Fall practice: day one

In preparation for what is likely one of the most anticipated BYU seasons ever, the Cougars opened up fall camp on Saturday. Day one saw the return of a number of players that sat out during the spring, and Coach Mendenhall liked the depth of his team and noted some fierce competition for the two-deep. Making the most of camp will be necessary, however, as they face a daunting early schedule.

"Great to have more depth, great to have more bodies, great to have a relatively healthy team," said Coach Mendenhall about the first day of fall camp, "and from the structure, the format and retention, that part looked good. From the execution and precision and effort, that part has a ways to go."

Mendenhall noted that his players retained knowledge of their assignments pretty well, but said that the speed of the game and their precision clearly need to go up. As he noted, however, that's to be expected at the start of camp, and he added that there were very few assignment mistakes on Saturday.

Quarterback Jakes Heaps expressed a good amount of satisfaction with the first day of camp and where the team is right now.

"Oh man, it was great," said the sophomore. "It was so much fun to get out here and finally have our first day, get our first practice down, and it's just one step closer to Ole Miss and our season, and I couldn't be happier with the intensity out here and the way these guys are practicing and the talent we have on our team."

Heaps finds himself in a much different situation than he was in last year at this point. A year ago, he was a true freshman battling with Riley Nelson for the starting position. Now, he is the undisputed starter at quarterback and has a year of Division I football under his belt.

"Being a BYU quarterback here is a unique opportunity," said Heaps, "and it's something that doesn't just happen, and you have to learn how it's done and learn how to get the respect of these guys, and it's just been a blast."

Heaps noted that heading into independence isn't going to be easy, and that the Cougars face a schedule this year that is tough but fun.

There will be no easing back into the swing of things this year, as the early schedule is quite challenging.

Asked about whether he liked facing some tough games right off the bat instead of having a warm-up game or two to start off with, Heaps said, "Man, I can't be picky with the schedule that we have. I mean, honestly, it's really been a fun deal for us to look at the schedule and to start off with Ole Miss and go to Texas and play Utah at home. It's real exciting for us, and honestly I don't know if you could pick a better schedule."

He also cited being on ESPN as a reason for excitement.

Scrimmage report

Heaps looked very sharp on Saturday, and that was in large part due to the play of his receivers. McKay Jacobson, Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman all hauled in long passes during scrimmaging or drills, and it appears that the extremely slow start that the receiving corps had last season won't be repeated.

The team benefitted Saturday from the return of a number of players that were held out during spring camp as they dealt with injuries, and what was shown on the field with the first-team offense and defense should be much closer to what will be seen once the season starts.

But despite mostly facing a defense that now has Corby Eason, Jordan Pendleton and Brandon Ogletree back, Heaps went 8-of-9 during the last scrimmage portion of practice for 108 yards. He threw a 42-yard touchdown to Apo, and later threaded the needle in completing a pass to Rhen Brown between a few defenders. Brown then went the rest of the way to the end zone from about 30 yards out.

Regarding the chemistry he's developed with Apo, Heaps said, "It's been lots of hard work in the offseason, and I'm really excited for him. He's a great playmaker, and to have the opportunity to have a big, lanky, fast guy like that that can catch the ball, it's really exciting for a quarterback."

Riley Nelson, playing with the second-team offense, completed 2-of-3 passes for 9 yards. James Lark, playing with the threes, completed 2-of-3 passes for 20 yards.


- While it is a "long shot," Mendenhall said that there is a chance that academically ineligible senior defensive end Matt Putnam could potentially return to the team on the first day of school. Mendenhall said that they are nevertheless preparing as though Putnam won't be eligible, and added that he thinks they have the depth to overcome his loss.

- With no Putnam, the plan as of now is to still redshirt senior Ian Dulan – who recently returned from his mission – and cross-train Hebron Fangupo at defensive end. If Romney Fuga and Jordan Richardson continue to progress through camp as they come back from their knee injuries, then Mendenhall believes the defensive line will be fine. If not, Dulan could play this year. Mendenhall said Dulan looked good on Saturday, but would still prefer to redshirt him.

- Malosi Te'o, who left the program before rejoining the team this summer, is walking on. He will remain at running back despite some consideration for moving him to defensive back.

- Jadon Wagner, who had left the program in order to enter the Canadian Football League before also returning, has a slight hamstring strain and is at about 60 or 65 percent right now according to Mendenhall. He is also working on his readmission to BYU and isn't fully cleared yet.

- The team went through a lot of special teams work on day one. "I think our special teams can perform – and needs to perform – at a higher level, and so we're putting increased emphasis on it," said Mendenhall. "Hopefully that will show up this year."

- Regarding having Jordan Pendleton back playing with the team for the first time in a long time, Mendenhall said, "He did a great job. He's in excellent shape, he's really motivated, he's a good leader, he's a really good player."

- With there being only about a dozen newcomers or so to the team, Mendenhall said there is less teaching going on. The new players are mostly fourth or fifth on the depth chart because of program's depth, which is the best it's been in a while according to Mendenhall, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.

- O'Neill Chambers, who won't be able to rejoin the team until next year, attended practice and was seen working with various players on their technique.

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