No real movement on the depth chart takes place during the first week of practices leading up to the first scrimmage. Now that the first scrimmage is out of the way, some slight changes have been made as the two-deep roster begins to take shape.
Shakeup at Inside Linebacker
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall laid out for the media his current depth chart at inside linebacker, stating that if the season were to start today, Matt Bauman and Matt Ah You would be his top guys in the middle.
"From this point I think Matty [Ah You] has a slight edge on Shawn Doman," said Mendenhall. "But it's slight and you could basically list them as even. But if we had went today it would have been Bauman and Ah You, and then with Iona Pritchard and Shawn Doman being with the 2s and with the fifth player being Spencer Hadley."
Although Ah You has seen most of his reps with the 1s at Mike linebacker, he'll be moved over to Buck when Bauman comes back to fully participate. Bauman is on track to return later this week to full-contact drills according to Mendenhall.
Wagner on the Rise
Monday's morning practice also saw Jadon Wagner playing in place of Michael Alisa with the second-team defense. After reviewing the film coaches saw Wagner's physical presence as being a positive for the defense, earning him more looks as the possible backup to Vic So'oto.
"He's playing over the tight end," said Mendenhall about Wagner. "He's played very physical and I thought he had a good day in a run-oriented scrimmage, and this sort of scrimmage matched what I think his skill set is."
Mendenhall mentioned that they're still encouraged with Michael Alisa's progress, but that he needs to keep up with what the team is doing more if he's to earn a spot on the two-deep roster.
Mendenhall indicated that after Saturday's scrimmage there were three clear target areas that need to be addressed in earnest.
"After Fui [Vakapuna] and Harvey [Unga], the backup running back positions need to perform at a higher level," saidd Mendenhall regarding the first target.
Most of the concern with the backup running backs probably has to do with their ability at picking up blitzes and blocking effectively rather than in running the football.
The other areas Mendenhall stated as an area of concern were with the cornerbacks and outside linebacker.
"After watching the film I didn't think our cornerbacks played particularly well," said Mendenhall. "And then [the final issue is] just continuing to establish depth at outside linebacker."
Other than those three areas, Mendenhall stated that he was generally happy with the overall execution on both sides of the ball, and that they accomplished what they set out to do during the scrimmage.
Rich Settling In
Slowly but surely safety Andrew Rich has worked his way into becoming the third safety behind Kellen Fowler and David Tafuna. Establishing such a spot at safety is no easy task, as the free safety position is regarded as one of the two toughest positions on defense to learn and to play.
"Free safety and Mike," answered Mendenhall when asked of the toughest position to play in BYU's defensive system. "Those two positions are similar in that they control what everyone else does. The free safety spot is more visible, so if [someone] makes a mistake, then I'd say that increases the level of difficulty."
Rich has been meeting the challenge of playing free safety, as he has made significant progress this offseason and thus has earned some more trust from his defensive coaches.
"I've worked hard and I've tried to apply everything I've been taught since spring with every day," said Rich. "It's becoming easier with every day I'm out there. There are a lot of reads you have to make and it's not an easy thing, but it's definitely coming."
The hump most players have to get over at such a position as free safety is not only learning where to be as dictated by what the offense presents, but being so adept at recognizing a particular read that they don't think have to think about where to go and can instead just go there instinctively, thereby playing up to speed without any hesitation.
"That's the trick," said Rich about reaching the point where he can play full-out. "In spring there was a lot of thinking and then reacting, and now I feel that I'm just reacting as where I need to go and what my assignment is [are] coming more instinctively, which allows me to play faster."
Rich has caught the eye of his coaches and is recognized as a player who is having a great fall camp session one week in.
"He's been one of the bright spots of camp," said Mendenhall of Rich. "He's our third safety at this point and I feel comfortable in playing him."
Rich's story about refusing scholarship offers from such schools as Cal and Boise State to walk on to BYU has been well documented. Rich chose BYU primarily because of its environment, and on Monday Mendenhall stated a desire to reward Rich accordingly due to his desire to be part of the program and due to the strides he's made out on the practice field.
Rich said he's pleased with the progress he's been able to make, and gave credit for that progress to his teammates.
"I watch and learn from Kellen Fowler a lot, obviously," said Rich. "He's so smart with what he does and he continues to coach me as much as anyone when I'm out there on the field, which I certainly appreciate. We have a very talented defensive backfield. I know there is a lot of concern about our inexperience, but we have some great athletes at each position and we're going to surprise people with how good we are this year."
-Strong safety David Tafuna did not dress due to having his bell rung during Saturday's scrimmage. Tafuna will be further evaluated, and at that point it will be determined when he'll be able to practice again.
-Jordan Pendleton took Tafuna's place with the 1s on defense and Shiloah Te'o moving up with the second team in Pendleton's place.
-Matt Putnam saw all his reps with the second-team defense as he works to earn a spot in the defensive rotation.
-Mosese Foketi saw reps with the second-team defense and recorded a sack during 11-on-11s.
-Most of Monday's practice was focused on blue zone execution, with the highlight being G Pittman knocking away a pass intended for O'Neill Chambers in the back of the end zone.