Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

BYU football: Post spring practice position overview (10 items)

By , Deseret News

April 9, 2014

PROVO — BYU concluded its spring football practices last Friday after providing better clarity of each position group heading into fall camp. Several players saw their stock rise throughout the session while others will look to make an impact this fall.

So how does each position group look and what can fans expect come the fall practice session and into the regular season?

Brandon Gurney was there for every open session and gives his best glimpse into what's on tap heading into the 2014 season.

Email: Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

1 of 10. Quarterback


It was all about assumed starter Taysom Hill (6-2, 221) getting a lot of reps while learning the finer points of becoming a true pocket-passing quarterback. The amount of reps were very apparent throughout most practice sessions and coaches consistently praised the improvements Hill has made from the end of last season up until the final spring practice session.

Coaches were very definitive in naming senior Christian Stewart (6-2, 201) as Hill's primary backup. The question of who will rise to become the third-string quarterback remains in question heading into the offseason.

What's on tap

Sophomore Billy Green (6-2, 206) will continue his bid for the third-string spot and will be joined by McCoy Hill, who will join the team after serving an LDS Church mission. Freshman Hunter Moore (6-3, 180) will also be in the mix.

2 of 10. Running back


Coaches were generally very pleased with the progress made at running back this spring. Coach Bronco Mendenhall consistently pointed the position out as an area of strength for this year's team.

The top three running backs were clearly defined this spring, according to coaches, and consist of junior Jamaal Williams (6-0, 200), sophomore Algernon Brown (6-1, 219) and senior Paul Lasike (6-0, 227.)

Junior Nate Carter (5-9, 185) had a productive spring while junior Adam Hine (6-1, 202) sat out spring training recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

What's on tap

With no real notable incoming running backs set to join this fall, it's easily assumed the two-deep at running back is largely set. Hine may have a say in that final outcome once he proves healthy, but beyond that it's not likely anyone will unseat Williams, Brown and Lasike on the two-deep roster.

3 of 10. Wide receiver


With many assumed contributors shelved with injury issues, it was largely junior Kurt Henderson (6-1, 180), sophomore Colby Pearson (6-0, 190) and junior Nick Kurtz (6-6, 205) seeing most of the reps. Both Henderson and Pearson saw the majority of first-team work early on while both Kurtz and sophomore speedster Michael Davis (6-2, 180) came on strong toward the end.

What's on tap

There's likely more to be sorted out at wide receiver than any other position on the team this coming fall. Junior Mitch Mathews (6-6, 206) sat out due to injury, but is sure to make a strong starting bid along with Senior Ross Apo (6-3, 207) who is largely in the same situation as Mathews.

There's also a lot of incoming talent set to join the team this coming June. That group includes junior college transfer Devon Blackmon (6-1, 185) along with UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie (6-3, 210) and Stanford transfer Keanu Nelson (5-11, 184.) Also joining the mix will be incoming freshman Trey Dye (5-11, 180).

4 of 10. Tight end


Senior Devin Mahina (6-6, 247) was a standout in spring training along with junior Terenn Houk (6-4, 213.) Both players will likely start fall practices as the team's primary Y receivers with Mahina taking on the traditional tight end role while Houk will fill the role of a sort of hybrid tight end/wide receiver type. Sophomore Mitchell Juergens (5-10, 180) had a good spring as the shorter JD Falslev-type slot receiver.

What's on tap

There's as many as four returned missionaries who will join the team and compete for spots, namely Colby Jorgensen and Matt Sumsion. Bryan Sampson is another name to keep on eye on as a potential contributor. Sampson practiced in spring and should be set for improvements this fall.

A lot of the intrigue at tight end, or more specifically the Y receiver spot, involves how coaches will employ the position. Last season saw scant use of the traditional tight end type in favor of a slot receiver, but that could certainly change in 2014.

5 of 10. Offensive line


The entire offensive line remains largely intact from a season ago with big improvements anticipated as a result. Coaches expressed satisfaction at the improvements made this spring and hope to see the necessary improvements in production.

Adding considerably to the offensive front were key additions of converted defensive lineman Tuni Kanuch (6-2, 325) and freshman Ului Lapuaho (6-7, 280) who recently returned from LDS missionary service. Coaches also like the strides made by senior center Edward Fusi (6-0, 317.)

What's on tap

Coaches anticipate full participation from those shelved with injuries and academic issues this coming fall. Those players include sophomore Brayden Kearsley (6-4, 295) and senior Ryker Mathews (6-6, 309), among others. Adding to the overall depth at the position will be players recently returned from LDS mission service such as Brian Rawlinson and Manu Mulitalo, along with recent signee Tejan Koroma.

1. Idaho_Boy
Aberdeen, ID,
April 9, 2014

You forgot to mention special teams.

2. Cinci Man
April 9, 2014

I would like to add one observation that was not covered in the article. It is true that many of the offensive players can make a significant impact. But some players' ability to make an impact depends largely on whether or not the offensive coordinator knows how to utilize them. If Hill cannot locate receivers, he will run far too often and the offense will struggle. If receivers are not thrown the ball accurately, they will have little chance to make an impact. If coaches don't run plays to receivers, including good patterns and using tight ends, the offense will struggle. My point is that coaching has to improve to give players an opportunity to make an impact, especially with some offensive positions. So I will wait for the report card on offensive coaches, which report card will begin to be shown on the field during the first game. Bring it to the field Cougars. We are hoping for great improvements and a great season.

3. Rockwell
Baltimore, MD,
April 9, 2014

Cinci Man

Every one of your concerns has been abundantly stressed during spring practice, and will undoubtedly be stressed even more during fall camp.

Anae was very successful running plays to his tightends when he had Harline, Coats, George, and Pitta, and throwing to his running back when he had Brown and Unga.

4. Stop The Nonsense
El Paso, TX,
April 9, 2014

Whatever happened to that kid who transferred from Notre Dame? (I think his last name was Badger.) He plays safety, right? I can't remember when he transferred, but is it possible we could see him at some point this year?

5. idablu
Idaho Falls, ID,
April 9, 2014

Almost sounds like we have too many receivers. How many of those listed are on scholarship. I was surprised Kurtz wasn't getting first team reps. He should be our best go to guy.

I feel bad for the tight ends. I don't think they are in Anae's plans. He prefers a slot over a TE. We didn't see many plays to TE's last year, I doubt we'll see many this year.