Provo • BYU’s biggest question marks this season are supposed to be on defense as the Cougars try to find adequate replacements for Kyle Van Noy, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Uani Unga and Daniel Sorensen.
But if Friday night’s scrimmage in front of about 12,000 fans at LaVell Edwards showed anything, it is that the offense isn’t just going to roll into Connecticut in two weeks and click like a well-oiled machine.
There were false starts, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, a pair of interceptions and a bobble by quarterback Taysom Hill, among other miscues.
“Part of it was being very aggressive. We want the ball downfield, we want the ball delivered more. We want the emphasis on throwing. We want more emphasis on bigger plays. I would like to have to rein it back a bit than encouraging them to take those shots. So I wasn’t discouraged by that,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Still, coaches will have plenty to nitpick about, despite some excellent running by Jamaal Williams and Adam Hine and some nice catches by Devon Blackmon, Trey Dye, Kurt Henderson and Keanu Nelson.
“So while I saw the potential, I did not see the consistency, in terms of execution,” Mendenhall said. “So if there is something I would like to focus on, it will be more consistency, cleaner play, and being able to sustain drives more cleanly. But what I did see was more athleticism, a little bit more dynamic [play] than what I thought. So I liked that part.”
One of the key position battles during camp has been at free safety, with senior Craig Bills having locked up one of the spots and seemingly moving to the KAT (strong) safety spot occupied last year by Daniel Sorensen.
Mendenhall said last week that sophomore Kai Nacua was probably the frontrunner, and it certainly appeared that way Friday as the hard-hitter from Las Vegas got the start at free safety.
“There are a few guys who have emerged,” said Bills, who missed the last scrimmage with a slight groin strain, and not a hip flexor as was initially reported. “It was going to be interesting to see what happens.”
Other candidates include Dallin Leavitt, Skye PoVey, Chris Badger and Nebraska transfer Harvey Jackson.
On the sidelines
Mendenhall said before the scrimmage that every healthy player would see action, but there were a surprisingly high number of guys who will likely be on the two-deep chart who did not get in the 12-series event.
“Yeah, and the handful [that were held out] had some form of bump or bruise or injury. So we didn’t hold any out just because they are a starter,” Mendenhall said.
Those who didn’t see action included linebackers Bronson Kaufusi, Alani Fua, Manoa Pikula and Harvey Langi, who suffered a bruised knee in practice Wednesday.
Receiver Ross Apo, offensive linemen Brayden Kearsley and Tuni Kanuch, nose tackles Kesni Tausinga, Marques Johnson and Travis Tuiloma and cornerback Rob Daniel also didn’t play.
Offensive lineman Solomone Kafu, who started in 11 games last year, suffered an ankle injury during the second series and did not return. … Receiver Nick Kurtz watched the scrimmage from the sidelines while wearing a blue cast on his left foot. Mendenhall said Kurtz’s foot injury is the only major injury of camp, to date.
BYU at Connecticut
O Aug. 29, 5 p.m.
TV • ESPN