For fans and media alike, August camp will present a dream scenario at BYU. It remains to be seen how the contestants and the overall team respond to what's going to take place.
The highly anticipated quarterback race remains up for grabs and will be the story to follow when the Cougars convene prior to the Sept. 4 opener against Washington.
A lack of healthy offensive linemen played a key role in keeping BYU from having enough opportunities to find the next signal caller.
Washington native Jake Heaps -- one of the most highly touted recruits in school history -- along with last year's backup Riley Nelson and returned church missionary James Lark are likely in that pecking order after the spring sessions, though head coach Bronco Mendenhall reserved plenty of right to keep that list fluid.
"I think it is becoming apparent to everyone: Jake is a natural, poised, pocket passer. He makes very good decisions. Riley gives you the element of mobility and the grit and leadership that comes with that," Mendenhall said. "And James is just a hair behind, because of his mission. But I like them all, and I think they have all shown very well.
"Knowing that we weren't going to have enough offensive linemen to do significant scrimmage work, to get enough team reps to really make an assessment (regarding a starting quarterback), our main hope was that we could get some combination work between the quarterbacks and receivers, some timing done, get a few young linemen developed, if possible," the sixth-year coach added. "And then basically just push it to the summer and fall camp as healthy as we could get. And I think that's what we did."
The team did not have a true spring game April 10, just a 90-minute practice that was mostly like the 13 previous sessions. Nelson moved the team the best at the final practice, getting the only touchdown. The Cougars opted to keep most of their sure things out, instead looking at depth and youth.NOTES, QUOTES
? --The Seattle Times visited BYU's final practice to do a report on local product Jake Heaps, who turned down nearby Washington -- and its new coach, former Cougar signal caller Steve Sarkisian -- to take aim at the top spot in Provo, Utah. Although Heaps will not be allowed to talk with media until the fall, after BYU's first game (against the Huskies, Sept. 4). After the final spring session, however, Heaps was wildly popular with autograph-hunting kids. The visit was compared to a scene at Disneyland. It will only get more intense in the fall. Heaps, while far from an attention hog, appears comfortable with the celebrity and expectations at a place that is no stranger to producing excellent quarterbacks and having high expectations every year for whoever is under center.??
--Several former players, including quarterbacks Max Hall and John Beck, were regularly stopping by BYU's spring practices to see the quarterback derby for themselves. There will be more time for spectators. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall and position coach Brandon Doman expect there to be the same snap distribution to the three (and don't forget about returning church missionary Jason Munns) early in fall camp.
? QB Jake Heaps -- Boy, he sure does throw a nice ball. It'll be interesting to see how he handles a more intense fall environment with more live scrimmaging and a defense that should be more robust with additions from the high school ranks plus those veterans that missed the spring session with injuries. Heaps is a 7-on-7 king and he made some
folks look silly the last month. Teammates and coaches have praised just how well he showed in his first time beyond being a recruit.
QB Riley Nelson -- Last year's backup to Max Hall still is trying to prove himself. He wasn't used much last year, except to run the ball late in blowouts. He can still do that well, but the junior also showed an improved sense of decision making and passing ability. He's a likable leader in the locker room. Don't count him out this fall, even though Heaps' natural talents are more aesthetically pleasing.
FS Steven Thomas -- Has the edge over a pair of teammates for that coveted secondary spot. Laid a few hard hits in camp and has a nose for the ball and the big play.?
? RB Josh Quezada -- Opted late to sign with BYU, then finished high school early to start spring ball. Could be a fantastic complement to star Harvey Unga, especially in hard third-and-short situations when BYU may opt to keep Unga from taking a beating sometimes. Quezada (nickname: "Juice") is strong, runs low to the ground and seems to have a knack for always getting positive yardage.
"I really like Josh. Josh was clearly a bright spot this spring. He's a very, very good person, a great young man and a good running back. I feel fortunate that he is here," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was right on. I was satisfied with what was accomplished." -- Head coach Bronco Mendenhall, after his sixth camp at BYU, on getting work done despite a glut of injuries even before the month-long process started. The Cougars only lost two addition players because of ailments -- a major concern when they started.??STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: The Mountain West Conference schedule came out, and head coach Bronco Mendenhall couldn't help but notice his team's league opener. It's at Air Force, Sept. 11. That leaves a potentially very difficult opening to the season for a team still searching for a starting quarterback: vs. Washington (Sept. 4), then Air Force followed by a Sept. 18 game at Florida State. Mendenhall said his staff will probably have to use time late in fall camp to start getting the Cougars ready for Air Force's patented option offense. The last few years BYU has seen the academy much later in the season.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: All eyes will be on the quarterback battle when it resumes in August. Most likely to become the starter is freshman Jake Heaps, who is simply the best passer available and showed an awful lot of preparedness and poise coming on campus before his senior year of high school was completed. But it's hard to discount Riley Nelson's qualities. The junior, last year's understudy to Max Hall, can run well (expect BYU to use that ability in some fashion) and is a natural locker-room leader. Terence Brown appears to have the nod at center, though the former right guard had some rough times with accuracy.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The most valuable spot in BYU's 3-4 front is still wide-open. The middle linebacker spot could even go to a freshman who isn't even on campus, Zac Stout.
"Mike linebacker, as we already know, controls most of the front," Mendenhall said. "And so Austen Jorgensen will also be competing for that spot. And (USC transfer) Uona Kaveinga got a ton of work, by necessity, although he won't be eligible to compete next year."
Coaches are very high on Stout, but it remains to be seen if he'll be ready by early September.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Mitch Payne kicked a long field goal at the final spring practice, eliciting a nice response from the crowd of about 7,000 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The special teams will be BYU's most consistent facet compared to a year ago. Receivers O'Neill Chambers and McKay Jacobson will likely help on return duties, along with J.D. Falslev. Falslev, 5-8 and speedy, could come in especially handy to keep the Cougars from wearing down more pivotal offensive figures.
RB Joshua Quezada -- The standout running back from California once feared attending BYU because school rules would make him cut his long hair. But coaches talked him into not letting something like that dictate his life. Now, Quezada could be an impact player right away behind Harvey Unga. Quezada has some moments that may allow him to leapfrog other experienced players on the depth chart.
QB Jake Heaps -- It remains to be seen if the "Chosen One" is actually chosen this year. The freshman from the Seattle area has competition. Heaps hasn't decided if he's going to go on a two-year LDS mission anytime soon, and his role this season may dictate that decision.
LB Kyle Van Noy -- He signed with BYU as part of last year's recruiting class, but the Reno, Nev., product ran into some alcohol-related problems that were discovered by BYU and he's been held back. Rather than take an easier route, and go somewhere he could play, Van Noy stayed with the belief that BYU is a good place for him in the long run. He may get time right away to start. Alcohol is forbidden at the private, church-owned school.
LB Zac Stout -- Coaches have already tabbed him with the "special" label. There's plenty of playing time available.
PR J.D. Falslev -- The redshirt freshman, also a wide receiver, will likely be BYU's punt returner next fall, Bronco Mendenhall has said. That would allow O'Neill Chambers to focus on kickoff returns. "He's really good catching the ball, he's absolutely trustworthy, and usually makes the first guy miss," Mendenhall said of the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Falslev, who originally walked on from Logan, Utah.
--Senior running back Harvey Unga has never been called on much more than to run the ball. He's done that in exemplary fashion, garnering three 1,000-yard seasons. But this time, going all the way back to a stellar high school career, he will be called on to do more than to lead statistically as the Cougars have a lot of inexperience around him.
"Harvey's done a really nice job as far as leadership, and right now he's in probably the best condition he's been, I would say, since his redshirt freshman year," Mendenhall said. "I've been really encouraged and happy with what he's done up to this point. Spring and Summer is really the continuation of the consistency he's already started, and that's going to be important. My guess is, as the quarterbacks continue to develop, the running game is going to be really, really important. And Harvey is a huge part of the running game."
--Junior linebacker Jameson Frazier is looking for a greater role on this year's team than a lot of insiders could have ever expected. Mendenhall called him arguably the team's most pleasant player in spring camp.
"Jameson Frazier, if you are looking for some of the biggest surprises, I would list him as maybe the biggest surprise. He went from maybe a special teams contributor to possibly a starter through the spring. And not one that is getting it by default. He has really played well."
--BYU lost two players to injuries in spring camp. Famika Anae (knee ACL) -- the son of offensive coordinator Robert Anae -- and Marcus Mathews (fractured ankle): "I think it is only those two (Anae and Mathews) of any significance, and Marcus is supposed to be back before the season. That might be the best statistic of all," Mendenhall said after the final practice April 10.
--Linebacker recruit Kyle Van Noy didn't join the program last year, as he dealt with alcohol-related issues. Then he missed a brief period of spring ball for disciplinary reasons.
"Kyle Van Noy is learning a lot about our system and about how hard he is expected to play. He certainly has the potential, his biggest work in progress is adapting to the culture and the demand," Mendenhall said.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010