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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 and quotes from a chat with BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall today

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that I spoke to BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall this morning on a teleconference with other beat reporters who cover the team. I tweeted out a few of the more newsworthy things that Mendenhall said in the interview that was done so writers could put together articles for their newspapers about football recruiting. Signing day is Wednesday.

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Anyway, here’s a roundup of all that, along with some other noteworthy items.

First, let’s get to what Mendenhall said when he was asked what stands out about last season, and what was learned. Usually, Mendenhall has a sit-down session with reporters who cover the team in early January to rehash the season, but that wasn’t set up this year. So this will have to suffice.

"I think there are a couple very simple takeaways," Mendenhall said. "First of all, as we continue to play better and better teams, which is our intent, and the difficulty of schedule, there are some fantastic learning challenges at the same time. What we know is we will be playing the majority of those teams on the road.

I strongly believe our program moved forward last year from the year before, and in relation to where we need to go. I am very confident in the direction we are headed.

We were two, three, four plays short of winning games at Notre Dame, Wisconsin, our bowl game against Washington, and probably any of the losses we had, even earlier in the season, versus Virginia and Utah.

The takeaways are that points are ultimately what matters. And so when we get in the red zone, we have to be able to get touchdowns rather than field goals.

More explosive plays, through the air, has to be part of what happens. More balance, and effectiveness in our offense.

I would say those things in particular are the main takeaways to being able to beat the best teams we play in the settings we are going to play them in.

With the style and tempo now that we are playing, we also need to add more depth to sustain playing those teams week in and week out so our special teams can be strong enough, with good enough players, to allow our best offensive and defensive players to not have even more plays than they are playing simply because we have added volume."

Mendenhall addressed a lot of personnel matters, perhaps the most newsworthy stuff of the day. A sampling;

* Michael Davis, who was recruited as a receiver before being moved to cornerback last season due to injuries at that spot, will move back to receiver "for this spring and going forward," Mendenhall said.

* Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi will move to outside linebacker and will play opposite blossoming superstar Alani Fua in the 3-4 defense Bronco employs.

* Tuni Kanuch, who tore a pectoral muscle and missed the entire season, will be moved from defensive line to offensive line. Kanuch was an excellent offensive lineman at Bingham High before signing with BYU.

* Running back Mike Alisa will return for a final season, but will play outside linebacker this coming year.

* Junior college defensive back Trenton Trammell, who blew out his knee the first day of spring camp last year, will participate in spring ball. "Trenton is winning almost every drill. Not only speed drills, but change of direction drills," Mendenhall said.

* Defensive back Jordan Johnson, who blew out a knee early in fall camp last August, will not participate in spring camp but is "very close to being able to return to full speed."

* Backup quarterback Ammon Olsen, as previously reported, has transferred to Southern Utah University. Mendenhall said that Olsen began realizing midway through last season that he wouldn’t get a chance to play with Taysom Hill being his same year in school. Olsen and Mendenhall talked several times about Olsen finding another school, but Ammon wanted to wait to make sure he would not lose a year of eligibility if he transferred. When his petition to the NCAA came back with the news that he could transfer without penalty, he did so.

"If that was not going to happen, he was going to stay," Bronco said.

Mendenhall said he couldn’t think of any other player who might be transferring.

* Bronco said BYU probably will not sign a prep quarterback on Wednesday, but is keeping a scholarship spot open for a quarterback if they find one between now and the start of fall camp.

"There wasn’t a ton of time to find another quarterback. So rather than rush it and not find the ideal quarterback, we will probably keep the spot open, continue to assess needs for another quarterback in our program, maybe all the way up until the season, knowing that we think we can manage without it, but I would probably feel more comfortable if there was one."

Unfortunately, I failed to ask Bronco who becomes Hill’s primary backup, sophomore Billy Green or senior juco transfer Christian Stewart. My guess is that it will be Stewart.

* Bronco praised the work of new player personnel director Geoff Martzen, who was hired a year ago from Alabama.

"The addition of Geoff Martzen, our player personnel director, has made a giant difference in our program. I am very impressed how he has been able to direct our recruiting, and organizationally it is much better," Mendenhall said.

* Mendenhall was asked about the players who will be returning from LDS Church missions, and whether any will have an impact. Here are some that he named off the top of his head:

* Defensive lineman Graham Rowley, who played some before mission.

* Defensive lineman Travis Tuiloma, who played some before mission

* Defensive lineman Kesni Tausinga, who didn’t play before mission.

* Defensive end/tight end Tanner Balderee, a recruit from Oregon who signed late in 2011 and then went on a mission before playing.

* Outside linebacker Adam Pulsipher and Austin Heder.

* Offensively, he mentioned former Hunter High offensive lineman Lui Lapuaho, offensive lineman Brian Rawlinson out of Oklahoma and former Springville football and basketball star Matt Sumsion as RMs who might be able to get some playing time this fall.

* Mendenhall said the biggest need BYU coaches tried to address with the group of players who will sign on Wednesday was wide receiver. Second-biggest need was outside linebacker. He said there was a big drop-off in terms of need after that.

Does that mean he’s comfortable with the offensive lineman already in the program?

He said he mostly is, and believes that unit will be much-improved in 2014. He also said as many as six new faces will bolster the unit, including the aforementioned Kanuch and the RMs, Lapuaho and Rawlinson. He also mentioned Corbin Kaufusi and Manu Mulitalo as possible impact players on the offensive line. They are also coming back from missions.

Also, former Alta High offensive lineman Jordan Black, who missed the 2013 season with an injury, is healthy again and ready to compete for a starting spot.

Mendenhall also talked about an experience he had talking to Duke coach David Cutcliffe about BYU being the most unique coaching job in the country, about negative recruiting on the rise against BYU, and much more. I think I will save that stuff, and more, for another post.

So come back later for more.



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