He's Back!

Today, former freshman All-American Austin Collie put his two year hiatus behind him as the Cougar offense started spring practice with a bang.

All eyes were on BYU wide receiver Austin Collie, who for the first time in two years went through his a full day of full spring practice under a new head coach in Bronco Mendenhall.

"Learning the offense is not that hard," Collie said. "It was a lot more complex under Coach Crowton. Every week we would get new plays, and we would have to memorize them and their different formations and things like that. Then we would change them up the day before the game, which was perfectly fine because we were supposed to be capable of doing that. Now, it's more basic, and we focus on the simplest of things. It's a lot easier but can be kind of frustrating because it is so easy."

Remembering how difficult and complex the offense was under Coach Crowton, Collie is now focusing on playing within the new offensive philosophy and not over-thinking its simplicity.

"You go out there and you think something more complex is going to come, but it's not," Collie said. "This is the most basic offense I've ever ran, but it's going really well."

Getting back into the groove of the offense means having to mesh with a new quarterback. During skeli drills today, quarterback Max Hall found Collie for a number of strikes downfield, one of which Collie took to the end zone with an inside move.

"I think I did really well today," said Collie. "I'm just trying to mesh with Max and with the other quarterbacks and get my timing down. I'm trying to get my legs back under me, and it was little bit tougher today because it was a little bit different pace and a different schedule. It wasn't as intense before when we were working out as it was today, but it felt good having come off two years from my mission."

Collie has been home from Argentina for a few months now. He got right into the swing of things by coming to voluntary workouts to help shake off the missionary rust.

"Today was more intense in comparison to what we had been doing up until now," Collie said. "Now we are running from station to station, and there aren't as many receivers rotating within the offense at this point in time, and so you just have to stick it out. I had to get some help from Ryan Neely today, but I think it went really well today, and it felt good."

So how did Collie feel he performed in his first practice in two years?

"I felt I performed well today having come back after two years," said Collie. "For someone who hadn't ran a route or got the chance to really go out and catch a football, I thought I did pretty good today."

While serving in Argentina, Collie did not participate in any exercise program and had very little chance to even play catch with a football.

"I wasn't able to do anything," Collie said. "I maybe went out and threw the football about five times. I could probably count the number of times I actually went out and ran on one hand."

Long gone are the days when Collie was stretching defenses with quarterback John Beck at the helm. Now the sophomore receiver is looking forward to doing the same thing with a new gun slinger running the offense.

"I'm really impressed with Max Hall," Collie said. "Granted, he hasn't seen the football field yet, and it's been awhile, but he is handling it really well. You can tell he has composure and confidence, and that's exactly what we need in a team leader, and he is also throwing the ball really well."

Following a Max Hall-to-Austin Collie touchdown, Hall ran to the corner of the end zone and led the offense in a group end zone celebration. This got the offense even more fired up as defensive players looked on.

"I'll tell you what, we had about a 15 minute team meeting with Coach Anae, and that was one of the things he emphasized," said Collie. "He wants us to put a lot of emphasis on celebrating together as a team, and if someone gets into the end zone, we better be celebrating there with him. You might see a little dance here and there from Max Hall."

"You'll definitely see some dancing from Max Hall," said Hall, who was standing nearby. "You'll definitely see some of that."

In learning the new offense, Collie feels the simplicity of Coach Anae's system narrows the margin for error. Often times players can over-think their responsibilities within the offense, which can create greater communication problems between quarterback and receiver. Simplicity also allows athletes to concentrate more on practical things to further develop themselves as masters of their positions.

"Oh, I think it has helped me a lot," said Collie of Anae's elementary approach to offense. "You're not trying to do too much. Right now our script is really basic, so you have time to focus on just that one route or getting your timing down on this one route by not running a bunch of different things. It allows you to focus on functionality like a simple equation.

"You know, Gary Crowton is a great guy and a good coach, but now, it's a little more intense. It's a little bit stricter and a little bit more direct. We know where we want to get, and the entire team has that goal as a whole. I think that was something we struggled with back in 2004. We all now feel like we're on the same team with the same goals."

One surprising aspect of today's skeli drills was how effective the offense was against a defense that returned many starters from last year's successful team. Max Hall was able to orchestrate many successful drives to the goal line where the offense came away with touchdowns by Collie, Vic So'oto and Harvey Unga, among others. It was surprising to see how well the offense has come together this early in spring camp.

"Oh yeah, we're united," said Collie. "We're always looking for a chance to celebrate and get into the zone. We're always supporting one another, and if someone drops a ball, we're right in there picking him back up to make sure he catches it next time."

When John Beck was the quarterback in 2004, Collie was known for stretching defenses and catching the long ball. The former freshman All-American feels this aspect of his game will return in time.

"You probably won't see it right now just because I don't quite have may legs under me," said Collie. "I'm not running a 4.4 anymore, but it's coming along. Definitely by September 1st I think you will be seeing some long balls. I think I'm about 50 to 60 percent right now. It's just one of those things where I'm trying to get my legs back, but once I get my legs back, my routes are going to become a lot crisper, I'm going to have more confident catching the ball, and I'm going to start playing more naturally."


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