Attention to Detail Evident in Saturday Practice

Saturday morning's BYU football practice, the best-attended yet of the public-access sessions, was an impressive display of attention to detail by Cougar coaches, especially defensive guru <b>Bronco Mendenhall</b>, who seemed more hands-on than usual in breaking down, correcting and instructing defensive players after most plays during the red zone and two-minute partial-contact drills.

Mendenhall yelled at his oncoming and outgoing units to sprint through all their assignments. There's nothing that causes a coaches' gasket to blow meaner than penalties associated with players scrambling on or off the field too late.

Before that, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes' stern commands to his unit in vigorous drills could be heard almost a field away. The obvious intensity and man-on-man pushing and pulling by the biggest players of the team had them gasping for breath during brief water breaks.

On the opposite field, special teams coach Paul Tidwell put his unit through full-speed paces with Austin Collie, Antwaun Harris, B.J. Mathis and Bryce Mahuika taking turns returning punts. The opposition scout team couldn't be mistaken with their fluorescent orange-colored helmets.

Just before all the units were combined, quarterback coach Gary Crowton and wide receiver coach Todd Bradford ran their usual drills with all four quarterbacks – Jackson Brown, Jason Beck, Matt Berry and John Beck – practicing their timing and accuracy to speedy receivers.

Throwing and catching during these drills are not as accurate reflection of how well they will perform during games.

Predictably, the most crowd-pleasing part of today's practice was the full-team scrimmage at the end.

Crowton's offense scored two red zone touchdowns with combinations by Jason Beck to receiver B.J. Mathis; Jackson Brown to tight end Dennis Pitta, who has emerged as an impressive backup to Daniel Coats (since Phil Niu will likely redshirt this season because of his lingering knee injury)

An open Coats dropped an easy end-zone pass from Matt Berry, which raised groans and murmurs from assembled fans concerned that Coats does not repeat critical game drops as he did in several games last season. From the last three days of practice, it is a valid concern since Coats has dropped easily-catchable passes. He and position coach Mike Empey must effectively address this worrisome and recurring tendency before the season opener. Otherwise, Coats' blocking and route-running is much improved from last season.

The center stood out for the wrong reason at least four times during the scrimmage with mishandled or low snaps. The mishandled snaps may have been a factor of working with four different quarterbacks, but the low snaps at other times fell squarely on his shoulders.

With all four quarterbacks taking a fairly balanced number of snaps, it's still not clear who the fall starter will be yet from the last three days of fall practice. Certainly, it will be between Matt Berry or John Beck.

With Mendenhall's defensive line and linebackers showing various disguised blitzes, neither Beck nor Berry stood out over the other today – even as the offensive line effectively blocked most of the times and was porous at other times.

Overall, the defense impressed more with continuous after-play adjustments by Mendenhall. There was some light hitting, but nothing close to the intense pounding from scrimmages early in the week.

A buffet lunch was served to the team after practice on the side of the field.

"Red zone and two minute, those are the toughest drills," Crowton said. "We've been doing well on both sides of the ball in those two drills."

He added: "We've been really physical this past week. I'm just trying to get them ready so we can have a few more physical days before we polish up for Notre Dame."

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