams||Adam Hine/Jamaal Williams|
|RB||Iona Pritchard||Paul Lasike||Zed Mendenhall|
|QB||Riley Nelson||James Lark||Taysom Hill||Jason Munns||Ammon Olsen|
DEFENSIVE DEPTH CHART, DAY 1
|Position||1st Team||2nd Team||3rd Team||4th Team||5th Team|
|LE||Eathyn Manumaleuna||Michael Doman (also RE)||Remington Peck||Roman Andrus|
|NT||Romney Fuga||Simote Vea||Justin Blackmore||Tui Crichton|
|RE||Ian Dulan (DNP)||Russell Tialavea||Mike Muehlmann||Theodore King||Marques Johnson|
|SLB||Spencer Hadley||Alani Fua||Tanner Cox||Teu Kautai|
|MLB||Uona Kaveinga||Zac Stout||Austen Jorgensen||Uani Unga||Rhett Sandlin|
|BLB||Brandon Ogletree||Tyler Beck||Manoa Pikula||Butch Pau'u||Nate Sampson|
|WLB||Kyle Van Noy||Ziggy Ansah||Kevan Bills||Lene Lesatele||Jheremmya Leuta-Douyere|
|FC||Jordan Johnson||Adam Hogan||Cameron Comer|
|Kat||Daniel Sorensen||Craig Bills||Matt Hadley|
|FS||Joe Sampson (also no. 1 nickel)||Mike Hague (also no. 2 nickel)||Blake Morgan|
|BC||Preston Hadley||Skye PoVey||DeQuan Everett|
Note: the running back, tight end and wide receiver positions have a great deal of flexibility among players who are close in ability, and nothing too much should be read into day one rotations. Similarly, on the defensive line, some players can play both nose and end, or may flip from one side to the other, or may see their roles modified in nickel, etc.
Clearing out the notebook:
Highlight catch of the day was authored by WR Terren Houk, who leaped into the air and twisted his body to haul in a long TD toss. The hard landing shook him up, but he hung on for the score.
Freshman wideout Dylan Collie came into camp looking quite ready to compete for a position at the Z receiver position. There are guys with experience ahead of him, but he's a Collie, so he'll put himself in the mix.
The Alisa-Pritchard duo could be formidable; they looked great on a day when ball carriers could pretty much set the agenda, due to lack of contact.
Faces in the crowd included BYU hoopsters Brandon Davies, Nate Austin and Chris Collinsworth, and former Cougars Noah Hartsock and Lamont Morgan.
Things remain on schedule for both of BYU's new end zone video boards/scoreboards. The current plan will allow for about a week of testing before the season opener on August 30th.
Friday's schedule calls for another late afternoon practice (helmets only); morning sessions start with Saturday's practice (shells).