Provo • Although this is the seventh spring camp he has presided over, BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall said it "feels like a fresh start" as the Cougars kicked off a four-week run of 15 practice sessions on Monday at the practice field behind the Student Athlete Building on campus.
Obviously, the coach was referring to the fact that the offensive coaching staff has a new look, with Brandon Doman now the offensive coordinator and new hires Joe DuPaix (running backs) and Ben Cahoon (receivers) on the job for the first time.
He certainly wasn't talking about the quarterback situation, and he made that clear by stating plainly that the competition isn't wide open, like it was last year at this time.
"Jake [Heaps] is the starter going into spring," Mendenhall said. "Riley [Nelson] or others will have to take the job from him from how they perform in spring [or] fall camp. That's the way we are going to start."
Sure enough, in the team session Heaps got the majority of the reps, completing 8 of 10 passes for 64 yards. Nelson, back from midseason shoulder surgery, threw three passes and James Lark threw four.
"Even though this is our seventh year, it almost feels like beginning again, but from a lot further place than where we started six years ago," Mendenhall said.
While all the expected stars for 2011 participated Monday, Mendenhall announced some personnel issues and departures after practice. Most notably:
• Defensive end Thomas Bryson and linebacker Collin Keoshian have left school for personal reasons. There's a good chance Bryson will be back this fall; Keoshian will probably try to play somewhere closer to his home in California.
• Safety Kory Gaines and linebacker Jadon Wagner have been removed from the team for a violation of team rules, but will be allowed back in the fall if certain requirements are met.
• Safety Jray Galea'i, linebacker Jordan Atkinson and slotback Drew Phillips missed practice to catch up on their schoolwork and will be day-to-day most of spring camp while they resolve academic issues.
• Linebacker Zac Stout is out the first week of spring practice for a violation of team rules and will join the team next Monday if his knee is feeling good enough.
• Offseason surgeries or injuries will keep the following out of spring camp: LB Jordan Pendleton (shoulder surgery), TE Richard Wilson (shoulder surgery), CB Corby Eason (shoulder surgery), OL Terence Brown (shoulder surgery), OL Matt Reynolds (shoulder surgery), OL Braden Hansen (ankle surgery), OL Walter Kahaialii (torn pectoral muscle).
Mendenhall said the fact that four offensive linemen, including three starters, are out is not a big concern because they still have 12 healthy ones in camp and are as deep as ever at the position.
• Several players have switched positions: RB Mike Hague is now a DB, LB Mike Alisa is now an RB, TE Mike Muehlmann is now a DE and walk-on TE Brad Heap is now a QB.
BYU spring football schedule
At indoor practice facility or SAB practice field
1 • First practice was Monday
2 • Tuesday, 4 p.m.
3 • Thursday, 4 p.m.
4 • Friday, 4 p.m.
5 • Monday, 4 p.m.
6 • March 22, 4 p.m.
7 • March 24, 4 p.m.
8 • March 25, 4 p.m.
9 • March 28, 4 p.m.
10 • March 29, 4 p.m.
11 • March 31, 4 p.m.
12 • April 1, 4 p.m.
13 • April 5, 4 p.m.
14 • April 7, 4 p.m.
15 • April 9, Spring game: TBA (Edwards Stadium, open to public)