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I wrote what follows for posting on the "Local Sports" page of ksl.com, under the headline "Bronco Show Re-cap."
KSL Newsradio's "Bronco Mendenhall Show" debuted last night at Ken Garff Ford in American Fork, and while I encourage you to listen to the audio archive of the show by clicking on the show page in the BYU Sports Menu, here are a few of the highlights from Broncos comments during last night's broadcast:
-the season opener with Oklahoma represents the "chance of a lifetime" for his players--to open the college season in a stadium that is "absolutely phenomenal."
-BYU's ultimate goal is to win the national championship, and that's not possible until you play teams (like Oklahoma) that "are competing at that level." Bronco admits there is "risk" in scheduling the Sooners.
-the Oklahoma game is "close to the biggest scale of game BYU has played for a long, long time."
-BYU's national championship of 1984 "put wheels in motion to add an exclusionary element" to college football's national title picture. He says the current BYU program is out to "undo what we started."
-noting the program's 2-18 record in its last 20 games against ranked teams, you need to "put your money where your mouth is."
-relative to RB Harvey Unga's hamstring injury situation, "we'll know only on gameday" how healthy he is. Bronco says whatever Unga's status, he's better than anyone else BYU has.
-for the first time since he's been head coach, the team will go from the airport to the stadium for a "walk-around," to take away the "shock and awe" aspect of visiting Cowboys Stadium for the first time.
-re: the return of FB Manase Tonga, most NFL scouts to visit BYU have Tonga rated higher than NFL fullbacks and former Cougars Fahu Tahi and Fui Vakapuna.
-Bronco "didn't enjoy the tail end, or a lot of last season," and acknowledges he got "caught up" in "the number of wins that we had," win streaks, etc.
-TCU head coach Gary Patterson (two recent games and one win v. Oklahoma) was "very helpful" with some "keen insight" into playing the Sooners.
-Bronco has become "relatively close friends" with Florida and former Utah coach Urban Meyer (national championship win over OU last season), who has also been "very helpful" in giving the BYU coach ideas of what he'll be facing on Saturday.
-re: Meyer, Bronco says once you "step out of the rivalry, or leave the state, there is normal life," and adds that now he has gotten to know Meyer "as a person," perception of school colors tends to go away.
-Bronco doesn't know for sure whether players have voted to retain the pre-game Haka, but believes he heard players talking about "Haka practice" as he left the field on Wednesday.
While there are no current Oklahoma ties to the BYU Football program, there is a notable Oklahoman wearing Cougar blue these days, and that's hoopster Noah Hartsock (from Bartlesville, OK).
I was at the Marriott Center yesterday watching the basketball players in their NCAA-sanctioned "skill development" sessions, and talked for a while with Noah, who stated clearly he'll be cheering for BYU on Saturday night.
He also told me something interesting: that he played AAU basketball on the same team as OU QB Sam Bradford and TE Jermaine Gresham (who hurt his knee in Tuesday's practice--the severity of the injury has not been confirmed).
Hartsock says Bradford was so good on the hardwoods that he could have played basketball for OU.
The Cougar ballers look good, by the way. I can say without equivocation that this will be the deepest BYU team I have ever covered.
The Cougars had their preseason one-mile run yesterday. The winner: freshman Tyler Haws, in an impressive 5:08, followed closely by fellow Lone Peak product Jackson Emery. Even 6'11", 250 lb. center Chris Miles can hoof it--he came in at 6:08, if I recall correctly. Chris says he was sub 6:00 last year, but that he was carrying 15 more pounds this time around.
High school basketball players who dominate as prepsters naturally tend to look smaller and less dominant once they join their more mature college teammates, but that is not the case with Haws. He appears notably bigger and stronger than he did as a Lone Peak Knight, and in reality he has added weight to his frame and stands a very solid and muscular 6'5". He has drawn raves from the BYU strength and conditioning staff, who say no player works harder than Haws.
It's too early to start predicting things, but you know I've been on the Haws bandwagon for years now, and I'm confident he will make a substantial immediate contribution to the Cougars. There's no question that Haws will have the attention of every MWC coach once conference play rolls around.
Add Haws' fellow freshman Brandon Davies to the list of impact players. Davies is very long, quite athletic, and has a natural, feathery scoring touch around the basket. He will see a lot of the floor in his rookie season.
Head coach Dave Rose looks great. I couldn't be happier to see things playing out the way they are for the coach and the season to come. He deserves a special season, and I think he's going to get one.