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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Mitch Mathews (10) during a practice at Richards Building Fields Friday August 1, 2014.
BYU football: Relinquishing defensive duties not easy for Mendenhall
First Published Aug 03 2014 12:21 pm • Last Updated Aug 05 2014 06:13 pm

Provo • For BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall, it is almost like having to give up one of his uniquely named sons - Raeder, Breaker and Cutter.

The head coach is turning the defensive play-calling duties over to defensive coordinator Nick Howell this season, and he acknowledged after the first day of training camp last Friday that it was difficult.

At a glance

Nick Howell’s climb to BYU defensive coordinator

2008 » Hired as a defensive graduate assistant

2010 » Promoted to outside linebackers coach

2011 » Named BYU secondary coach and special teams coach

2013 » Promoted to defensive coordinator

2014 » Takes over defensive play-calling duties

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"I think it is time, and man, it is not easy," Mendenhall said. "It was fun. I love coaching defense and calling plays. I feel like I have a direct impact on game day of helping kids I’ve recruited."

Howell was promoted to defensive coordinator after the 2012 season, and the plan all along, he said, was for him to get play-calling responsibilities this season.

"It means that coach Mendenhall trusts me," Howell said Friday. "I think he is at a different point right now where he wants to concentrate on taking care of the guys, and his relationship with the guys, and making sure that every one of their needs is taken care of, and that we build a team of camaraderie and just make sure this team is 100 percent together."

Mendenhall said he has spent a lot of time with Howell the past seven years and that "there is probably no one on [the staff] that thinks as similarly as I do, and no one who knows as much of what I want as [Howell] does."

When red is appropriate

Many of the 1,200 or so fans who attended Saturday’s open practice were wondering why senior receiver Ross Apo was wearing a red jersey over his blue practice jersey. Receivers coach Guy Holliday said coaches are taking "preventative measures" with Apo in camp in an attempt to keep him healthy.

"He is coming off a massive shoulder injury, and a complicated surgery. So we need to get him to the game. Why have him take a hit with no pads and go down again with that shoulder and then we are sitting where we were sitting last year, without Ross Apo?" Holliday said. "He’s been playing with that same injury for three years. So we are going to protect him. We are going to lay off the contact on him as much as we can."


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BYU’s pair of lanky receivers, juniors Nick Kurtz and Mitch Mathews, are both 6-foot-6 and quite slender. Until you see that Kurtz wears No. 5 and Mathews wears No. 10, it is difficult to tell them apart on the practice field.

Mathews said Friday he has already developed a strong friendship with Kurtz, a junior college transfer.

"We are roommates and good buddies," Mathews said. "I was his host on his recruiting trip. It is funny, because we look the same - same height, same weight, both kind of goofy… We have a really good time and he’s one of my best friends. It is fun to play with him."

Practice resumes Monday

Having taken Sunday off, as is customary at BYU, players are back on the practice field Monday for the third practice of preseason training camp. The session is off-limits to the media. The next media availability session is after Tuesday’s practice.


Twitter: @drewjay

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