BYU practice report: Offense plays faster -- when officials allow it
BYU's offense ran plays at a rapid pace on Monday morning in the five 11-on-11 series that media members were allowed to watch, with Taysom Hill directing two drives, Ammon Olsen getting two shots and juco transfer Christian Stewart getting one chance to move the team. Running plays and shorter pass plays were executed every 12-15 seconds. After long passes, it took more than 20 seconds to get another play off.
Several times, the offense appeared ready to run another play, but the referees had not set the ball for play yet. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae and coach Bronco Mendenhall have noticed.
"It is really fast," Mendenhall said of the pace. "What we found, is that as soon as we had an officiating crew, it slowed it way down. And so I am going to have to do a great job of approaching the officials. My understanding was that Chip Kelly, over his time at Oregon, had 17 officials fired in trying to drive the tempo. So I will be new to that. But from what I saw today, what I saw Saturday, that tempo with officials was much, much slower."
The offense got the ball into the end zone just once -- on Hill's first drive. Jamaal Williams took it in from 31 yards out, after gains of 9 and 10 yards earlier in the possession. Justin Sorensen booted the PAT, and has created even more separation between himself and the other kickers in camp.
"Justin Sorensen has emerged by, I would say, 12 to 15 percentage points in a pretty short amount of time," Mendenhall said. "As we keep applying pressure, he is being more and more consistent."
After a penalty, Nate Carter fumbled the ball away on the next possession. Mathew Relei recovered, and Olsen's first possession was over.
Stewart took over for the third series, and newcomer Luke Nelson (a receiver who was added to the roster on offense when Michael Davis was moved to defense) made a nice catch along the sideline. However, a really bad snap ended the possession.
Hill went back out for the fourth series, but on the first play, Davis picked him off.
"Mike Davis came over on Saturday if I remember right -- might have been Friday afternoon," Mendenhall said of the position switch. "He is learning. Certainly can run, has nice size. Currently is backing up Rob Daniel [at field corner]. Based on how that looks, we will see how that continues. But early reports are that he looks good."
The Cougars are using cards on the sidelines to signal in offensive plays, and Davis might have glanced over to get an idea what play was called.
"There is discrepancy about whether he knew the offensive play, by [looking] at the card. I am just saying it is a nice play. It will probably be 50-50 as you talk to the team about that," Mendenhall joked.
Olsen got the call again for the fifth series, and moved the team down the field until freshman offensive linemen Brayden Kearsley picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Kearsley was ejected and had to do some up-downs, per Garett Tujague's instruction, as punishment for the misdeed. Sorensen trotted onto the field and made a 36-yard field goal.
"For the most part, not bad," Robert Anae said of the offense's day. "Not bad for a Monday coming off a Sunday where we gave them [the day] off."
When I asked Anae if the pace has been to his liking the past few practices, he said, "I do believe we are headed in the right direction."
Mendenhall said the Cougars will scrimmage at the stadium on Wednesday, but apparently hasn't decided whether media will be allowed to watch all, or a portion, or none, of the proceedings.
"You know, that depends," he said when I asked him if reporters could watch this time. "I will be monitoring your behavior from now until then, and I will get back to you."
Saturday's deal at the stadium can't be called a scrimmage because there was no tackling, Anae and Mendenhall said.
"Saturday we were up tempo for the scrimmage -- not for the scrimmage, for the team periods. We had a great officiating crew, cleaned up some things that way. We were able to get some kicks in. Secondary was still beat up, which ended up not allowing us to scrimmage. We will push that one to Wednesday, which will be the last one of fall camp," Mendenhall said. "We were three-deep in the secondary today, which was good. We did a lot of situational work on Saturday -- midfield to end, blue zone, in terms of where to kick, where is our range? When to go for it, etc.
So we were working on game-day management as a coaching staff. And so as we get closer and closer to game day, rather than just move the ball, more and more situations are being emphasized.
No real new injuries to report. Our team is basically the same, but we got Dallin Leavitt back today. Trevor Bateman practiced today. Eric Thornton practiced today in the secondary. So three corners -- that helped in terms of practice. And Mike Hague practiced today as well."
Freshman JonRhyheem Peoples looked good today playing nose tackle with the ones and twos, but seemed to tire out a bit.
"Well, they are learning," Mendenhall said of Peoples and Kalolo Utu, another nose tackle prospect. "Their pads are really high. They have a hard time making it through drill work. They are still learning their assignments. They are really tired. They are not playing hard enough, but they have some potential."
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