John Beck Gets Starting Nod at Quarterback

The lingering BYU starting quarterback question was answered today. "John Beck will be the starting quarterback, but I won't hesitate to use (Matt) Berry if I have to," Cougar head coach Gary Crowton said.

"I feel like Berry is really close, but Beck is more mobile, which gives us more options. I think Matt has done very well. I feel that his hand has healed up well. It gives me a good feeling going in with the thought that I have two quarterbacks who have competed and have experience," Crowton said.

Asked whether Matt Berry would get game reps against Notre Dame, Crowton said he wouldn't necessarily.

"As the third quarterback, I'm trying to get Jason Beck ready along with Jackson Brown, but I won't play him unless I absolutely have to – since he has his redshirt year available. He's good enough that when his time comes he'll play a significant role."

Crowton also clarified how he will run the offense this season. "I'm going to handle the play calling like I did my first two years I was here. Last year, I split it up some with Rob (Robbie Bosco.) The play calling won't be much different to what I did in 2001 and 2002. The big difference is that now I'm coaching the quarterbacks. I just have to prepare for those meetings. That takes a lot of time getting to where I can prepare the quarterbacks. Before, I just met with them once a week on a Wednesday night. Now I've had the chance to meet with them everyday. I like that, but from a preparation standpoint, it takes a lot of time. I feel I'm very organized with the guys around me about what they do."

During game time, Crowton said he will rely on his assistants to assist in calling some plays. "I'll rely on Lance Reynolds most because he's called plays before and he'll be upstairs. Coach (Todd) Bradford is down on the ground making sure that we have the right personnel. He's very sharp that way. Coach Grimes," he continued, "will put his input in regarding the run game and protection. I feel like it will be a group effort, but I'll make the final decision. Both Mike Empey and Lance Reynolds will be upstairs with Empey talking to coach Grimes and Reynolds talking primarily to me and coach Bradford," he added.

Crowton noted that "today's practice (closed to the media) will focus mostly on first and second downs. It will be an emphasis on running plays today. Tomorrow we'll work more on situational and third downs; red area things. On Wednesday and Thursday, we'll have a more polishing sort of practice putting everything together."

Commenting on the Cougars most blatant weakness last season at offense, Crowton said, "We have a little more depth on offense this year. Defensively, I think we had better depth last year. We're a little more experienced with our starters this year, though. I really like our defensive front. Our linebackers are very physical, even without Paul Walkenhorst. Our secondary is pretty experienced except for one position. I feel fine about that position now, but we don't have as much depth there as we did last year. I also feel like we're a little more athletic on coverage units," he said.

With less than a week left until kickoff Saturday against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, BYU coaches are preparing for an important game for both teams. Crowton said they will release their revised depth chart Tuesday. "We'll sit down and make the final decisions on our personnel to see where we are healthy, and then at that time (Monday night) I'll make a decision and probably announce it with all positions on Tuesday. We talk to the guys a little bit and tell them kind of what we're thinking. The other thing is I'm not anxious to tell Notre Dame exactly what our personnel is yet," Crowton said last week.

Crowton pointed out that preparing for Notre Dame defensively presents some interesting challenges. "Defensively, their schemes are different. Notre Dame is a four down and we're a three down (linemen). You have to get used to that. Offensively, they're a very power run-oriented team with play action. You have to get used to that … squeezing the run on defense and recognizing the four down look on offense."

He continued: "There's always a little bit (of defensive change). I don't expect Notre Dame's defense to change much because they've been good defensively against the rush. Two years ago, they averaged like 90 yards a game and, I think, last year 120. It wasn't what they wanted, but it was close, so they did pretty good defensively."

Crowton said he made sure his offense was fully prepared for the Notre Dame defensive style. "Earlier in fall camp, we did a lot of real physical run stuff. Later on we did a lot more protection type things. Our defense is tough to run against anyways because there are a lot of guys up close, but I think we've got a good mix," he said.

As the season opener draws nearer, the attitude, anticipation and excitement among players is clearly evident. "It's going really well, actually. Practices are a lot different than when I was in high school as far as intensity, speed and stuff like that goes. Overall, I think coming here was probably the best decision I've ever made being able to develop my potential playing under coach Mendenhall," said true freshman defensive back Billy Skinner.

"We're just getting our minds ready," Skinner added. "Coach Mendenhall says you gotta come out everyday and get your mind ready, so we need to prepare, take advantage of all opportunities and we'll be successful. I'm excited about Notre Dame. We've been preparing and playing against the pass all fall, but you gotta get your mind right for the run too. That's the thing about this defense. We're going to be good. As soon as I saw the kind of defense we were going to be playing, I got excited."

With last year's defense ranked14th overall nationally, BYU defensive coaches want to improve on that with a Top 10 finish this season.

Skinner also shared his impressions about the Cougars' revamped offense. "I think the offense is coming along really well. We haven't had very many picks. These guys are chucking the ball all over the field so they're looking really good, actually."

Sophomore offensive linemen Jake Kuresa, added his two-cents to Skinner's summation. "Tell the fans we're gonna test people this year. I'm excited about what we're doing. We're working hard and its fun to work hard when you're seeing results everyday. We're getting better everyday. When we do make mistakes, we're fixing them quick and getting better. You know, I'm just excited to put it all together on the field for a whole game.

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people with what we can do. The overall offense, for sure, but the overall offense doesn't do anything without the O-Line. It starts with us. I hope people are excited to see the work we've done. They might not recognize us, but when the offense is moving, you know it's because of the O-Line," said Kuresa.

Playing against a stout defensive front daily practice has its benefits for the offensive line. The off-season addition of former ASU offensive line coach, Jeff Grimes, could be the x-factor that could move the Cougars to the next tier of success this season.

"Coach Grimes is awesome and I think he's getting the most out of us," Kuresa noted. "He's an awesome coach. When he first came in, I'm not going to lie; I was like, ‘Man, what's with this guy. I mean, he's killing us.' But you know day in and day out he won me over more and more. I just figured I just gotta take the best attitude. I just told myself I'm not going to sell myself short and just do what he says and do it all out and I'll have faith that it will work out. Now I'm where I want to be and I feel I'm ready for the season. I think the rest of the O-line feels the same way."

Asked what made Grimes different, Kuresa said, "We concentrated a little more on the small things. On finishing, pad level, footwork, more of that kind of stuff. I think it's going to show during the game. Run blocking is a lot better. I think last year we knew what to do, but we didn't know how to go about it as good as we could have. This year, we've got a lot better technique and we've got the little things down like footwork."

EXTRA POINTS:

* Crowton expressed optimism for defensive tackle Daniel Marquardt return to action in time for Notre Dame. "Daniel is really progressing … he's probable for the game. I'll know more about that probably next Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm very pleased with his progress."

* Crowton's thoughts on having Moa Peaua, a 288-pound fullback with 4.75/40 in the backfield. "I think Moa helps us because he's physical in his blocking. I don't know if there is anyone as physical as Moa out there at fullback. He's a big blocker and I think that brings physical play to that group." * While linebacker Justin Luettgerodt has been nursing his recovering knee, Markell Staffieri has received some playing time in the first team rotation. "We're just kind of mixing things up a little bit and Markell (Staffieri) has done some good things so we're giving him a lot of looks. He's a tough kid. He's up in the mix," said Crowton.

* Crowton confirmed that injured defensive tackle Manaia Brown "is back and ready to go. Manaia has really grown and he's really invested in the program this year. He's made the commitment to be good over the summer. He got a little bit banged up in fall camp, but during that time he just worked his tail off to come back because he really wants to play in this game. Now he's ready to go. I'm very proud of him."

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