Provo • There was unmistakeable weariness in BYU quarterback Riley Nelson’s voice when he talked to reporters after the Cougars’ 11th practice of preseason camp on Saturday, and even a hint of frustration.
“Forgive me for not having as many quips as normal,” Nelson said, when asked why he seemed a bit despondent. “Let’s just say I am grateful for the Sabbath [tomorrow].”
But while the starting quarterback was emotionally and physically drained, coach Bronco Mendenhall was pleased — even buoyed — through the ninth day.
“We are working and improving each day,” Mendenhall said. “... The effort is consistent, so I think we are actually gaining momentum.”
The coach is especially happy that there has been just one serious injury so far — tight end Devin Mahina’s broken hand will sideline him for about a month — which he sees as confirmation that his annual plan of avoiding contact and tackling in camp as much as possible is working.
The Cougars resume camp on Monday, with practices at 10:20 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Mendenhall said they will conduct another scrimmage on Thursday this week, most likely at the stadium.
The depth chart is starting to take shape, and Mendenhall said he might “share a few things” regarding specific position battles after Monday’s second practice when he meets with reporters.
Only a few starting spots were truly up for grabs entering camp, namely tight end, right guard and field corner.
Sophomore Brock Stringham was emerging as the probable starter at right guard before an ankle injury sidelined him twice last week; junior Austin Holt is getting a leg up on the tight end race with Mahina out and Marcus Mathews ill all week.
What’s clear, though, is that four or five tight ends will play this year, with Kaneakua Friel and Richard Wilson also in the mix.
Sophomore Jordan Johnson appears to have locked up the starting field corner spot. Junior Spencer Hadley was the presumed starter at strongside linebacker, but sophomore Alani Fua has drawn even with a strong showing the first half of camp.
As for Nelson, he spoke Saturday of his desire to see some continuity along the offensive line, after working with hodgepodge lines the first nine days.
“Of course it is a worry. But nothing we can do about it, so we will just keep getting work with the guys that we have, and in the meantime, hopefully those guys are doing everything they can to get on the field. We need them. That’s for sure,” he said. “I haven’t had the same five guys in front of me from one day to the next. That’s frustrating.”