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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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Spring camp concludes for BYU football; What's next?

Spring camp continues this week for the Utah State and Utah football teams — and most programs around the country — but it is over for the BYU Cougars.

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BYU wrapped up its 15-practice spring camp last Friday, with quarterback Taysom Hill, coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae all saying a lot of progress was made on the offensive side of the ball. That was the goal going in, Mendenhall said in February.

What now?

Today begins a three-week period in which the players have time away from football and training to focus on their schoolwork and healing up. Finals begin on April 18 and run through April 25 as BYU — which doesn’t have a spring break — concludes the winter semester as early as any school in the country.

"And then, the first day of spring [block], we start full speed again," Mendenhall said.

The coach said every player will have an "exit interview" with his position coach next week.

"And they will each be told exactly where they are finishing spring and what they need to do if they want to move up," Mendenhall said. "Some will be told they won’t be in the 105 for fall camp. Some are on the bubble. Some will be trying out the first day of fall semester. Others will be told you are in the two-deep, or this will be your role. So those meetings will happen with their coaches — not this next week, but the week after."

Because of an NCAA rule change regarding the amount of offseason contact coaches can have with players, coaches will now be able to monitor offseason workouts more closely than ever before.

"So now when we pay for a spring or summer semester… we can actually keep attendance and monitor their workouts," Mendenhall said. "You can have eight hours per week — two of which can be film study — if you want to have those two hours within the eight to be workout, then you can do that. Where it has been before, you couldn’t even take attendance. We will have five weeks basically now of discretionary-voluntary. We will be paying for the school, but players who we were paying for their schooling, we can monitor not only their classes, but their training."

Of course, players will be mostly in charge of those offseason workouts, and Anae said it will be interesting to see if this group is committed to continuing the improvement it showed in spring camp.

"Well this phase now, a lot of it is player-run," Anae said. "Every program is going to step forward, or step back, based on their leadership and their player commitment. So I am hopeful."

Obviously, one of those leaders will be Hill, the junior quarterback who has an awful lot at stake these next two years. His legacy will be cemented — will he leave as simply one of the best running quarterbacks in school history? Or will he go out as one of the top all-around quarterbacks?

"A lot of it is going to be on us. I am encouraged, as I mentioned, because a lot of guys took that upon themselves to learn their position, to learn fronts, coverages, things like that. And my anticipation is to continue to improve on each of those," Hill said. "…. This offseason will be a little bit different. If they are paying for spring semester, they can monitor and mandate various things like that. So they emphasized that. We will get together as a leadership of the team, and organize PRPs and stuff. That’s something that us as players will do, that wasn’t really focused on from the coaching staff, but is something that will be emphasized."

Mendenhall was relaxed and energized on Friday as he talked about the last practice of spring camp. He even left reporters chuckling when I asked him about his performance at the Y Awards when he teamed up on a skit with Studio C.

"I am so glad you asked," Mendenhall quipped. "I thought that would be your first question. Because now, not only am I the head coach at BYU, but I have to deal with Saturday Night Live, and those requests. Letterman is retiring. But there is only so much to go around. How do you travel back East, and do a show, and come back for practice? Studio C, I think would like me to be an official cast member. But I have pretty limited time. So I appreciate you asking."

----------

Monday, BYU announced the signing of former Stanford receiver Keanu Nelson, who is transferring to Provo for his final season of eligibility.

Here's the release:

PROVO, Utah - BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall today announced the signing of wide receiver Keanu Nelson from Stanford University.

Nelson has signed a scholarship agreement with the Cougars and will join the team this summer for the 2014 season. After graduating from Stanford this spring with a bachelor's degree in science, technology and society, he will have one year of eligibility to play for BYU.

"We look forward to having Keanu join our program," Mendenhall said. "He is a talented athlete and his high football IQ should serve him well during his transition while preparing to contribute to our team this season."

The 5-foot-11, 184-pound senior saw action in five games with the Cardinal as a receiver and punt returner. A native of Tucson, Ariz., Nelson was the fourth-best high school recruit from the state of Arizona where he tallied 61 catches, 1,135 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. Over his prep career, he totaled 2,065 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns to go with 994 career punt return yards. An all-state receiver, Nelson was twice named first-team all-region on offense and defense at Sabino High School, the same school as former BYU defensive back Quinn Gooch.



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