So the first day of BYU's 2013 preseason football camp is in the books, and it was a memorable one. With temperatures in the 90s in Provo, the Cougars went for a good three hours. There was a lot of conditioning work, as expected.
"Man, that was a tough practice," quarterback Taysom Hill said.
Overall, coach Bronco Mendenhall said he liked what he say on Day I:
"I was excited and pleased with the willingness of our team. But they fought through the rust. They certainly were not used to the pace, even though they were asked to remember, through the summer, what it was going to be like," he said. "Hard to simulate without coaches chasing, etc. So they were willing, but 'rusty' would be the way that I would describe today."
One of the themes of spring camp was how offensive coordinator Robert Anae was looking to instill the same dedication to conditioning into the offensive players as Mendenhall has with the defensive players. He also liked what he saw.
"I can tell that the guys have done really good work over the summer," Anae said. "That's obvious. Those were my first impressions. They did due diligence in conditioning, and we are at a much better starting point, condition-wise, and much more familiar with the schemes. They kind of know where to go."
In my estimation, the biggest news to come out of BYU camp Day I was the revelation by Mendenhall that a couple players vying to be the starting boundary corner -- Mike Hague and juco transfer Sam Lee -- quite likely won't participate in camp at all and might not play until Week 2 or Week 3 of the season. Suddenly, that position looks very, very shaky.
My article for Sunday's newspaper focuses on that concern.
"Man, a couple of really unique injuries," Mendenhall said, when asked about the depth at cornerback. "So we lost Trenton Trammell in the spring, and then Sam Lee had a back injury. So he is a junior college player hat we were counting on coming in. He had a back injury and he's an early season return as well. We just don't know how early.
Really impressed with Dallin Leavitt, as a true freshman, and Rob Daniel, a JC player. And so that has helped.
Again, backup field corner, Trevor Bateman is coming off an ACL [injury] and so we will have to kind of see how that looks, also."
Jordan Johnson is the unquestioned starter at field corner. Adam Hogan, a senior from Southwest College in Los Angeles, ran with the twos at that position on Saturday. Daniel ran with the twos at field corner, behind Leavitt.
The safeties were Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills, as expected. Skye PoVey, Blake Morgan, Drew Reilly and Michael Wadsworth also saw action today at either the safety position, or nickel back. Speaking of PoVey, it was brought to my attention that he is actually a junior, having received his year back from the NCAA. He is correctly listed as a junior on the roster BYU handed out Saturday, but is called a senior in the media guide, which was printed a month ago.
Mendenhall seemed to be more concerned about the depth at nose tackle than at boundary corner.
"On day 1, man, my defensive room was full today," he said. "I can't say it is going to end like that. Two-deep right now, I feel pretty confident. The main objective for the defense this fall camp is to solidify the nose tackle position, make sure we get a starter and a backup.
I see some candidates that are likely. A lot of the focus will be there. The rest of the depth, really, isn't that much of a concern. Possibly finding a backup field corner."
One of the candidates to replace the graduated Romney Fuga at nose tackle is Marques Johnson, a 305-pound junior from El Camino CC in California.
"Marques has had a transformation. Man, he was one of the players at the end of spring when he was told where he stood and what he was going to have to do, from what I saw today, he has worked really hard," Mendenhall said.
Kyle Van Noy did a little bit of stretching, jogged a little bit, and coached up his teammates more than anything else on Saturday. The All-American said he is OK and there's nothing to be concerned about after Mendenhall described why the senior was not seeing live action on Day I. "I'm not nursing an injury," Van Noy said with a laugh.
Here's Mendenhall on why KVN sat out:
"Kyle had a slight hamstring tweak in conditioning prior to coming into camp. He will be coaching younger players, he will be conditioning on his own, possibly two weeks from now we will ramp him up, to give him maybe the last week of camp and game week and he should be ready.
But the risk vs. the return right now -- hamstrings take a long time [to heal] and I would rather not make it worse, if possible."
Running back Mike Alisa also skipped contact drills and the like.
"Mike is expected to be able to play for the Virginia game," Mendenhall said. "Two more weeks with non-contact cast on, and then he will be ready to go. He will probably have 10 days before we play."
The Cougars had three special teams sessions at practice Saturday, with big chunks of time dedicated to the kicking game. All three kickers in camp -- senior Justin Sorensen, juco transfer Trevor Samson and returned missionary Vance "Moose" Bingham out of Alta High -- got a chance to show what they could do.
Sorensen made a field goal (about 25 yards) and a couple of PATs. Samson was wide right on three straight FG tries from about 37 yards. Bingham drilled a couple PATs and/or short field goals.
"We have a difficult schedule, and anticipate close games. We are going to have to kick field goals and extra points to win," Mendenhall said. "We have three kickers in camp, and we intend to add more focus to it like we did today. There were three special teams periods. You will see that from now until when we play. And we would love to find consistency, where we can kick from, and who is going to do it."
Mendenhall on Taysom Hill's play in the first practice:
"I didn't notice it, quite frankly. There were so many players I was chasing around, and so many going the wrong way, and so many that I am trying to watch that I couldn't really give you an accurate account, other than his leadership is off the charts. He's doing a really nice job that way."
Mendenhall on the energy level and how they came in:
"Energy wise, and mentality, I am pleased, remembering the expectation. They had forgotten some of it, but not all of it."
Mendenhall on rumors that Tayo Fabuluje is trying to come back to BYU. He recently announced that he is leaving TCU's program:
"I can't talk about it. And I don't know anything about it, anyway. Tayo left our program, freshman year if I remember correctly. He was a great young man. I know he went to TCU and played really well. And then I read ... that Tayo had quit the team. He has friends on our team, but I don't know any more than that."
Mendenhall on what prompted the wearing of royal blue for Utah game:
"I like the tradition of BYU, and the history of BYU. That particular game seems a fitting kind of closure, at least to that game, for a couple of years. So it was just to add emphasis on how strongly I feel about that game, the rivalry, and I believe that it should be played every year."
Mendenhall on scheduling Utah and USU late in year down the road:
"Yeah, we are making a lot of progress that way, and I think when you see the schedules continue to come out, we are adding some really strong opponents toward the end of the season. It is just learning about independence and our schedules are gaining momentum in terms of difficulty, but also in terms of balance not only in type of opponent, but spacing from opening games to the end. Still not ideal, but we are making progress."
BYU coaches did get some good news on Saturday. Defensive back Kavika Fonua of Syracuse High in Davis County (Utah) committed to BYU. I hope to have more on that in coming days if I can get in touch with the hard-hitting safety.