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On a chilly Wednesday afternoon in Provo, tempers were heated as day two of BYU spring practices turned testy at times.
A handful of scuffles enlivened the closing segments of practice, with head coach Bronco Mendenhall noting that "it could be a world record (for earliest practice scuffles), but that's a good sign."
"I like it (when) neither side will back down. That's our approach in terms of when an opponent comes in, so might as well start now. I like it a lot.
"The team was anxious to fly around, really anxious to compete. They like football, I think they're tough, I think they're physical. I had fun today. I was really impressed with our practice."
"Guys were going wild; it wasn't like that on Monday. But it was good, it's fun to see that, guys were playing with a lot of passion, they were fired up. Guys (were) playing with a chip on their shoulder; that's what you want."
Wednesday's extra-curriculars were centered in the trenches, and that was just fine with offensive line coach Garett Tujague.
"We talk about it all the time about being physical and being nasty, having the ability to set the tone. We're not gonna back down you gotta love what you're doing and you've gotta fight for it.
"If you really love it and it means the world to you, then you fight for it no matter what the costs I was glad to see that today. Hopefully the mentality that we're instilling is (that) we're not backing down, it doesn't matter who it is."
Offensive lineman Michael Yeck Michael Yeck said "we had guys working so hard this offseason... and you can't do that unless you love the game. You can't do that unless it matters to you. Now, when we actually get to go out and play the game, I feel like our mindset is, 'we've worked so hard for the last two months, let's go out and show it.'"
Notes from day two:
Mendenhall said "we're going to experiment this spring, maybe on an every-other-day basis" with secondary personnel.
"We're mixing and matching right now in the secondary. Craig (Bills) can play either (safety) spot, but when Jordan (Johnson) comes back (at corner), Rob Daniel might be able to play safety. So if we can cross-train Craig, then Rob can play corner and then possible free (safety). That gives us more depth from existing players that we already know are experienced."
Mendenhall was asked what he sees as the over-arching value of spring practice, as compared to camp in August, and he said "I really like to see players that didn't play much last year, and assess where they are. I really like to see schematic things that I think are going to help us improve from where we were...and see those on film before we just go gung-ho in the fall, but underlying all of that, especially with as much as they want to hit each other right now...is you don't want to lose the wrong player to injury for the fall. That's the hard part to manage."
About plans for a traditional spring-ending scrimmage, Mendenhall said while details have yet to be confirmed, "if I had to fill in at least one piece of the puzzle, there will be very few of the starters performing."
"(Any scrimmage) will be young (player) and development-oriented. By that time, there's not much value, knowing they still have fall, and fall camp is long enough to where I think that can be shortened, so we're still a long ways out, and with this team, managing the intensity is going to be really difficult--which is fun."
BYU is having to replace one of the best nose tackles of the Bronco Mendenhall era in Eathyn Manumaleuna, but Mendenhall said there are some promising options at that spot.
"We've been really impressed with (returned missionary) Kesni Tausinga, and we like (RM) Travis Tuiloma--so those two, right off the bat, and the other guy who is really interesting is (former offensive lineman) Josh Carter. He doesn't know what he's doing, but he works hard, so he might be someone who is kind of an intriguing guy after two practices.
"Jon Ryheem (Peoples) is in the mix, and that would be really fun if we can get him to come along. A lot of conditioning work still to do, (but) he's down a bunch of weight. We're all hopeful that can take a positive turn."
Mendenhall confirmed that offensive lineman Brad Wilcox "is out for this spring; hopeful to return by fall--that's the hope."
Wide receiver Michael Davis sprained his left ankle late in practice and departed the field in the passenger seat of a golf cart.
You can hear interviews with Mendenhall, Tujague, Poppinga, Yeck, and linebacker Jherremya Leuta-Douyere in "Cougar Cuts," above left.
BYU continues spring practices with a Friday afternoon session (no media availability).