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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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Nelson happy with offense's progress

A day after a 60-play scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU's football team will return to the practice grind today, with practices scheduled at 10:20 a.m. and 5 p.m. Originally, media access was going to take place after the second practice tonight, but that's been changed. We will have access to players and coaches after the morning practice, but can't view any of it.

I have a feeling that the media has seen the Cougars practice for the last time this season, as the team's attention turns to preparation for Washington State. There will be no media access to Saturday's practice.

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Coach Bronco Mendenhall was happy with the scrimmage, accomplishing what the coaches set out to do. Here's my report from that, and here's a link to an online-only notebook that's mainly about the race to be the third-string quarterback.

Starting quarterback Riley Nelson was sharp in the scrimmage, and should have a monster year if he stays healthy. That's a big if.

Here are a few comments from Nelson after the scrimmage:

On the scrimmage overall:

"Pretty good. I was excited by the energy guys brought, and guys really cared. We will have to watch the film, as far as execution and things like that. But on the surface, I felt like it went pretty sharp."

On the running game looking good:

"Yeah, it all starts up front. Our guys are doing a good job targeting, and making sure they get a hat on a hat. I was impressed with the push up front today. Then our backs are doing a great job being patient, and exploding through the holes when they are there -- not trying to do too much. We got four and five and three, and then we break one for 12. That's how I foresee our run game going."

On his own performance today:

"I felt pretty comfortable. I missed a couple of throws. I dunno -- I felt like guys were making plays all around me: JD, Cody Hoffman, Brett Thompson made good plays. And when our running game is working like it was, then it makes the pass game pretty easy."

On whether he's feeling more and more comfortable with the receivers he has:

"Yeah, over these past couple of weeks of camp, they have really all become one as a unit. So it doesn't matter who is in there. I know what spot they are going to be in. I know who I can count on. I know I can count upon each guy when called upon. That makes my job easier to be a distributor."

On having the offensive line intact, finally:

"It is good. I am most happy for them to be able to get reps. Because guys don't want to miss practice. Guys want the opportunity to get better and work on things that they may be a little bit lacking in. So I am happy for them to get reps, which means they are healthy enough to practice with us."

On the camaraderie out there today:

"I think it shows .. We definitely feel like a tightknit group inside our locker room."

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I've posted the video of Mendenhall addressing reporters after the scrimmage.

Here's a transcript:

On the format being different:

"That was the intent. We had a little fun, dividing the coaches up and eliminating players we didn't think needed to play, and then we took whatever remainder one offense we had against whatever remainder one defense. So they were on opposite teams. Same with the twos.

So yeah, it was fun. Good to have guys cheering for each other a little bit, and basically, a fairly clean conclusion to really what camp is going to be. A couple clean-up days tomorrow and the next day, and then Washington State [preparation] starts Monday.

And no injuries today. Which is [good]. Man, you kind of keep your fingers crossed, but we held out quite a few players to make sure that didn't happen. So yeah, overall a good day, I think."

On what performances pleased him:

"I liked the offensive line and the running backs. I thought the run game looked really good. Probably 5 or 6 yards a carry. But also with guys [running hard]. I mean, David Foote is hard to tackle. Paul Lasike is hard to tackle. Adam Hine showed some potential, and some good lead blocking.

So yeah, I liked that part a lot."

On whether any backup QBs separated themselves:

"I think it is the same, as of right now. I don't think anything emerged differently than maybe what it has been to this point."

On Adam Hine's performance:

"I thought he did a nice job. A little bit more breakaway than what we have been able to see. A few longer runs than any at fall camp so far. So you could see him not only get to the second level, but then make someone miss and run away. So that was good."

On how the defensive line depth is looking:

"If I were to say today, it is probably Mike Muehlmann at five and Remington Peck at six. With Bronson Kaufusi closing fast after his mission, if you were to say today.

So you take out the four seniors, and those are probably five and six, as of today."

On freshman defensive lineman Theodore King:

"Has a lot of potential. Just a true freshman, though, so ways to go."

On the hiccups with the offense where QBs had to call timeout, etc.

"I would say a couple things contributed: the division of the staff, not having full communications set up, some guys doing different roles that they haven't done. So probably to be expected because of the way we designed it. ... Had a really good officiating crew from the Big 12, so that helped."

On what he likes about the offensive line:

"They are physical, and they have depth. So they are big and they are leaner. They are more physical, and there are more of them. So that leads to just sustained push."

On defensive lineman Ian Dulan:

"They put about a two-week time frame on [his recovery from back pain and an injection]. So that it will be bumping right up against the first game. Basically, two weeks from now."

On why Jamaal Williams didn't play:

"Ankle wasn't quite right. Just wasn't quite ready."

On whether he was displeased with the missed tackles:

"Oh, I think number of opportunities will be really helpful. We are trying to find out exactly who in our linebacker group becomes the next group of [starters]. So this will be really valuable to see who actually made plays when the ball got to them and who didn't. And a lot of balls got to them today, which, based on the matchups, probably should have."

On whether only one defense-caused turnovers in two scrimmages is a concern:

"Based on perspective, for ball security, it is great. From a defensive perspective, you want a lot more out. So yeah, but I also think if you look at personnel and the matchups that were involved in those scrimmages, that has a lot to do with it."

On game day being two weeks away:

"Right now, I am fairly, I dunno, comfortable is not the right word. I just think we are on track. Two more days to clean up different things scheme-wise, and then our attention will turn [to Washington State]. So yeah, most of it has been to identify personnel, which I think we have a great handle on, and insertion was done mostly yesterday. So a few cleanups here or there, and some roles to discuss, still, offensively. And then some special teams work still remains to get where I would feel comfortable.

But two weeks, that is reasonable."

On whether Taysom Hill is going to play this season:

"I would say it is likely."

On whether there is concern that Justin Sorensen isn't kicking yet:

"Sure. Sure. Every day that he doesn't kick adds increasing concern. I am still not coming off what I am hoping for, and that is Washington State. But yeah, each day that there is not kicking, I am more concerned."

On whether Riley Stephenson can placekick:

"I think so. We just have to do more work on identifying where his range is. So again, we are kind of holding out for the other, but it is not like Riley has only been punting until then."

On the matchup problems Cody Hoffman presents:

"Size and speed and with Riley's scrambling ability, you have to cover him for a long time, and that's tough for anybody."

On when Ross Apo will be back in contact stuff:

"We are expecting him back, but I don't know the number of days."

On whether he's still high on Iona Pritchard:

"I think he has been consistent. He was so impressive early in camp, it was hard to be better than that. So I think he has just been consistent."



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