Going Back To Basics

The Cougars are taking advantage of the extra week they've been given to go back to the basics. For the past couple of days now, the Cougars have been focusing on polishing up their techniques and blue zone execution, and have also worked to improve their in-game situational performances.

The Cougars broke down into their position groups and, under the instructions of their position coaches, got down to basics. Now was the time for revamping some technique quirks and polishing up on a few tendencies the coaches want to fix.

"Basically this week has been a lot of position stuff," said Brandon Bradley. "For us as cornerbacks, it has been a lot of footwork drill and reading [offensive packages] and whatnot. The periods have been extended so we could get some extra time with us developing our position mastery, so basically we've gone back to focus on some of those things we haven't worked on or focused on since fall camp. Right now it's tighten up time and polish up time so we can keep going throughout the season and keep getting those wins."

"We have two weeks with the bye week, so it gives us time to do a little work against each other," said Andrew George. "We're able to spend time going back to working on our position mastery and the fundamentals that we haven't emphasized as much because of having to prepare for teams in season."

Coach Doman gathered together the quarterbacks and, simulating a rush with a padded bag (courtesy of general assistant Jason Beck), had his group avoid the rush by stepping up to make throws.

For the running backs, the basics dealt more with catching the ball in passing routes and blocking under the watchful eye and direction of Coach Reynolds.

"The bye week gives us a chance to focus on some individual work," said Manase Tonga. "We as running backs are focusing on our route running, pass blocking and holding onto the ball. It's basically just the normal stuff that we did. Now with this extra time we're now just polishing up and fine-tuning those things up."

For the defensive linemen, Coach Kaufusi set aside the twists and the crossover stunts to focus on more fundamental coaching. The d-linemen gathered together and went over some handwork and footwork techniques.

"Coach Kaufusi told us last Monday that we were going to take time this week to help perfect our fundamentals," said Eathyn Manumaleuna. "He's always pushing us to further develop our footwork and handwork, but this week we're really focusing and concentrating on trying to perfect those things. So now we're doing drills and a lot of repetitions over and over so it just clicks."

Prior to Wednesday's practice, the Cougars met in their individual position rooms to watch Tuesday's practice performances. The players received a critiquing of their performances, and were given the task of correcting any fundamental mistakes.

"Coach Kaufusi always watches film on us and critiques us," said a chuckling Manumaleuna. "We watched film today from yesterday's practice. It wasn't that long but it really helped us going into today's practice. So see what we did and having the many reps to correct things or polish things up was good for us. Coach [Kaufusi] is always on us about our fundamentals. He tells us that having those fundamentals down will always help our performances during the game. For me, it's important to have a base so that I can build on from there."

"We watch film of our practices every single day," said George, also chuckling. "Then the coaches will critique us on our performances, so during practice you better be doing everything you're supposed to or the coaches are going to see it. This is a good time to get some help from the coaches and to work on yourself to get better."

Following the personal development portion of practice, the BYU coaches have been putting the team through a lot of blue zone work. Last year, the Cougars were one of the top teams in the country in blue zone execution. On top of the blue zone work, the coaches have also placed the Cougars in situational experiences.

"We've been doing a lot of blue zone and two minute drills," said George. "We've been focusing a lot on blue zone because we've kind of struggled on our blue zone performances with converting and penalties. That's something we're trying to emphasize right now while we have the time to do so."

"The offense struggled a little bit today," George continued. "You have to give some credit to our defense for that, but that's kind of how it was during fall camp as well. Some days our offense did really well and other days the defense performed well against us. We'll have another day tomorrow of situational drills and now it's up to us to come out and respond."

The offense started out on the 45-yard line with only a minute on the clock. The Cougars had to execute and advance the ball as far as they could under quick circumstances.

"We've also been doing a lot of situational stuff during some of the periods in practice," said Bradley. "They want us to continue working on our blue zone performances and continue to improve on that, so it's basically the same mindset as if we were in the game when we do that. Coach Hill told us DBs that he doesn't want any touchdowns. When the third team goes in, he tells them the same things. So they put our backs up against the wall and we have to show up."

One advantage the added week has given the Cougars is a chance for players other than the starters to perform, polish up and get some added experience against the first-team units.

"A lot of the second- and third-team units have been give a lot of reps this week," Bradley said. "It allows some of the younger guys to get more reps to help further develop their skills on offense and defense since these are the guys coming up."

"They put in the twos and threes to get the ones some rest," said Manumaleuna. "They put the first team in a few times to let us get some work, but it's a good chance for the other guys to get some reps in to help develop their positions and fundamentals. So they played a lot of the twos and threes so they can get some practice in against the first teams."

Cougar Conversations

Running back Harvey Unga talks about this week's goals and how the Cougars are using the added time to further improve.

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