BYU football: Cougars turn their attention to UConn
By Jay Drew
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Aug 22 2014 04:22PM
Provo • Preseason training camp is over, and the BYU Cougars’ focus has turned completely toward UConn and next Friday’s opener at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.
But that doesn’t mean the Cougars are ready to show their hand. Coaches said after Friday’s early-morning practice — the second straight 6:30 a.m. start to a workout — that some position battles are still going on and they won’t be releasing a depth chart until Monday.
"We will see what happens," said defensive coordinator Nick Howell, clicking off positions where battles are still going on, such as cornerback, free safety and inside linebacker.
At outside linebacker, veterans Alani Fua and Bronson Kaufusi seemingly have the spots nailed down, although Fua hasn’t practiced all week due to a sore hip flexor. The senior All-America candidate said he plans to practice full-tilt on Monday and will be on the field Friday against the Huskies.
"Right now, I’m pretty much 85 percent," he said.
Fua said the early-morning practices, which the Cougars will continue into the season, will take some getting used to, while quarterback Taysom Hill said he thinks they will turn out to be beneficial.
"I like what coach [Bronco] Mendenhall is portraying to us, that we are going to do the most important things first, and take care of our football," Hill said. "I am not trying to belittle school or any of those things. After [practices] we will take care of the academic side of things. I like it."
Of course, all eyes will be on Hill in the opener to see if the junior improved his passing accuracy to complement his outstanding running ability. He said he made great strides in camp, along with the entire offense.
"I thought I got better. I thought as an offense that we got better as a whole. As far as what we got better at collectively, I would say, was our timing with the receivers, knowing what they are doing, and being able to find the spots where I am expecting them to be. I thought that was good," Hill said.
The quarterback said he’s far more confident, and more comfortable, than he was a year ago at this time when the Cougars were preparing to travel across the country to Virginia. They lost that opener 19-16 and the offense sputtered mightily.
"It is hard to even think back and look at where we were last year — new offensive system, new coaching staff, all that stuff. We are ready this year," Hill said.
Because UConn has a new head coach (former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) and different defensive assistants, BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae said the Cougars are preparing offensively "from a broad perspective" because they don’t quite know what UConn will throw at them. They’ve watched as much Notre Dame film as UConn film, he said.
"The first quarter will be an exploratory deal, but the emphasis will be focused on what we do well as we go into the game," Anae said.
Then again, everything will be scripted and practiced, Anae said, noting that he never goes into a game and just freelances.
Anae won’t even say what formation the Cougars will start out in. It could be three backs and two receivers, he said. Or, it could be two backs, two receivers and a tight end. Or, it could be four wides and a running back.
"I do believe that brand of offensive football is unique in the country. To do what we do, without a huddle, the personnel groups that we have is very unique," he said. "We are able to do that because of the type of kid we have at BYU — a conscientious kid who learns his assignments and his techniques."