Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BYU football: Practice fights elicit smiles and excitement from Cougar coaches

By Brandon Gurney, Deseret News

Published: Wed, March 5 10:10 p.m. MST

 BYU's Craig Bills grabs the jersey of Kurt Henderson following a reception during a spring practice at BYU on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

BYU's Craig Bills grabs the jersey of Kurt Henderson following a reception during a spring practice at BYU on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

PROVO — Coaches always hope to see improvement from one practice to the next. At times, improvement happens instantly. Other times, it takes awhile. Sometimes, it never happens.

Fortunately for BYU football coaches, they saw improvement in one key area in only the second session of spring practice Wednesday.

During practice-ending team drills, two big fights erupted that resulted in at least two players being asked to leave.

The altercations also left coaches smiling.

“The team was anxious to fly around — really anxious to compete,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “They like football. I think they’re tough. I think they’re physical. I had fun today. I was really impressed with our practice.”

Mendenhall quipped that having two big brawls in only the second day of practice might be a "world record," but he said that it was a good sign.

"I like it (when) neither side will back down,” Mendenhall said. “That’s our approach in terms of when an opponent comes in, so might as well start now. I like it a lot.”

A big key to Wednesday's fights may have been who started them.

BYU stipulates that media observers can't mention specific names of players involved, but it's safe to say the offense, and particularly the offensive line, was the instigator in at least one of them.

"Things need to be more like that,” said linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga. “I think the defense has been like that for a long time, and I think it’s been on the offense for a while. I think the offense has kind of lost it in the last two or three years, but I think with coach (Robert) Anae back I think they gained a little bit of that last year and more of that this year.”

Playing with more emotion and passion is something offensive line coach Garett Tujague has stressed since arriving at BYU last spring. He preached it throughout last season and in the second day of spring camp, he saw it.

“We’re not going to back down,” he said. “I talk to my guys all the time about how if you love what you’re doing, you got to fight for it. ... If I‘m backed in a corner and fight for something I love I‘m coming out swinging.”

The next step, according to Tujague, is to take the level of passion and aggressiveness expressed Wednesday and play with it in a game.

“This is a great step. This is awesome, and we’re headed in the right direction. But I want to see it on a Saturday," he said.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

Bronco Mendenhall Post Practice Interview (Mar. 5, 2014)

Kelly Poppinga Post Practice Interview (Mar. 5, 2014)

Michael Yeck Post Practice Interview (Mar. 5, 2014)

Tuni Kanuch Post Practice Interview (Mar. 5, 2014)

Recommended
1. MileHighCougarFan
Brighton, CO,
March 5, 2014

My money would be on Kearsley being involved. And I am good with that. We need some fire on the line.

2. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
March 5, 2014

There is a ton of fight in this group.

If the guys can perfect this go fast go hard I can see byu beating Virginia this year.

And if things really one together beating cal might even be possible. We haven't done well against PAC 12 teams lately, but lets see if we can beat the #12 PAC 12 team. If we do, that will prove we can beat anyone in the nation and deserve playoff talk.

3. Outside-View
Federal Way, WA,
March 5, 2014

I thought fighting in a game was a penalty?

I understand the coaches liking tough players but to encourage fighting as a sign of toughness is just another strange twist involving BYU coaches.

4. MileHighCougarFan
Brighton, CO,
March 5, 2014

So glad a Cougar fan beat a Ute fan to comment first on the article. But why exactly would a U fan care about spring practice at the Y when we don't even play each other this year?

Must be that a story of unnamed individuals getting overly worked up at each other at practice must be more intriguing than anything going on up on the hill.

5. hardball1
Highland, UT,
March 6, 2014

Chris B, haven't you heard? We aren't playing the "#12 Pac12 Team" this year. Utah wanted to take a two year break. How does it feel to be the doormat of the Pac12?