Occasionally this month I am bringing readers excerpts from interviews I conducted with BYU football players during media day last month.
Today, let's hear from running back Mike Alisa, a rising junior who emerged as the Cougars' go-to back about midway through the season. Alisa sprained his ankle in the regular-season finale at Hawaii and did not play in the bowl game.
He was also held out of most of spring camp to allow the ankle to heal.
How is the ankle doing now?
On how his ankle injury is healing:
"I have been 100 percent since spring ball. They kept me out of spring ball as a precaution, but I feel like I could have played. In terms of mobility, it is 100 percent, and I feel great," he said.
More from the Cougar running back:
On how exciting he is to play at Notre Dame:
"That game is going to be absolutely huge for me. I am good friends with Manti Te'o, their middle linebacker. We played Pop Warner football together in Hawaii.
We played together on the JV team at Kahuku High School [before Te'o transferred to Punahou and Alisa to Timpview]. I was at a little New Year's party back in Hawaii after our bowl game and he was there.
We were talking some friendly smack talk leading up to the game, so it is going to be fun."
On his goals for the 2012 season:
"I have set a few goals as far as rushing yards are concerned, but I feel like that's a personal thing. Overall, my goal is to try my hardest and always be there for my teammates. I want to be known as a guy they can count on to get the first down when it is needed, to pick up those four yards when they are needed.
And not only the tough yards, but the long runs as well. So those are my goals, to be a contributor."
On how offseason workouts are going and the atmosphere this year compared to past years:
"I have been here for two offseasons. My freshman year, everybody showed up, but there wasn't always that excitement going around. Last year, not even everyone was showing up for the workouts.
This year, not only is everyone showing up, but there's a lot of excitement. That combination is noticeable. Everybody is there, everybody is excited, and you want to go there the next day.
You work hard as a team, it is amazing what happens. You want to work harder than the guy next to you. It has been fun working out and it has been exciting looking forward to next year.
It is fun to see how much better guys are getting. It just gives you more confidence in our team and in yourself. When you put in that hard work, you have real confidence.
Like last year, we had a bubble. We said we were going to be good, but we weren't working like we were going to be good. This year we are."
On how his approach changes knowing he's going to get carries this year:
"Last year, I was frustrated in the beginning of the season. I think that's the best way to describe my attitude. My brother would always tell me to stay hungry, but don't starve.
So I always had that desire for some opportunities, for some carries, when I wasn't getting them. I think it is important to keep that same chip on your shoulder. You always have to have that fire burning, that drive going, or you will just be a good athlete carrying the ball. The thing that sets you apart is having that mindset, and so I feel like I got a taste of that at the end of the season.
Then I sat out of the bowl game. Seeing the team play without me reminding me of how it was to sit on the sideline and not be able to help your team out. So that definitely re-fueled me for this year."
On whether the BYU offense will click this year:
"I think so. You look at every position, and we are solid. Especially running back, we have so much depth at running back. We have great wide receivers, tall guys who go up there and leap for the ball.
Our offensive line looks like an NFL offensive line, meaning that they are trim, slender guys that are strong and can move. When you have a line like that, the line is the heart of the offense. When you have a line like that, everything else falls into place.
On whether guys are really getting into shape:
"Yes. We are meeting with our nutritionist. We are meeting with weight training specialists. And guys look cut. Not like a Gold's Gym cut. But guys are gaining weight and losing body fat, and that's a season-ready weight, not a combine weight."
Like I mentioned, if you want to see how much this offseason has changed us, look at how the offensive line looks. They have trimmed down. I feel like the coaches have been on the linemen for years about losing weight, and this is the first year they have actually done that. "
On a player that has benefitted a lot from the emphasis on fitness:
"Is Brock Stringham here? This is going to be his first year starting. He was in the 08 class. I would say he is leading the charge for the offensive linemen in getting ripped. It is rare to see an offensive lineman that is actually cut. I mean, he has abs. You can see his abs popping out already. What kind of offensive lineman has that? So he's a good example. It has been impressive. And seeing offensive linemen work like that drives me because if the O-linemen can look like that, how good do I need to look?"
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