Q & A with the G

Brandon Gurney draws upon his firsthand observations of BYU's spring football practice in his responses to questions from TBS'ers. The G-Man has answers about the QB race, the O-line situation, injury status, the depth charts and more.

Q. from You: How is Brian Sanders looking? What kind of shape does he look to be in? Will he for sure be a starter? What kind of season can we expect from him?

Answer from the G-Man: Brian Sanders has arguably been the most consistent performer of all the OL's this spring. While Keele and Reynolds have practiced sparingly due to minor injuries, Sanders has been participating fully in just about every practice.

He's not the most athletic OL on the team, but he's very consistent and will be an important cog in the middle of the line. He's also shown some nastiness early on when he tangled up with Cameron Jensen in one of the first practices this spring. I look for Sanders to have a very solid season

Q.: If our five best OL's can play all season, how good will our OL be? What if we have some OL injuries? How good will our OL be then?

G.: The front line guys have the potential to be one of the better O'Ls BYU has ever had. Jake Kuresa was completely dominating before opting for early surgery.

Reynolds had a solid year last season, but looks to be that much better with his first season as an OL under his belt. Eddie Keele really looks good in practice and, in interviews, Bronco has commented on how pleased he has been with Keele's aggressiveness and overall play in interviews. Travis Bright is living up to his hype and Rey Feinga is getting a ton of work with Kuresa being out.

Depth is seemingly an issue, but a lot of help is on the way. Nick Longshore has been out for most of spring practice as has Scott Tidwell. Jeff Rhea looks like a solid backup. Add Sete Aulai and Terrance Brown and the depth looks to be adequate.

Q.: How good of a DB will Hale make? How good is Buchanon?

G.: Chris Hale has had a good spring practice for sure. He's adapted well and will help out tremendously in the thin CB corps. Kayle Buchanan is a leader on the team. He's a very popular player with his teammates and practices very hard. He's had some great moments in practice. He's big and physical. Covering guys deep one-on-one will be his true test.

Q.: How do our receivers seem to fit into the new system? How well will Todd Watkins fit into the new system?

G.: I feel that this system was made for the type of receivers BYU usually gets. It calls for sharp underneath routes with the ability to make many hot reads off of the snap of the ball. Guys like Matt Allen, Bryce Mahuika, Saia Hafoka and Matt Smith look to benefit heavily from the new system where as they would have likely been lost in the system Crowton runs.

Todd Watkins is the type of talent that will fit any system and even make any system fit his abilities. BYU will not abandon the deep ball this season.

Q.: Where and what frosh/JC transfers will make big impacts going into fall?

G.: The JC transfer mentioned first and foremost by coaches as someone who they look for to contribute immediately is Justin Robinson at CB. This is in large part due to attrition. You of course look to the JC guys to be the recruits who contribute immediately. Aulai has a good shot although OL is the hardest position to learn outside of quarterback in most systems.

Stephen Covey is one high school recruit who is working very hard. He attends every practice and watches intently on EVERYTHING the CB's do.

Q.: How hampered by injuries is the offense? With the O-line be healthy and Curtis Brown and Todd Watkins back on the field, does it improve drastically?

G.: It's hampered the effectiveness of the OL drastically. Bronco has mentioned that they've had to switch up their regular practice regimen just to address the OL depth issue. A healthy and full compliment of OL's with a healthy Curtis Brown (no serious injuries at all and hasn't missed much practice) and Todd Watkins should pick it up another notch at least.

Q.: How are the corners looking in practice? Are they guessings on the picks they have, or are they making athletic plays?

G.: Nate Soelberg is the player I've noticed most over the past week or so. He's really looked good and is coming off a very solid scrimmage. Soelberg, Buchanan and Hale look adequate at the very least. It drops sharply after that as of right now. I don't think I've seen enough of Nate Hutchinson to render an opinion, but he did some good things before hurting his knee. Hutchinson expects to practice this week.

Q.: What role is Coach Reynolds playing? It was said his role would be magnified as asst. HC...is that more in off the field matters?

G.: This is really hard to tell when simply watching practice. What goes on behind closed doors is pretty much shut to the media and it should be. From what I understand, Reynolds is doing a lot more in regards to non-football issues regarding the team. He's also a co-offensive coordinator with Anae for all intents and purposes. He's likely to be very much more involved in the offensive play-calling this coming year I'd imagine.

Q.: What constitutes a "drop" in the scrimmage reports?

G.: In regards to what I report as a "drop," a "drop" is a ball that should be caught. If a player is laid out diving for a catch that hits his hand, but he doesn't come up with it, then I don't write this down as a "drop." Simply stated, "drops" are passes that should be easy catches.

Q.: Which players have the most personality on the field? Who does the most talking and chattering?

G.: Justin Luettgerodt is always talking. Pretty much all the linebackers have strong personalities. Especially guys like Luettgerodt, Cameron Jensen, Aaron Wagner and Dan Bates.

Kayle Buchanan is up there among the defensive guys. Most of the DLs are relatively quiet.

On offense Curtis Brown is always one of the most, if not the most encouraging and talkative guys on the field. He's very vocal on the field in a very positive way. Fahu Tahi has also stepped up in this regard. Michael Reed is another one who has really become a team player.

Q.: Since the spread offense requires the following throws:

- little dump passes out of the backfield, - screen passes, - intermediate passes over the middle and to the sideline, - touch passes over the LB's, - long throws

how would you say each of the QB's are doing in these areas?

G.: "Little dump passes" is something that we've seen a lot of during practices. Hard to say who excels at this. These are more than often "check-off" passes. Matt Berry has always done well checking off to the underneath guys, but I personally think John Beck has seen the most improvement in this regard.

Regarding the touch passes over the middle, Berry is the one who excels in this probably more than the others although John Beck has made great strides in this regard. John Beck has learned in the offseason and during spring to take something off of some of his passes and has shown this effectively many times during spring practice. Jason Beck probably struggles the most in this regard.

Intermediate outs is of course a strength of John Beck's and this has continued during spring practice.

Berry has seemingly been throwing long more often than the others during practices. He gets a lot of air under his deep ball which is to the receiver's advantage. John Beck of course throws a gorgeous deep ball and this has continued.

Q.: Who's the most accurate throwing on the move?

G.: I'd say this has to go to Jason Beck. Berry isn't a good scrambler and John Beck seems to look to run more often than not when he leaves the pocket. While both Berry and Jo. Beck have worked hard to stay in the pocket during most scrimmages, Ja. Beck seems to roll out more often than not which plays to his strength which is throwing it on the run.

Most accurate, overall?

G.: John Beck was the most accurate during the past week overall.

Q.: Throws the most catchable ball?

G.: I'd still have to give the nod to Berry in this aspect although Jo. Beck's ball has appeared more catchable this spring. This is especially evident in his underneath patterns.

Q.: Do any one of them seem to move the team better than the others?

G.: Every quarterback has good and bad practices. Jo. Beck has moved the team the best over the past week or so.

Q.: Who tends to force it into coverage?

G.: Jason Beck more than the others.

Q.: Are they getting rid of the ball quickly enough, even throwing it away, rather than take a sack?

G.: Yes! John Beck especially has improved upon this.

Q.: Has the patched-up OL given them adequate time to throw?

G.: Not during the last scrimmage. The quarterbacks were under constant pressure over the last half of the scrimmage due to lack of depth.

If we were at crunch time in a tight game, and had a 3rd down and 6 to go, who would be your preferred skill players that you would want on the field, from QB to RB to WR to TE that you would want that would give us the best chance of picking up the first down?

John Beck, Curtis Brown, Todd Watkins, Matt Smith, Michael Reed and Johnny Harline as of right now.

Q.: Same question, but we're 6 yards away from the goal line and time expiring, and we're behind by 4 or 5. Which guys do you have the most confidence in, as a group, to get the TD on one play?

G.: Same group.

Q.: How close is this offense to the TT offense? In your mind, how much more productive does this offense appear to be than those of the last 3 years?

G.: I think this offense will run out of a tight formation with traditional OL splits more than what you saw with TTech last year. This is in large part due to Reynolds and Mendenhall liking what Moa Peaua brings to the offense lead-blocking out of the backfield. I feel that the run game has been upgraded with a full compliment of starters against the defense. I feel that BYU will be running a lot more than TTech. It's a strength on the team with guys like Curtis Brown, Fahu Tahi and Moa Peaua. All of whom have looked great this spring.

Was Friday's scrimmage as bad as BM and the press made it out to be from those who were there and actually saw it or is it that BM is just light on the praise part and doesn't want to throw around a lot of praise too early in the game?

I think a little of both. I think Bronco expected a lot of what he saw. A big problem was the absence of many starters coupled with a depleted OL corps.

Q.: If it was bad, was it due to nervous jitters, performing before alumni, being in LES, or as reported by BM due to lack of effort, focus, discipline, etc.?

G.: Hard to speak for the team here. I'll stand by what Bronco said since he'd know far more in this regard than I could ever speculate.

Q.: How does the progress of this spring compare to last year? More injuries or less, players in better shape, etc. It's been reported that practices are faster, movement between drills quicker. Is more being accomplished in the same amount of time than in previous years? Are the results more noticably apparent?

G.: They're doing more with each practice session. The offense has taken on the urgency that the defense under Mendenhall has exhibited over the past few years. The intensity has been up for sure.

Q.: If the tempo of the game on offense is faster, is this working better for the offense or contributing towards more incomplete or dropped passes, etc? Is the point to not allow the defense time to prepare for the play, or to wear them down? Is it working?

G.: A prolific tempo has not been evident in the past few scrimmages and the offense has been frustrated by this. I think a lot of this was because of the dropped passes in the last scrimmage.

I do not think any offensive tempo has worn down the defense as of late. Again, this is primarily due to a depleted OL corps. This along with the offense practicing more with situational reps.

Q.: Will Michael Morris ever see the field during his career? How bad is his injury, and what are the chances of him getting back to 100% before next season begins.

G.: Michael Morris has really struggled this past week. He tweaked his knee pretty bad during one of the first practices last week and wasn't really involved after that taking very few reps. He did not play in the last scrimmage. I don't think it would be fair to evaluate Morris until the fall.

Q.: The DMN mentions 8 of 15 offensive linemen practicing at this time. (I count 14 on the spring roster). Would you please list each one of the "living" 8, and the "injured" 7 with the specific progress of the 8 and the the status of the other 7?

G.: The eight who have been practicing consistently include Lance Reynolds Jr., Brian Sanders, Ray Feinga, David Oswald, Jeff Rhea, Nate Hall, David Sollami and Eddie Keele.

Terrence Brown and Jake Kuresa are done for the rest of the spring.

Q.: Will this years defense be slower than last years or faster? G.: The LB's will be significantly faster I feel and I think that was the biggest problem on the defense last season.

Q.: What happened to Halo Paongo? He played quite a bit last year but I don't think has been mentioned this year?

G.: He's there, but has been hampered by injury. He's practiced lightly in drills, but has never scrimmaged.

Q.: Any serious Injuries from spring ball?

G.: Not so far (knock on wood)

Q.: I've noted a lot of defensive sacks. Those D-linemen interviewed thus far have stated that the spread alignment is tough because once you beat your man, you're still 5 or 6 steps from the QB. So are most of these sacks attributable to good coverage or are the DL just that good?

G.: Sorry to be a broken record, but the depleted OL corps is the primary reason here.

Q.: As you watch Doman work with the QB's, can you give us any indication of which way he will be leaning as we go into fall? He will obviously make a recommendation for starter. Is it clearly: Jo. Beck, Berry and Ja. Beck, or is there a real chance that the order will shift?

G.: Coaches have indicated that John Beck has been inching ahead of the others as of late. They've been very tight-lipped about this subject thus far.

Q.: We seem to be loaded at tight end. What is the possibility Daniel Coats will fall to second or third string in this group?

G.: Johnny Harline sees almost all his reps with the 1s on offense. This is not the case with Dan Coats.

Q.: Can you give us an update on the status of Ray Hudson?

G.: Coming back this fall.

Q.: Based upon all that you have seen and heard, will you list the most likely first and second string by position?

G.: The two-deep on defense is far easier to tell in most practices. As of the last scrimmage, the depth chart goes like this:

G.: 1's - Vince Feula, Justin Carlson-Maddux, Michael Marquardt, Cameron Jensen, Markell Staffieri, Aaron Wagner, Dustin Gabriel, Spencer White, Quinn Gooch, Kayle Buchanan and Nate Soelberg

2s - Manaia Brown, Judd Anderton, T.J. Sitake, Dan Bates, Gary Lovely, Richard Nehring, Adam Nelson, K.C. Bills, Ryan Beck, Chris Hale and Nate Hutchinson

The two-deep is harder to tell on offense since they rotate players frequently and practically all skill positions get some reps with the 1s. This is what I've seen regarding which players seem to be getting more reps with the 1s than the others so far:

1's - John Beck, Curtis Brown, Lance Reynolds, Brian Sanders, Travis Bright, Jake Kuresa, Eddie Keele, Johnny Harline, Michael Reed, Todd Watkins, Joe Griffin and Matt Smith

2's - Matt Berry, Fahu Tahi, Jeff Rhea, Ray Feinga, David Oswald, Nate Hall, David Sollami, Dan Coats, David Gooch, Saia Hafoka, Riley Weber and Brett Cooper/Zac Collie

Again, let me emphasize how hard it is to determine a two-deep on offense. Guys like Matt Allen, Bryce Mahuika and others are seeing plenty of action when healthy. Daniel Marquardt has only practiced sparingly, but is sure to be on the two-deep come fall.

Q.: What is your impressions of punters and kickers?

G.: Jared McLaughlin is the guy who has been seeing the most work in both kicking and punting. I admittedly don't watch the kickers much. McLaughlin punted some good ones last week, but he's going to have to beat out Derek McLaughlin in the fall. Sorry I'm not more insightful here.

Q.: Who is the biggest leader on the offense and defense?

G.: Cameron Jensen is the unquestioned leader on the defense. No question about that one. Curtis Brown is obviously a leader on offense along with Lance Reynolds Jr., John Beck and Fahu Tahi.

Q.: Who is most fierce and crazy player on the team?

G.: Justin Luettgerodt is a very intense player and could probably be termed as one of the crazier guys on the team.


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