Spring Practice Report: Day Four

Safety is a position with only one returning starter from a season ago. While Kellen Fowler started, he only did so for the latter half of the season. Outside of strong safety David Tafuna, the combined experience of those competing for the spots on the two-deep roster is zero.

"Kellen Fowler is the experienced player from last year," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "David Tafuna would be listed as the starting KAT safety, but he's hurt at this point and we're building him for the fall. I like the mix we have at safety and I like how they're competing so far."

In Tafuna's place, Jordan Pendleton has stepped up and is taking all of the reps with the first-team defense so far this spring. While he's doing well in his development, there is a lot to learn for Pendleton in how to play the KAT position in Jaime Hill's 3-4 defense.

"Last year I was lost a lot of the time [in regards to] knowing what to do and where I should be, but I don't feel that's the case so far this spring," said Pendleton. "The reads are coming a lot quicker to me now and I'm able to make plays, which comes when you know where you're supposed to be on the field."

With Tafuna out for the time being, Pendleton is receiving a lot of good experience ,which will help prepare him for the fall and the 2008 season.

"It's a great chance for Jordan Pendleton to get developed," said Mendenhall. "He's been getting all of the reps with the 1s and I've been pleased with what he's been doing."

Shedding Weight

One thing Pendleton has done in the offseason is lose some weight. Last year when he first reported to camp, Pendleton looked more like a linebacker than a safety with his physique. At the start of spring camp, Pendleton has shed some pounds and is moving very quickly from sideline to sideline and maybe even closing a bit faster on the ball.

"I'm down to 215 now," said Pendleton. "I don't know if getting smaller was something I needed to do, but I did lose some weight and I feel faster and a lot quicker, so yeah, maybe it is helping me."

For Pendleton, losing whatever weight he's shed doesn't hold a candle to what he's gained in terms of knowledge of the system. Having had a year under his belt, Pendleton is feeling a lot more comfortable with his reads, allowing him to play faster.

"I'm playing a lot faster, not even close to last year," said Pendleton. "When the play comes I feel that I know what is coming, which allows me to be more aggressive and not hesitate. When you hesitate or areunsure it really cuts down on how aggressive you can be, so that's the biggest difference."

Pendleton credits Kellen Fowler and the coaches for his development in learning the system. Although Fowler only started the final four games of the season last year, he knows the system very well and is lending constant help to Pendleton and his teammates.

"Kellen is great," noted Pendleton. "He's helping me out every time I'm out there in reading what is coming. I rely on him a lot and he's helping me."

Other Options

Along with Pendleton are players such as Andrew Rich, Steven Thomas and Chris Warner, among others, that are working to make their mark on the safety position. So far Mendenhall is pleased with their collective progress.

Despite that, there remains a steep learning curve for all of them, which they're working to overcome this spring.

"The calls are little bit slow," noted Mendenhall regarding his new safeties. "The reactions are a step or two behind, but each day it's getting closer."

One of those players working hard to make a spot on the team this year is Chris Warner. Coming off his ACL injury of a year ago, Warner is back and working hard, and is seeing most of his reps with the second-team defense.

"I'm just so excited to be back on the field," said Warner. "It's been too long and I'm not totally healthy, but I do feel alright. I'm working very hard every day and just trying to get better."

So far Mendenhall has taken notice and has been impressed with Warner's efforts thus far.

"Chris Warner is doing well for his injury and for the limited nature that he has physically, [but right now he has] his heart, his will and his effort is clearly exceeding his physical readiness," said Mendenhall. "We expect him to contribute this year, and especially on special teams this fall."

Warner said he isn't too concerned about where he contributes. For him, just being at BYU and helping out the team wherever he can is the most important thing.

"Of course you want to start, and I'm frustrated a bit that I can't move maybe as well as I think I should yet, but I'm so honored to be able to practice and help out a team and a program like BYU," said Warner. "I love BYU and it really is a great honor to be part of this program. Having that blessing of being part of this program is incredible and I'm so honored to be able to contribute to the greatness of this program."

Practice Notes

-The coaches clinic was held Friday, and about 360 coaches were in attendance.

-Former players Nate Meikle and Cameron Jensen were in attendance, as was recruit Jake Heaps for the second day in a row. Both Meikle and Jensen took time to meet and talk with the big-time quarterback recruit from Washington.

-The team did extensive 11-on-11 work and the offense once again got into the end zone on the final set of the day.

-Max Hall went a combined 11-of-12 in his reps for 85 yards and touchdown. His touchdown was thrown to Austin Collie in the back of the end zone from 4 yards out. Collie leaped up and made a great catch on the fade pattern.

-Other standouts included Vic So'oto, who again recorded a sack. Masi Tuitama showed well in the backfield to limit J.J. DiLuigi to a 1-yard gain on a play that was immediately whistled dead, as the team is still practicing without pads at this time. Collie caught a pass of 23 yards up the seam of the defense, putting the offense on the 11-yard line. They were able to convert the touchdown two plays later.

-Brendan Gaskins went 3-for-7 for 20 yards with his reps.

-The offense is very much evolving, as some notable new plays are being tried out this spring to enhance what the offense does overall.

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