Cougars begin prepping for season-opener vs. UConn

By Jeff Call, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Aug. 22, 2014, 5:50 p.m. MDT

 Quarterback Taysom Hill makes a play action fake during BYU football camp at SAB outdoor practice field, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

Quarterback Taysom Hill makes a play action fake during BYU football camp at SAB outdoor practice field, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

(Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

PROVO — Finally, it’s game week.

BYU has made the transition from the drudgery of fall camp to preparation for an opponent as it has begun in earnest to get ready for its season-opener at Connecticut.

The Cougars visit the Huskies in less than one week — next Friday — in the first meeting between the two programs.

First-year UConn coach Bob Diaco served as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator for four years — and the assistant head coach the past two — before taking over the program in Hartford.

For that reason, there are plenty of unknowns with the Huskies, although there is some familiarity because Cougars played the Fighting Irish in 2012 and 2013.

“We had an extensive day with UConn,” BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae said after Friday’s practice. “Our preparation is kind of a broad perspective because we don’t quite know for sure what they’re going to do on defense. We’re looking at a couple of things those coaches involved have done in the past.”

The Cougars have watched film of the Huskies last season as well as film of Notre Dame’s defensive schemes.

BYU wide receiver Mitch Mathews said that within those defensive schemes, he expects to see a lot of man coverage.

“More importantly you want to look at the actual players,” he said. “Both their corners, No. 6 (Jhavon Williams) and No. 16 (Byron Jones) are both returning and they’re both good players. So, you’ve got to look at Connecticut also and actually how those two specific guys play the game.”

Earlier this week, Diaco named sophomore Casey Cochran as his team’s starting quarterback after a battle in fall camp with senior Chandler Whitmer.

Cochran played in eight games last season and started the final four, leading the Huskies to a 3-1 record. Against Memphis last December, Cochran threw for 461 yards and four touchdowns.

Whitmer started 12 games at UConn in 2012 and was the starter for the first four games last season. He has racked up 3,560 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in his career.

BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell has studied both quarterbacks.

“(Cochran) won them three games last year against three good teams,” Howell said. “He delivers the ball on time. They both (Cochran and Whitmer) get the ball out on time, they know where to throw it. I like them both. It sounds like the one might be a little more athletic than the other.”

Meanwhile, Anae said he’s very happy with his quarterback, junior Taysom Hill.

“Taysom had a really good camp. He was in really good physical condition,” Anae said. “His arm held up, his legs held up throughout the entire camp. I’m very pleased with where he’s at right now.”

Friday marked the Cougars’ first practice with their new early morning schedule. This season, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall will hold practices at 6 a.m. instead of late in the afternoon.

“I liked it,” Hill said of Friday’s early morning practice. “I like what coach Mendenhall is portraying to us. We’re going to do the most important things first. We’re going to take care of our football. Obviously, I’m not trying to belittle school. Then we’ll take care of our academic side of things.”

What does linebacker Alani Fua think about the early wake-up calls that are ahead this season? Is he a morning person?

“I’m a morning guy for a couple of weeks, but going throughout the season it’s going to be tough,” Fua said. “I think everyone’s body will get used to it. I’m sure along the way a couple of guys will miss practice and totally sleep in and wake up at 10 o’clock. But I guess that’s what happens when you practice at 6 a.m.”

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1. IdahoCoog
Malad City, ID,
Aug. 23, 2014

I love what Bronco has done with the team, and for the school... but I fear he may have once again undervalued an opening opponent, and compromised the team with his many suspensions of 1st teamers. Punishing them by suspensions not only punishes them, but punishes their teammates if we should lose, and the fans looking for a breakout season. Cannot BM find other punishments that will punish only them, like daily running stairs and doing extra daily up-downs, or an extra-curricular task. I especially feel sorry for JJ, whose much looked forward to homecoming has been soured.

2. Cougar Cindy
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 23, 2014

Go Cougars!

3. runnerguy50
Virginia Beach, Va,
Aug. 23, 2014

This opening game against UCONN will not be easy. I hope Hill has a better opening game then he did last year. If he doesn't look for an opening game loss.

4. Uncle Rico
Provo, UT,
Aug. 24, 2014

Re: runnerguy50

This will be a very tough game. Last year Connecticut got blown out by Towson and Buffalo, and lost 9 straight games.

5. Johnny Triumph
American Fork, UT,
Aug. 25, 2014

Go Cougars. Tough opponent or not BYU needs to start the year off with a good win.