Offense vs. Defense Go at Each Other in Full Pads

Like two rival junkyard pit bulls chained just beyond the other's reach, chomping at the bit to tear at each other, the BYU offense vs. defense's first full-pads closed practice battle Saturday afternoon was a temporary no-holds-barred affair.

As might be expected after the physical nature of this week's "non-contact" drills, it was hard-hitting and tempers flew in the heat of battle, even after whistles blew. Opposing units were aggressive with the type of intensity that might be more appropriately directed at opposing teams rather than at teammates.

After a few rounds of tempered skirmishes, head coach Gary Crowton had seen enough. He assembled his charges in the middle of the practice field for a needed cool-down, inspiring team talk.

It worked. Back on the field, observers could finally gauge timing, decision making, how well the quarterbacks connected with wide receivers and how Jeff Grimes' offensive line held up under intense defensive pressure.

Simply stated, the Cougar offensive linemen capably held their blocks, picked up blitzes, and created a consistent pocket for the quarterbacks to work from. "The offensive line looks good right now," said one onlooker. "They seem a lot better."

Surprisingly, not a single quarterback was sacked by Bronco Mendenhall's swarm defense. The line -- first to third string -- consistently gave the quarterbacks time to operate and fought back surging defensive players with tenacity. One hapless blitzing katback was met head-on and flattened to the ground by a fully-engaged Ofa Mohetau.

Meanwhile, quarterbacks John Beck and Matt Berry played well in full scrimmage action, finding open targets all over the playing field.

Berry connected on a well-thrown deep ball, hitting receiver Riley Weber on a 45-yard touchdown strike that got his offensive teammates pumped on the field and on the sidelines. Berry also hit tight end Dan Coats several times in the flat and the middle of the field for sizable gains.

Freshman receiver Austin Collie continues to impress with some nice grabs and showed excellent open field mobility for extra yards. With only one ball handling mistake, Berry maintained his poise in the pocket, read the defense well and completed passes to a wide array of receivers.

Sophomore tight end Jonny Harline made a nice grab of a well-placed Berry toss and showed why BYU may field four outstanding tight ends this season. At 6-4, 235 pounds, Harline's speed and leaping ability was impressive. He joins Coats, Philip Niu and Jeremy Gillespie, all sophomores, in what is a very deep tight end group.

There were a few dropped balls that killed offensive momentum at times.

John Beck continued where Berry left off and demonstrated again he is a quarterback that has come of age. Beck spread the pigskin around, completing passes to Coats, Rod Wilkerson on a deep out and connected with Todd Watkins for a long touchdown.

Sophomore running back Curtis Brown ran well behind some great run blocking by the offensive line, averaging more than 5-yards per gain. Freshman newcomer Ray Hudson also impressed onlookers. Quick off the line, Hudson showed bursts of speed and quickness and used them to his advantage taking the ball into the end zone after a reception out of the backfield.


* Linebacker Cameron Jensen was walking around with nothing more than tape around his lower ankle during Media Day Saturday morning without any noticeable limp.

* Receiver Michael Morris and offensive lineman Eddie Keele indicated they would be ready to resume practice next week.

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