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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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Notes from BYU football media day

It's about time to leave the BYU Broadcast Building after another Cougar Football Media Day that very much resembled the first one -- although this one was in June.

Having done individual interviews with coach Bronco Mendenhall, assistant coaches Joe DuPaix, Nick Howell and Brandon Doman, former players John Beck, Max Hall and Austin Collie and current players Kyle Van Noy, Riley Nelson, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Marcus Mathews, Mike Alisa, Brandon Ogletree, Preston Hadley and Cody Hoffman, there's way too much material to post here.

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But that's what July is for, right?

I'm assuming many saw the BYUtv broadcast of the first hour, so I will keep that part short here.

Perhaps the most resonating statement was made by athletic director Tom Holmoe, who said regarding BYU's current place in the college football world: "We are who we are and we like who we are."

If anything was said about the Big 12, the Big East, or any other conference that might include BYU in the future, I didn't hear it.

One of the main notions I took away from the day is that BYU has settled into independence, likes it, and probably isn't going anywhere in the near future.

Holmoe acknowledged that he was nervous about independence at this time last year, then called the year "a good success."

Of course, the pair took questions regarding the new college football playoff system, set to take place after the 2014 season.

"I think it's better," Holmoe said. ".... I think it is better than it was."

Is it better for BYU?

"There are not automatic qualifiers, so you don't have to worry about that," Holmoe said. "All we can do is play our very best. If we're good, we will be recognized by the nation."

As expected, Mendenhall brought up the exposure BYU has received as an independent via its deal with ESPN and resource known as BYUtv. He said in an interview with print reporters that if he had known what the exposure would be like, he would have opted to go independent a dozen years ago.

Reflecting on his seven-year tenure, Mendenhall said he is proud of the "completeness" of his program.

"That sets the stage for the next level, which we are anxious to purse," he said. "There's something else, and we are after that."

Another hot topic was the future of the BYU-Utah rivalry game. Nothing is scheduled beyond the Sept. 15 game, and Utah announced Wednesday that it has scheduled a two-game series with Michigan, which probably further drives the nail into the coffin.

Mendenhall and Holmoe reiterated that they would like to continue the rivalry, and Holmoe flat-out said the ball is pretty much in Utah's court right now.

"There may be reasons why they might want to drop it," he said. "If they do, that's their choosing, but we do not want to drop it, and we want to keep going forward."

Mendenhall said that he loves the series with Notre Dame and would love for it to be the last game of the year. He also said he wouldn't mind playing Utah State every year as the last game of the year, either.

Mendenhall spent about a half-hour talking to print reporters and was candid and blunt, as usual. The thing about Mendenhall is that when he's asked a question, he considers it thoughtfully, then delivers an on-point answer. He doesn't duck questions.

I will have a lot more later, but here are a few odds and ends that came out of our chat with the coach:

* Bronco said he spent two weeks in New Zealand in late May/early June and spoke 30 times in 10 days, mostly to church groups.

* Bronco said that safety Jray Galea'i and receiver Rhen Brown have quit football due to chronic issues. Both will remain in school, on scholarship, and Galea'i will help coach the team because he wants to be a coach after he graduates. Defensive lineman Jordan Richardson also has nagging back issues, but is going to continue playing if he can.

* Bronco said he didn't balk when asked to move the Boise State game to a Thursday, just five days after the Cougars play at Utah. "I really embrace the idea of standing alone" on the national stage in a Thursday night game, he said.

* I asked Bronco for a hint regarding the 2013 schedule -- nothing new was announced, and the Cougars still have four holes in the schedule -- and he wouldn't bite. However, he said the 2013 schedule "will be the toughest yet."

* Bronco said the Cougars are in the process of hiring a replacement for head athletic trainer Kevin Morris, who stepped away because he has been called to be a bishop in his LDS ward and because he is going into private practice.

* I asked Mendenhall why the Cougars are getting so many early commits for 2013 class -- they had 16 at last count -- after he said last January that the staff was going to be more selective and offer fewer scholarships early.

"More and more really good players are coming to our camp," he said.

* Mendenhall said the fact that BYU pipeline Timpview High just hired Cary Whittingham, brother of Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, as its head coach will not effect the Cougars' recruiting success at that school. "The kid makes the decision, not the coach," he said.

Not a lot of huge news came out of the mouths of the players. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy did acknowledge that he will take it slow the first few weeks of camp, on doctor's orders, as he recovers from shoulder surgery. He could go most of the camp, if not all, without hitting. But he said he will be ready to go in the opener against Washington State.

Mike Alisa said he is totally recovered from the ankle injury that caused him to miss spring ball and said he has gained 15 pounds.

Tight end Marcus Mathews is up to 235 pounds in his quest to bulk up and said he has gotten big enough to line up off the tackle, and not just in the slot.

Cody Hoffman told me that freshman quarterback Taysom Hill has looked phenomenal in seven-on-seven drills and has the potential to be "a really special player" when his time comes. "A great athlete," Hoffman said.

The junior receiver acknowledged that he could leave BYU for the NFL after this upcoming season if he has a sensational season and gets some assurances that he would be drafted high. But he said he will "most likely" return for his senior year. He said he's been working on his speed all summer, but wouldn't say if he is faster than he was a year ago.

All for now. More in the next month leading up to the opening of camp on Aug. 1. First practice is Aug. 2.



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