Provo • Bronco Mendenhall joined Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and less than 24 hours later, the BYU football coach had more than 3,225 followers, with the tally growing by the minute.
For the unaware, that’s fast. And it doesn’t take a group of adorable schoolchildren to convince us that fast is better and more is better when it comes to that social networking website.
BYU 2013 post-spring depth chart
Position Starter, Year Backup, Year
Quarterback Taysom Hill, So. Ammon Olsen, So.
Receiver Cody Hoffman, Sr. Mitch Mathews, So.
Receiver Skyler Ridley, Sr. Ross Apo, Jr.
Running back Jamaal Williams, So. Adam Hine, So.
Running back Michael Alisa, Sr. Paul Lasike, Sr.
A similar theme emerged from BYU’s recently concluded spring football camp. The Cougars want to play faster and run more plays in offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s new system.
That is not a surprise. It was one of the stated goals when camp began, with benchmarks such as 15 seconds per play tossed about, along with names of college football powers that do it effectively, such as Oregon.
So, how did they do?
"There have been glimpses where we have been really, really good," said the sophomore returned missionary who will direct that uptempo attack, Taysom Hill. "And there have been other times where we need to get better."
Certainly, BYU’s offense appeared to be far ahead of its defense in both the Blue-White Game on March 30 and the 70-play scrimmage on the final day of camp, April 5. But the defense played without eight or so expected starters, including All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy and both projected starting safeties, Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills.
"I think we got our offense installed to the point where, when it is executed correctly, you can see how difficult it will be to defend," Mendenhall said. "Also, you can see some inconsistencies where it will be necessary to work more on it."
That will be up to the players, since coaches aren’t allowed to run workouts or even conditioning sessions until fall camp starts in late July or early August.
Mendenhall said players have been asked to give "everything they have to get as mentally tough as they can get, as physically conditioned as they can get, as dedicated as they can get" over the course of the next three and a half months.
Anae said installing that expectation — that offensive players be as ready as defensive players were last season before ranking No. 3 in the nation in total defense — was also a goal accomplished in March.
"We are closer to the team standard [for offseason effort] being the same," Anae said.
That focus on unity and offseason leadership is probably why Hill was named the starting quarterback last week, a few days after camp concluded, when Mendenhall released his post-spring depth chart for the 2013 season. While not as surprising as Mendenhall getting a Twitter account, the coach naming a starter this early was mildly unexpected, considering what he’s done in the past.
"We have named Taysom the starter because of his game experience in 2012, strong leadership qualities and his breakaway speed and athleticism," Mendenhall said in making the announcement. "Ammon [Olsen] also had a phenomenal spring. I am confident in his ability. We have two very capable quarterbacks."
The announcement also underscored the fact that coaches believe Hill has completely recovered from the knee injury that caused him to miss the final seven games of the 2012 season that saw the Cougars go 8-5. Heading into the offseason, Hill has been given the green light to run as fast as he wants and go as hard as he can by BYU trainers and doctors.
"My knee feels really good," he said last week. "My doctor wanted me to stay right around 80, 85 percent through the spring, and I have done my best to do that. ... I would get a little fatigued at the end of the week [of practice], but my knee held up. It feels really strong, and I am happy with it."
Now that the starting quarterback question has been answered, the focus has shifted to what many perceive to be the team’s weak link: Anae’s offensive line. He said the guys he had to work with in the spring performed admirably, with reinforcements coming in the fall from the high school and junior college ranks.
"I’m convinced that we will have a hard-working group [of offensive linemen] when we line up to play Virginia [in the opener on Aug. 31]," Anae said. "We will have them ready."
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