"In the spring, the emphasis was on technique," Stephens continued. "For me, I wasn't much different than the freshmen since I had only been playing on the offensive line for only six months up to that point. I think we've all come a long way technique wise, so this fall we're able to more fully concentrate on the plays and the calls. As a unit, I feel that we all understand the plays and working together a lot better than we were at this time last season."
The main difference, according to Stephens, is unity. "The unity will make the biggest difference when we're down. We won't be as given to blame one another, but we'll just work through it better. The unity is just unbelievable."
The season's offensive line is top-heavy with upper classmen and bottom-heavy with talented freshmen, with not-a-lot in between. This means the example, leadership and continual tutoring of the younger OL from their veteran teammates becomes more critical to the building success of the unit.
"The freshmen are doing great. Ofa Mohetau came to BYU with a lot of hype – and I thought maybe too much hype. When I heard the hype about him coming in and playing right off, I sort of laughed, but after practicing with him and being around him, I can say he has surpassed any of our expectations.
"What is impressive about Ofa is that he really has a good head on his shoulders. He hasn't bought into his own hype and has been very receptive to all the teaching the coaches and his teammates are giving him," Stephens said.
He added that "I'm also very impressed with Jake (Kuresa). I love having him on the right side with me. We really work well together. Jake and Ofa will be the best two guards in the country in a few years. That's how good they both are athletically."
Stephens also raved about his back-up, Gary McGiven. "He may say I'm his mentor, but he's actually played offensive line a lot longer than I have. I don't want to get hurt or anything, but if I go down, then I won't be worried at all about the right tackle position since Gary is there. He's awesome. He's going to be a heck of a lineman in the future."
FALL PRACTICE NOTES:
Head football coach Gary Crowton commented on his plans for BYU's kick return units. "The two main guys we're looking at to return kicks are David Christensen and Nate Soelberg. We're especially looking at those two to return punts. Soelberg is really fast and David did a great job for us last season. We're looking at guys like Rey Brathwaite and Thomas Stancil to return kick-offs.
"Hopefully we can be a little more explosive this year in our returns, but we want to be just as good in our coverage teams. I like the guys we have on our coverage teams; guys like Bryant Atkinson, KC Bills and Fui Vakapuna should be really good cover guys."
The team went through a brief scrimmage to close practice today. Several highlights included sacks by linebackers Colby Bockwoldt and Levi Madarieta. Quarterback Todd Mortensen hit Rod Wilkerson for a 15-yard touchdown pass and hit Vakapuna over the middle who broke several tackles on his way to the end zone. John Beck hit a streaking Chris Hale down the sidelines for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Quarterback Matt Berry did not participate in throwing drills and in today's light scrimmage because of a laceration and his right index finger.
"I hurt my right index finger coming down and hitting some guy on the helmet during drills. I sliced it clear down to the bone. It hurts real bad right now. When I grip the football it feels OK, but when I throw it then that's when I feel a lot of pain."
Berry will likely not participate until next Monday.
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