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PROVO — Much like there is for every Major League Baseball team training in Florida and Arizona, optimism abounds throughout college football as spring practice begins.
There are no losers this time of year in MLB and college football. Over the next several weeks, coaches and players around the country will tout the great improvement their teams made during spring camp.
Drink the Kool-Aid at your own risk. Practices in March and April usually are only a step above informal summer workouts.
Don’t believe it? Check out the results from Utah’s spring game last season.
In that game, quarterback Travis Wilson completed 13 of 17 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. In nine games during the 2013 season, he threw 16 interceptions.
Karl Williams rushed for 118 yards on 13 carries during the spring game. He ran for a total of 51 yards last season.
We’re not picking on the Utes here. It’s an epidemic.
Remember, Jake Heaps always looked good in spring and fall practices. Conversely, other quarterbacks would stink in practice but knew how to turn it on when fans filed into the stadium.
BYU fans don’t get to inflate expectations as much, mainly because coach Bronco Mendenhall usually prefers not to indulge in a spring game. But count on it, we’ll hear that the offense is much further along compared to last spring.
We will also be told that quarterback Taysom Hill is much better at throwing the football. Maybe he is, but it won’t be because of anything that happens in spring practice.
Right on cue, after BYU’s first practice, Hill said: “Now we can be comfortable and really hone in on the things we want to get better at instead of learning a new offense. I think it will really help us take a leap forward.
“I’m much more comfortable. It’s night and day difference from now to where I was last year simply because I was learning an entire new offense.”
This isn’t to say the 15 practices are nothing but a waste of time. Given the NCAA rules, all practice time is valuable. It’s a mystery why any coach wouldn’t utilize every second of practice time in the spring, during the season and the weeks leading up to a bowl game.
Each team has specific needs to address. For Utah, in what has become an annual ritual, it’s the time to introduce a new offensive coordinator.
Dave Christensen is the latest coach to call the plays, following in the footsteps of Dennis Erickson, Brian Johnson, Norm Chow, Dave Schramm, Aaron Roderick and Andy Ludwig. Did we miss anybody?
It’s also a chance to get a look at Wilson, whose sophomore season was marred by multiple injuries, including one that has threatened him having to quit football. Wilson has been cleared for non-contact drills, which is usually the situation all quarterbacks are in during spring practice.
BYU’s primary objective must be to find a way to get Hill’s passing game somewhere near his incredible running ability. There’s more to it than Hill simply being in the second season of offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s hurry-up offense, but it will help.
To expedite the process, Hill has been working with former BYU great John Beck and current quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. Even with a probable soft schedule this season, BYU can’t afford to have Hill come close to matching the 30 incompletions he threw against Utah last year.
Given his skill set, there’s no reason to think Hill won’t be a much improved passer next season.
“Our pass game has to catch up to the run game, which I think it will. We’ve done a lot of self-scout and self-analysis that way,” Mendenhall said.
Will any of the work in spring practice make a difference?
Check back in September.