Getting Ready for the Rams...



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Bronco Mendenhall pronounced himself "optimistic" about his team and "anxious" for the Cougars' conference opener as he met with the media this morning at Legends Grille.

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Bronco was preceded to the podium by head hoops coach Dave Rose, who updated us on his most recent scan that showed no recurrence of the cancer he had removed earlier in the summer. The next scan is scheduled for late March, when Coach Rose said he "hopes there is a (scheduling) conflict."

You can hear all of the podium comments by clicking on the respective audio links in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the right. You will also hear group interviews with Brandon Bradley, Bryan Kariya, Jan Jorgensen and McKay Jacobson.

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Bronco says in watching BYU-FSU game film, he noted 27 "simple" defensive assignment errors, and feels that corrections are possible. He adds that at "the root" of Saturday's loss were "fundamentals and execution" and that the setback was not merely a result of an opponents' superior skill and/or athleticism. He feels that there are "relatively easy and minor things" that BYU needs to do correct its mistakes made against FSU.

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The coach reiterated that NT Russell Tialavea will be out two to four weeks with a Grade 3 MCL sprain. MLB Matt Bauman has an unknown injury that Bronco said might be "pretty substantial," but while acknowledging he doesn't know enough about the situation, Bauman could be considered "questionable" today.

Bronco said CB Lee Aguirre could end up sharing some boundary corner snaps with Brandon Bradley, noting that Aguirre has been "really doing a nice job" in practice.

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Bronco said he hopes to have safety Scott Johnson back in the lineup versus Colorado State, but that concussion protocol will determine his availability. The coach said Johnson's replacement Craig Bills graded at "over 80%" in his first college start.

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Bronco still believes in putting the defense on the field to start games when winning the coin toss. BYU has won all three coin tosses and deferred on all three occasions.

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Addressing BYU's recent blowout losses, Bronco said the team needs to "maintain (its) identity," even when in-game deficits are widening. He says BYU has been burned when it starts "taking chances," and says a lot has been learned by watching his team's effort in those recent losses. "The good news is we haven't had to do it much, and the positive news is we know what doesn't work," according to Mendenhall.

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Bronco addressed the divot-laden turf at Edwards Stadium, and while maintaining that he believes the new field was installed properly, players are "slipping" and noting "chunks coming up" during play. He said he might have his own team do a walk-through on the field Friday before the game, to "adjust to it the best we can."

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McKay Jacobson has had only two punt returns (for three yards) in three games, and was taken off the kickoff return team during the Oklahoma game. Bronco says he has no future plans to let Jacobson handle kickoffs, saying offense and punt returns is an appropriate workload for a return missionary. The coach says he is comfortable with kickoff returners Steven Thomas and O'Neill Chambers. BYU's average kickoff return of 16.1 yards ranks 114th nationally. BYU ranks 31st in kickoff return yardage allowed (19.0).

In punt returns, BYU is 113th (1.5), and 24th in return yardage allowed (3.0). Only five teams nationally have fewer than BYU's two punt returns this season.

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