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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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BYU practice report: Probable starters Kaufusi, Kanuch finally back on the field

Last week, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall issued Ice-Bucket Challenges to Utah media members.

Tuesday, he passed out doughnuts. Well, sort of.

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Some NFL scouts who showed up to watch practice Tuesday apparently arrived with Krispy Kremes, and three were left over after the coaching staff was finished with them. So Bronco told us he would give them to whomever asked the best questions.

As I’ve mentioned several times the past few weeks, Mendenhall is as loose and easy-going this camp as I’ve seen him in seven years of covering the team. He’s laughed more during interviews this month than the last three years combined.

The first doughnut went to a woman who asked if she could have one; the second went to a radio guy who pointed out there were 10 days until the opener and asked how training camp was going.

In between, Mendenhall was asked about the third-string kicker. Seriously. No doughnut for you.

"We have a good team. I like where we are. Some odds and ends to trim up. Field goal work today, in terms of substitutions and timing and pressure. So it is becoming more specific and situational now. I like where we are," Mendenhall said of BYU’s camp progress. "We will have one more scrimmage tomorrow morning for younger players, who are working their way to get on the travel team, and to possibly establish some depth or a special teams role. Then we will move on to UConn."

The Cougars practiced indoors because it rained in Provo this morning, and the media viewed the last portion in time to see some nice throws by Taysom Hill and a field-goal kicking duel.

Hill threw long TD passes to Devon Blackmon and Mitch Mathews.

The Mathews catch was a highlight-reel type grab, as the junior bobbled the ball at first and then corralled it after some contortions.

Trevor Samson seemed to keep his tenuous lead in the kicker battle, making and missing 51-yarders when Moose Bingham missed his long-range tries.

Mendenhall said that after Monday Samson was leading the race by two percentage points. As for the third-string kicker, Andrew Mikkelsen, he’s out with a sore back. Mikkelsen is the best kickoff man, Mendenhall said.

Perhaps the best sign for BYU at the practice Tuesday was that LB Bronson Kaufusi and OL Tuni Kanuch were out there practicing, after having missed the first two weeks of camp with injuries. OL Brayden Kearsley, who did not participate in the scrimmage last Friday, was also out there. So were Robertson Daniel and Jordan Johnson, guys I didn’t seen in the scrimmage Friday.

Players were in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads.

Linebackers Alani Fua, Zac Stout and Harvey Langi didn’t practice today.

Of Kaufusi finally getting on the practice field, Mendenhall said: "Yeah, it will ease [the transition]. It is not the same as having played that spot. He’s had two live practices to this point. I would preferred to having had him had much more. But his experience last year will help him. But he will need the rest of the time to get ready for the opener."

Mendenhall said coaches will release a depth chart "probably by the end of the week, I would say Friday-ish."

Here’s more from the coach:

On whether they have had a safety emerge opposite Craig Bills:

"Not yet. Dallin Leavitt and Kai Nacua right now both will play. Who will start, how much they will play, and in what situations, still to be determined with that."

On which mike linebackers have emerged:

"Still determining that as well. Zac Stout, Harvey Langi, those two to start with. Toloa’i Ho Ching is in the mix as well. So we are deep there. Still working on a starter."

On whether Tuni Kanuch could start and overcome having not played much in camp:

"He would be similar to Bronson in terms of if he is healthy, and if he could practice every day, from yesterday, which is when he started, until UConn, that is possible. .. I would [put Manoa Pikula] in that mix too. Manoa can play both spots, so I should have included him in that mix. He can play either or."

On whether anything stood out from film from scrimmage on Friday night:

"Really, just the discipline and the consistency, or lack thereof, offensively. So I see all kinds of potential. But really, the focus there is playing penalty free and more consistency. That is going to determine more points."

On who punt returner is:

"Probably between Jordan Leslie and Keanu Nelson, if I were to choose today."

On how effective camp plan this year was in relation to past years:

"Man, I have liked it. We are healthier, we are deeper, and we have had more volume in terms of team reps. So when you put that combination together, I think that has been really good."

On how they have dealt with pace:

"Yeah, we have. I still think the efficiency and the production within each play could be higher. So, what is happening now is we are getting flashes of that, in terms of yards per play. But the consistency still has to catch up to a level that I feel more comfortable with and that’s what you hope from scrimmage."

On the pace at scrimmage:

"One of the good things about when we scrimmaged, in the evening, was about having to manage the day, much of the time when we are going on the road and you have to sit aournd all day. So I think anxiety, energy and enthusiasm built up a little bit, So I think that contributed to some extent, so it was good to do that."

On how they have stayed healthier this camp:

"We have altered our practice structure. I am not comfortable sharing that. We have made some really cool changes. I think they have been good."

On his own health:

"I feel great. I have been rejuvenated. I am stronger than ever."

On what Christian Stewart brings:

"A backup quarterback. That was one of the biggest questions coming in, and I think he has answered that in fall camp. I am really comfortable with where he is."

On whether he would be comfy if Stewart was the starter:

"Yeah, I like him a lot. And knowing how much Taysom likes to run it, and not slide, or run guys over and all that, which we are still working on, there’s a chance Christian will have to be called. I feel good about it."

On who would start at defensive line if season started today:

"Let’s see, Travis Tuiloma, Graham Rowley and Remington Peck. Logan Taele, really close. He’s had a fantastic camp. Tanner Balderee, really close. Marques Johnson. We have probably up to seven [that could start]. There are nine that could play, but up to seven, I feel very good about [starting]."

On who would start at cornerback:

"Man, if we went today, maybe Jordan Preator, and either Trent [Trammell], Michael [Davis]. It is still kinda open there. So tomorrow will have something to do with that."

On how Edward Fusi is doing:

"He has battled hard, and he is actually battling to be a center and a guard."

On whether Rob Daniel will be a safety:

"I think so. I think Rob is our best defensive back, currently. So the corner battle will have something to do with where he fits, and the safety battle will have something to do with where he fits, so man, there are quite a few options left in the secondary, how that might work."

On whether all the position battles have been productive:

"Competition has driven the pace of production of our team. It is probably the No. 1 takeaway from our fall camp this year, is the effect of competition. There really hasn’t a place where we haven’t had it, which has really increased the production at every spot."



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