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PROVO, Utah (March 16, 2009) - For the BYU football team, Monday marked another first day of spring ball under the helm of head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The team reconvened to prepare for the upcoming 2009 season after spending the past few months conditioning.
"It was a typical first day of spring practice," said Mendenhall. "There was a lot of energy and excitement. Our execution and clean play has a long way to go, but the players are optimistic and believe we can become a really good team."
Despite having lost several vocal leaders on both sides of the ball due to graduation and the upcoming NFL Draft, other players have stepped up to resume those roles.
"The chemistry of each team changes," said Mendenhall. "The seniors on each side of the ball have emerged as vocal leaders, while the young and new players are just trying to keep up with the pace."
Senior quarterback Max Hall is one of those leaders. During some 11-on-11 work towards the end of practice, Hall completed 8-of-12 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown, a 25-yard completion to senior tight end Dennis Pitta.
"This has been a totally different off-season than last year," said Hall. "I've recognized that I need to get better with my eyes. I need to continue to get bigger and stronger. I have a lot to work on."
Hall's connection with Pitta wasn't the only quarterback-tight end tandem to score a touchdown for the Cougar offense. Parker Mangum, who recently switched from wide receiver to quarterback, threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Mike Muehlmann.
Several other Cougars found themselves practicing with new position groups on Monday. Former quarterback Stephen Covey made the switch to wide receiver, new offensive lineman Solomone Kafu moved from the defensive line and sophomore Jordan Pendleton lined up at outside linebacker, a change from his previous role in the defensive backfield.
"It's awkward, I'm not going to lie," said Pendleton. "I never thought I'd be a linebacker. I've been a defensive back my whole life. It's new but I'll get used to it."
Other personnel issues of note involve defensive back Brandon Howard, wide receiver Spencer Hafoka and defensive linemen Bernard Afutiti and Ian Dulan, all of whom will not participate in spring practices. Hafoka and Dulan are sitting out due to health-related issues, Howard for personal reasons and Afutiti to focus on school.
Monday marks the first of 15 practices for BYU this spring. Practice sessions are closed to the public.