Stanford Aside, Kuresa Answers Big "M" Question

As BYU prepares to face off Saturday against undefeated PAC-10 foe Stanford, nothing speaks louder about the quality depth of BYU's freshmen starters – a true freshman quarterback and two redshirt freshmen offensive linemen – than the simple fact the Cougars are still favored to win.

The talented, but still untested John Beck takes the reins of a potentially potent Cougar squad in place of injured quarterback starter Matt Berry, who will be sidelined up to four weeks with a broken bone in his throwing hand.

One of his chief protectors will be fellow freshman Jake Kuresa, a Prep Star magazine high school All-American and a national Top 100 recruit.

Kuresa had some friendly unsolicited advice for his teammate Beck. "I told him yesterday, and you can ask him, I said, ‘Don't get antsy and you better stay in the pocket.' You know what I'm saying."

He added the Beck is more accustomed to playing in practice with different offensive linemen. "Sometimes he's with the two's (second string) and then he goes with us, and you know he's not real comfortable with us in the game. But when game time comes, there's going to be a pocket. If he gets a sack, that's our fault and we'll take the blame."

Kuresa noted Beck's excellent mobility and said he cautioned Beck not to "try to make unnecessary things happen and I don't think he will. He'll be calm and cool. It's always an advantage to have a guy that can make an escape. You know he can save your butt when you mess up, so it's good to have someone mobile back there. I don't think he'll get carried away with it at all," Kuresa added.

Entering the season with even higher expectations heaped on his shoulders as a starter, Kuresa confirmed it was a tough transition at times, but "I'm fine now. Everything is great. As long as we keep playing well and keep winning conference games and keep improving, you can't ask for much more than that."

With offensive line leader and center Scott Jackson probable for Saturday's game, Kuresa stressed the importance of Jackson's presence line.

"It's rough in practice without Scottie (Jackson), just because everyone depends on him so much. He's almost like a kickstand; he holds the rest of us up," Kuresa continued.

If Jackson is not go to go, Kuresa said he is confident in Hanale Vincent can handle the pressure and duties required. "Hana (Hanale Vincent) is capable so, we're just coming to the (Stanford) game the same. That's how it is with every game."

"He's (Jackson) probable. I think with him being as important to our team as he is, they're not going to push it. If he's really good, then they'll put him in. If it's questionable, they're probably going to hold back a little bit."

Kuresa said that even if Jackson has not been able to participate in all full contact practice, "he's there at practice and tells us what to do with this and that. It's almost like having another coach there. Whether or not he's in the game snapping the ball, he'll have prepared us for the game almost just as much he would in a regular week."

Addressing the unique challenges Stanford presents for BYU, Kuresa said, "I heard different things about them. I haven't seen much film on them, but I heard they're young. Physically, they're tall and they're heavy, which is a lot different than what we've seen in the past games. Georgia Tech was small; USC, with the exception of one guy, was small; and New Mexico was also small and they move a lot.

Kuresa said he believes the Cougars offensive line measures up well with Stanford's defensive personnel. "They're physically big, run stopper type of guys so it will be different for us as far as the game goes.

He added, however, it's not dissimilar to the beefy defensive line they faced in spring and fall practice. "It's like in fall camp where we go up against Ifo (Pili), Manaia (Brown) and (Daniel) Marquardt, guys packing as much weight like them. We should be familiar with it and it shouldn't be a problem."

One of the biggest questions inquiring BYU minds want to know is whether the pro-caliber linemen is planning to serve an LDS mission after this season.

"It's kind of a toss up right now," said Kuresa. "I'd like to serve one and I've been contemplating that a lot lately. You know, when it comes down to it, it's going to be a personal choice when the season's over.

"It's kind of hard to think about it right now. I just try to prepare myself so that if I do want to go, I can just say, ‘I want to go, give me my papers,' and it should be a quick process. Right now, it's probably 50-50 – maybe more go than not go, but we'll wait and see."

And, he admitted, he gets a lot of unsolicited advice. "That makes it hard. I hear from a lot of different people on this and that. They say, ‘You know you can come back and be a starter,' but I don't think that that is the same thing as a mission. They're two separate things and I'm going to look at a mission with a totally different perspective as football. I don't want football to come into play when I'm deciding on a mission," Kuresa continued.

At many colleges around the country, LDS athletes are pressured to stay rather than fulfill personal goals to serve Church missions At BYU, he said this is not an issue.

"I feel like, actually, I hope that I'm needed," added Kuresa. "I think I've played more, I've proven some things. I definitely think, as far as a player's perspective, they (BYU coaches) would rather have me play than not have me play.

"But at the same time, that's why I chose to come to this school. It's because I don't want that kind of pressure when I decide to go on a mission. It shouldn't matter and over here it doesn't matter. Coach Reynolds and coach Crowton and all those guys aren't going to say to me, ‘We want you to stay and play.' They're going to say, ‘We'll use you, but if you want to go, we're going to give you a high five and say good luck.' That's why I ultimately came here in the first place."

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