Cougs' camp at midpoint, but questions remain
Provo » The BYU Cougars hit the midway point of fall camp on Tuesday, practicing for the 11th time since opening on Aug. 8.
But if you are looking for a midterm report card from BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall , you aren't going to get one.
"A lot of the things are verified that we knew," Mendenhall said. "There is always a personnel surprise here or there. But my general thoughts are the same as when we came into camp."
Which is to say, Mendenhall likes his football team, but knows there are some questions still left unanswered, mainly due to injuries that have kept several projected starters off the field.
For instance, perhaps the biggest position battle was supposed to take place at field corner. Redshirt freshman Robbie Buckner looked good the first few days of camp, but tweaked a hamstring and hasn't been on the field since. He did dress for Tuesday's open practice (about 800 folks attended), but didn't participate in the 11-on-11 scrimmages where spots are won and lost.
"We are just trying to integrate him slowly back into it," Mendenhall said.
Brian Logan , the transfer from Foothill College, has worked out with the first team in Buckner's absence and looked OK, especially in run support. The other juco transfer battling for the spot, Corby Eason of Erie (N.Y.) Community College, had an interception Tuesday to thrust himself back on the radar.
Bottom line is the Cougs probably won't know what they have there, or who, until a few games into the season, Mendenhall said, noting that the depth at corner is better than it has been in several years.
"I think we have a good situation there," he said.
Injuries have also made it difficult for coaches to get a read on one of the other question marks, offensive line. At least, the unit has seemingly gotten its penchant for false-start penalties under control, after some woeful performances last week.
Running back Manase Tonga watched practice in street clothes Tuesday and is still waiting word on whether he will be cleared to re-join the team after sitting out in 2008 due to academic ineligibility. Tonga first has to get B-minus or better grades in a history class and a biology class he took from Utah Valley University this summer. The grades are due to be posted any day now.
Then he must go before a BYU admissions committee and be accepted again into the school.
"I have no idea what to tell you [will happen]," Mendenhall said.
Field goal woes
Speaking of question marks, Mendenhall has a new headache: kicker Mitch Payne 's field-goal accuracy.
Payne was 0-for-3 on short-range field goals Tuesday and has generally been unimpressive at fall camp. Punter Riley Stephenson was a record-setting kicker at St. George's Pine View High and could get a look there if Payne doesn't improve, Mendenhall said.
"We are concerned not only in the protection, but in our accuracy," Mendenhall said. "We are doing a lot more of that work live than we are doing pre-practice like we have over the past couple of years."
Safety Shiloah Te'o practiced with the linebackers Tuesday and was used there in some situational scrimmages. Mendenhall said Te'o is still considered a safety, but could be used in possible "nickel" or "dime" defensive packages in an effort to get more speed and athleticism on the field against spread offenses. ... The Cougars won't have a full scrimmage until Saturday; Mendenhall had entertained the idea of scrimmaging Wednesday, but decided against it. ... Linebacker Jordan Pendleton missed Tuesday's practice to attend the funeral of his maternal grandfather in St. George.
What we learned » The Cougs could have some problems in the placekicking department. Mitch Payne was 0-for-3 on short field goals Tuesday.
Who was hot » TE Dennis Pitta was a third-down machine, catching five passes for 45 yards and a TD.
Looking ahead » Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he was thinking about scrimmaging on Wednesday, but will instead wait until Saturday.