Spring camp: day 1

The Cougars opened up spring camp on Monday in the indoor practice facility. Apparently the team was pretty fired up, given the heated nature of the first day of practice. Meanwhile, a senior quarterback in Riley Nelson and the return of the entire coaching staff have led to some optimism for next season.

During practice on Monday, there were several scuffles that broke out. One featured a large group of players, although there didn't appear to be too much beyond a lot of pushing and shoving.

"Normally the first day isn't so heated, but both sides are competitive and have good leadership, and neither side within the team wants to lose, so that's a positive thing," said Coach Mendenhall. "It's just gonna put more pressure on me to manage it."

One of the big storylines for this year's team is how Riley Nelson will do at quarterback, as he has yet to play a full year at BYU thanks to injuries and being behind Jake Heaps on the depth chart going into last year. With Heaps having transferred after Nelson took over starting duties, he is the unquestioned leader going into the 2012 season. BYU has a good history of success with senior starting quarterbacks, and Mendenhall is hopeful that will continue under Nelson.

Following the practice, one member of the media asked Coach Mendenhall how excited he was to have no controversy or drama at the quarterback position this year.

"Well, the same time last year there was no controversy, no drama, right?" Mendenhall replied with a smile. "No, I like Riley. I think he's just tough and I think the team believes in him, and he's brought us from behind a couple times in pretty tough circumstances and I think he has great leadership."

Whereas last year during spring camp the team was breaking in a number of new position coaches and coordinators, there are no new faces on staff this year, giving the team more continuity.

"I know in the staff room and the meetings, things just are flowing so much faster," said Mendenhall. "I hope it shows in the way that we practice and the way that we play and the way we execute by the fall, and I would think that's what's gonna happen."

Scrimmage notes

As is customary, the team didn't wear pads on the first day of camp, and thus the scrimmage portion of practice featured limited contact.

Riley Nelson got two sets of reps leading the first-team offense, but had limited success. He finished with 0-for-2 passing. Mike Hague broke up the second of the two passes just as it looked like Nelson was going to connect with his receiver. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Ansah and Ian Dulan were able to get to Nelson in the backfield.

James Lark ran the twos, and got to air the ball out a little bit more. During his two sets, he completed passes to Trevor Brown, Kurt Henderson, Brett Thompson and Adam Hine for about a combined 45 yards.

Taysom Hill ran the third-team offense, completing a pass of about 5 yards to Thompson. His other pass attempt was broken up by Seth Probert.

The three quarterbacks, as well as running backs Joshua Quezada and Michael Alisa, all had short runs as well. However, with contact being limited, plays were whistled dead fairly early.

The lone score during scrimmaging came via a 31-yard Riley Stephenson field goal during one of Lark's sets.

Injury Report

The following players are being held out of spring camp as they recuperate from injuries: Houston Reynolds, Dalin Tollestrup, Kyle Van Noy, Braden Brown, Jordan Richards, Russell Tialavea, Justin Sorenson, Justin Blackmore, David Foote, Austin Holt and Richard Wilson.

One positive, however, was the unexpected return of fullback Iona Pritchard after he suffered a season-ending broken leg and dislocated ankle during fall camp last year. Pritchard ran drills with the team on Monday, much to the delight of Coach Mendenhall.

"I had no idea he'd come out and be able to run around like that. I didn't think I'd see him until the summer, and he looked pretty good," said Mendenhall.

Devin Mahina also returned to action following a neck injury in fall camp last year.

Meanwhile, O'Neill Chambers returned, albeit not from injury, but rather from dismissal from the team in 2010. He is now playing at safety.

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