BYU Spring Practice Begins

BYU's spring practice kicked off today as players and coaches took the the field in the massive indoor practice facility. While the practice did not look very different from last spring, one face on the coaching staff was unfamiliar to onlookers.

New BYU secondary coach Jaime Hill was hired less than a week before the start of spring camp. He did not arrive in Provo until late Friday night. The former Canadian Football League defensive coordinator showed no effects of jet lage as he hit the ground running in practice today.

"I'm very excited to be here," said Coach Hill. "I'm a football coach. I've been coaching for 20 years, this is what I do. So time? I don't need time, I'm ready to go."

"From what I knew of him through interviews and from what I saw from him at practice today, I think he's really going to help our football team," said Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall about his newest staff member. "He's shown his expertise in coaching the position instantly. He knows the coverages and now he'll just have to work on knowing the player's names. He's a master teacher in regards to coverages and technique and I'm fortunate that he's on our staff."

As Coach Mendenhall mentioned, Coach Hill cannot readily name is players, but he likes what he saw from his new charges on the first day of spring practice.

"We're headed in the right direction," said Coach Hill. "I'm happy that they're working hard. Everything is brand new and they're willing to learn, so that is definitely positive."

Of course, the switch to a new coach can be a serious adjustment for a player, but for Justin Robinson the difference was not all that apparent.

"This was the first day I've met with him, so I didn't know what to expect," said Robinson. "I came in and I saw that he was black, he was bald, so I just thought that Coach Mitchell had just shrunk in the off-season. He's just like what Coach Mitchell was as far as I can tell, he just talks a little faster."

Added fellow cornerback Kayle Buchanan: "I met him on Friday when he got off the plane and I really like him so far. It's hard to see how he differs from Coach Mitchell on the first day, so I can't really tell you how he's going to be different or if he's going to be much different at all. I'm just excited to have the opportunity to play for him."

"Every time you go somewhere new you don't know the guys you're going to work with," said Coach Hill. "Once you get to know them and they get to know you, then things work out well. We have a lot of good players here that we'll work on getting the most out of. Once we do that, then we'll be successful."

Pleased with the Off-season Effort

"If anyone considers us to be satisfied going 6-6 and losing a bowl game, then they're mistaken," said Coach Mendenhall. "We have a lot of work to do and that started today."

The work to improve upon a .500 season actually began before today's practice. Players put in hours of training in the weight room and on the practice field since the winter semester began in January.

"I couldn't be more happy with how they've trained in the off-season," said Mendenhall. "They care and support one another unlike any group of players I've been around. They're competing at a higher level than any group has since my first year and they were happy to be out here today."

Despite the hard off-season workouts, nothing could fully prepare Cougar players for their first full day of practice. The thrill of being back on the field under the direction of their coaches was enough to mitigate any physical discomfort the players may have experienced, however.

"The first day is always hard because you're not used to it, but you don't really notice it being hard because you're just so excited to be out there," said Buchanan. "I know it was that way for me today, and I'm sure my teammates felt the same way. We're just excited to get going and improve from last year."

Making the Special Teams Special

Doing special teams work is usually not a hallmark of spring practices and certainly not a hallmark of the first day of most spring practices at BYU, but the team did extensive punt formation work today. Derek McLaughlin boomed punts into the rafters of the indoor practice facility. The balls that were not blocked by the roof were returned by Nate Meikle, McKay Jacobson, Brett Cooper and Bryce Mahuika.

"It will be normal for us to practice special teams every day based on our performances on special teams last year," said Mendenhall. "We'll do it every day all spring and we intend on being better on it than we were a year ago."

Practice Notes

The team practiced non-contact drills in half-pads. Most of the work was with the wide-receivers and secondary as the linemen worked on technique drills throughout practice. The highlights included:

- Jonny Harline with his new number 13 making several nice grabs on seam patterns down the middle. He also had a signature one-handed grab of a John Beck pass.

- Harline was not the only impressive YR (tight end). Vic So'oto made several nice grabs during drills, as did Andrew George.

- Buchanan had perhaps the most impressive coverage play staying stride-for-stride with Matt Allen on a fly pattern to knock the pass away.

- Markell Staffieri knocked down a pass as he played one of the two middle linebacker positions in the new 3-4 formation with Cameron Jensen. The two were flanked by Chris Bolden and Bryan Kehl to make up the first team linebackers. David Nixon, Kelly Poppinga, Terrence Hooks and Gary Lovely were the LBs with the second unit.

-The defensive line had Hala Paongo, Jan Jorgenson and Kyle Luekenga playing with the first unit. Brett Denney, Russell Tialavea and Judd Anderton played with the twos.

-The ones in the secondary were Justin Robinson, Kayle Buchanan, David Tafuna and Cole Miyahira with Tico Pringle, Zac Erekson, Aaron Attig and Ben Gordon getting the primary work with the twos. Quinn Gooch did not practice today.

-Walk-on wide receivers Shawn Mosman and JC walk-on Ryan Neely both impressed making several leaping grabs in skeleton drills.

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