Provo • Players vote on who they want as their team captains each year at BYU, but the 2013 picks easily could have come from coach Bronco Mendenhall himself.
Three of the four players named captains on Monday started their careers as walk-ons, and none are preseason All-Americans or guys expected to grab headlines all season. But all four are seniors.
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The offensive captains are slot receiver J.D. Falslev and wide receiver Skyler Ridley, while the defensive captains are linebacker Uani Unga and Daniel Sorensen, the only captain who began his career on scholarship.
"I am excited for all four of those young men," Mendenhall said after making the announcement after Monday’s practice as the Cougars continued preparations for Saturday’s season opener at Virginia. "I think all are very unselfish, and very committed to the team. Three of the four came as walk-ons, which says a lot about their work ethic, and also I think about their attitude toward the program. "I think they are all team-first, and I think our team elected strong people, strong leaders."
Outsiders are perhaps surprised that neither of the team’s senior superstars, All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy nor record-breaking receiver Cody Hoffman, were chosen, but Van Noy said on Monday that he, for one, is happy with the selections.
"It was a team decision, and I am happy about the captains we have," Van Noy said. "They are really good players, and really good leaders. I think it will help out our team. I am still a leader. I don’t have to be a captain to be a leader. It is just going out and [calling] a coin toss. I don’t think I have the best luck in the world, anyway. So I think I will just enjoy running out the tunnel and being a leader that leads by example."
Running back Mike Alisa said there was "symbolism" in the election of the captains, and a reward for guys for their hard work and dedication to the program.
Falslev was visibly touched by the honor.
"It is very, very humbling. It is probably one of the greatest achievements of my football career, from high school or college," said the former all-stater from Smithfield’s Sky View High. "It is a really, really cool deal to be elected a captain by your peers, guys you have worked with for so long, guys that you have grinded with all summer long. I am excited to help lead this team through the toughest schedule we have ever had."
Mendenhall reminded reporters that his squad has a history of choosing former walk-ons and unsung heroes as captains, referring to guys such as Cameron Jensen, Matt Bauman, Scott Johnson and Kellen Fowler.
"I think when you talk about values and different things that the players hear me talk about, I think they like the underdog," Mendenhall said. "I think they like, kind of, the infantry. … I think it is more of a traditional thing."
Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill said he wasn’t surprised by the choices.
"I love the choices," he said. "I love all those guys, and look up to them. ... They will represent us well."
Along with naming captains, Mendenhall released his first depth chart of the season on Monday, but there were few, if any, surprises. At many positions, especially along the offensive line, two players are separated by the word "and," meaning that the starter could be either of the two.
The depth chart "will reflect a lot of ands or ors," Mendenhall said. "And when you are playing as many plays as we are playing, being a starter might be noticeable for a few plays, but then it is going to be a flurry of players coming in. I am not so sure that being a starter will be relevant other than the first series or so."
The most noteworthy personnel development lately is that Eric Thornton, who was moved from slot receiver to cornerback two weeks ago, is back at slot receiver and listed as the primary backup to Falslev.
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