Stepping Up to the Next Level

Snow College transfer Tico Pringle just finished his second day of spring practice at the D-1 level. caught up with BYU's newest cornerback to see how his development at the D-I level is proceeding.

The defensive secondary, like the defensive line, will be of great interest to BYU fans as the Cougars prepare for the 2006 season. With experience playing against higher caliber talent, Tico Pringle is on track to contend for a starting position in BYU's revamped secondary.

"The jump from JC to here is kind of a steep jump but most people who are able to make that jump up are well prepared for it," Pringle said. "They just have to come out and show their athleticism. The receivers were a lot bigger in the JC ranks and had a little more size to them."

Having faced BYU's receivers for two straight days now, Pringle has been put to the test against a corps of pass catchers that are smooth in their route running and polished in their technique.

"The receivers here, on the other hand, have much better technique, which means I have to be much more precise with my footwork and everything else," Pringle said. "The speed of the game is about the same maybe a little faster here at this level and I've gained a little weight and slowed up a little bit but not too much. Still, I'm not out of condition where if they get a step on me that I can't come up on anyone."

Pringle, who came in at 5'10" and a solid 183 pounds, feels he has already gained a few pounds of muscle under BYU's weight lifting regime. The cornerback recruit looks more like a mini linebacker, much like Tennessee transfer Shannon Benton did a few years ago. If Pringle does not solidify his spot as a cornerback by beating out Kayle Buchanan, Justin Robinson, Andre Saulsberry, Ben Criddle or any other player currently competing for the position, BYU fans could see him at the safety position.

"Tico is learning day by day as a new player in our program what the expectations are and where he fits," said Coach Mendenhall. "As of today it's undecided and at a time and at each practice will help determine his role."

"Right now I'm practicing at corner," Pringle said. "But probably on Thursday when we suit up, put on the pads and the boys become men, that's the time when we'll see some contact, and you never know what will happen then. I could be switched over to someplace else but right now I'm practicing with the corners. I've gained two or three pounds but I'm still a sub 4.4 and hopefully later on I can come out with another sub 4.3 again."

BYU defensive back's Coach Jaime Hill feels it is better to have junior college players on campus and involved in spring ball than later on in fall camp. Coach Hill feels that spring practice is a good time to evaluate the individual talent in his group and teach his personal techniques to help these players further develop their individual skills prior to further group development.

"The biggest thing is it's great that these guys are here during the spring and have a chance to learn all the new techniques and all the new skills," said Coach Hill. "A lot of times a JUCO guy will come in during the fall and he's missed so much, so he has to relearn all the things he was taught during junior college.

Playing straight up man coverage where cornerbacks simply rely on raw talent rather than technique is something Coach Hill is grinding into the minds of some of his players.

"Most junior colleges will play straight man and there's not a lot of technique because there's not a lot of coaches, so there's not a lot of technique being taught," said Hill. "When you're at a four year level there are a lot of things that come into play, like how I was just teaching a moment ago such as teaching hand placement, feet placement, where do your eyes go and what do you need to look for. In speaking with some of these guys now, those were some of the things they were unaware of, so some of this stuff is kind of new to them."

Today during practice, Pringle received some personal instruction from Coach Hill.

"Right now he's getting me back for my technique because earlier we were told to practice our zone coverage and our man coverage, and I wasn't back there at a seven yard zone instead of press coverage all the time," Pringle said. "Right now I'm just going back to those basics that I learned at Snow. You know, just getting back to my footwork, opening up my hips better and breaking on the ball. Practice today showed pretty well what I could do, but I just need to worry about catching the ball now."

Coach Hill believes in matching battle tested techniques with the abilities of the athlete. Part of that process may include reprogramming what players have been taught by other coaches.

"It's not necessarily [correcting] bad habits because that was something someone else taught them somewhere else," Coach Hill said. "It's just more that this is how we do things here—this way rather than that way. We teach things this way and we do things this way because we've had a lot of success in the past doing things this way.

"The biggest thing also is we don't want to turn these guys into robots. What we try to do is teach them a concept that there are some things they can do and some things they can't do, and get them a little more familiar with themselves."

So what does Pringle think of his new coach?

"He knows his stuff," Pringle said. "He knows this stuff like he dreams about this stuff. He just doesn't just think about a problem when he goes home. He's the kind of coach that thinks about it, talks to his wife about it and then asks his son what he thinks about a specific coverage while he's playing with his Legos or something. He pays attention to detail and he knows his stuff.

"Right now it's more of the polishing up and getting back to the basics. Getting all the little things he says down so that by the time two weeks comes around hopefully I can turn some coaches' heads."

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