BYU Fan Practice Report 8/15

In 19 days, the Cougars will take the field against Boston College on national TV, but for now fans can only get their fix of Cougar football by catching one of the five open fall practices. Today was the first open practice session, and oh what a taste of the new BYU football team the fans got this morning session!

The biggest difference that I observed this year relative to last year was the overall intensity of practice. Anyone who was there had to have noticed the intensity between the offensive and defensive lines. The players went through a drill (Cougar drill) that pinned two offensive linemen against two defensive players with a ball carrier behind them. The players were hitting each other as hard as ever. The offensive players who stood out were, Rey Feinga and Eddie Keele, each had numerous pancake blocks. Keele has great agility, size and quickness; if he can stay healthy he should be a key clog in the Cougar offensive juggernaut this year.

Manaia Brown showed well for the defensive line; nobody was able to block him. Other defensive players who had a good practice were Vince Feula and Kyle Tew. Kyle Tew, a bit undersized for the D-line, makes up for it with his quickness and speed to pressure the QB. Tew showed well by sacking Berry during the scrimmage.

The strengths of the team will be the play of the quarterbacks (John Beck and Matt Berry) along with a sold group of running backs and great wide receivers. After watching the offense again this summer during 7 on 7s it was clear that BYU is loaded at receiver and tight end. With experience for the first time in a few years at the Quarterback position the Cougar faithful will again see the explosive offense of old return to BYU. Players that stood out today were John Beck and Matt Berry. I have been very impressed with both players this year during summer workouts and again at practice today. John Beck goes through his reads quick; then throws a strike to the open receiver. The first play of the scrimmage was a TD pass to Todd Watkins after a Beck audible at the line of scrimmage when he saw man coverage on Watkins.

Other offensive players who stood out were Luke Ashworth and Nate Meikle. Both made great catches today. Ashworth made an awesome juggling catch on a post for a big gain showing great poise and concentration. Meikle made a great catch in traffic from a scrambling John Beck for a nice gain of 20 yards. Other receivers that had great days were Vic So'to, Joe Griffen, Zac Collie and Michael Reed. The one problem the Cougars will face this year is getting the ball to all these talented receivers and backs.

Fahu Tahi and Ray Hudson looked strong today with Curtis Brown being held out of practice with a minor injury. Ray Hudson made noise with his speed and quickness in getting to the hole, he also showed great ability to let the play develop and set up his blocks before he hit the hole. Hudson made a great cut on the sideline to escape from the defender and get an additional 15 yards. Hudson also showed great ability to pick up the blitzing linebacker or Katback. He frequently stood up the blitzer or ran the blitzer out of the play. Tahi showed better quickest and speed this year than the last few years, hopefully he will solve his fumble problem this year.

The word to best describe the offense today would be execution. The coaches have the players more focused on execution and finishing the play than I have seen the past few years.

The strength of the defense will clearly be its defensive line and linebackers. Manaia Brown and Vince Feula, who saw time at defensive end today, will be the leaders of the line. I see the coaches rotating the line quit frequently this year just like that last few years.

The starting linebackers were Gary Lovely, Cameron Jensen and Justin Luettgerodt, with Richard Nehring, Aaron Wagner and Dan Bates seeing a lot of playing time.

The weakest part of the defense will be the defensive backfield, Cougarback Dustin Gabriel showed great speed and a great understanding of the defense by being in the right place at the right time. He had a great play when he caused a fumble by slapping down on the ball once the receiver caught it. Justin Robinson had a rough time during his first day with the ones, giving up TDs to Watkins and Reed. Robision show his great closing speed once the ball is in the air as he kept all short and quick routes in front of him. If the cornerbacks can step up and play well, watch out for a great defensive year.

My observation is that the line and linebackers will create a lot of chaos and havoc for the opposing offenses, but the team will need the secondary to step up and make some plays. Spencer White looked solid at his Katback position and K.C. Bills showed great run support, but he will need some time to fully grasp the coverage part of his responsibility. Gabriel will do a great job at Cougarback. He is clearly one of the fastest guys out there on the defense.

Overall the defense will perform better this year than it did last year. I can see the defense giving up a big play maybe a few times a game, but be smothering most of the time. The DL and LBs are too good for a lackluster year. Another reason why the defense will play better this year than they did last year will be the new and improved offense of the Cougars. The offense will move the ball on a more consistent base this year, which in turn will let the defense rest on the sidelines more than it has been able to.

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