Practice Report: Young and Ready

True freshmen Iona Pritchard and Spencer Hadley reported to fall camp not knowing exactly where or if they'd figure into the depth chart at inside linebacker. A little over a week into fall practices, both players have made huge strides while getting a lot of work with the first- and second-team units.

When Terrance Hooks went down with his patella tendon injury this spring, the linebacking corps was left with a gaping hole entering fall camp. Who would fill Hooks' spot on the two-deep was very much in question, with true freshmen battling some veterans to see who would ultimately rise to fill Hooks' void.

So far the two players rising to the challenge to add quality depth at both the Mike and Buck linebacker positions have been true freshmen Spencer Hadley and Iona Pritchard.

"They're doing awesome," said Coach Paul Tidwell about his two true freshmen inside linebackers. "They came in early and that helped them out a lot, having had time to work out with the team before practice started. When we recruited them we asked them to come in ready to play from day one and they've done exactly that."

Getting a leg up is something readily available to local true freshmen, as they can make the trip down to Provo pretty much every day to acclimate themselves with their teammates and the program as best they can.

"Oh, it helped so much," mentioned Pritchard. "I came down just about every day and although coaches weren't there, Shawn Doman was [and] Matt Bauman was, and they really, really helped me get ready for what practice would be like."

Pritchard has been playing as a Mike linebacker, which Coach Mendenhall considers one of the two toughest positions on defense to learn. So far Pritchard is proving equal to the task, showing good and consistent play.

"Mike is not an easy position to play, but Iona is very bright and picks up on things very quickly," said Tidwell. "He's ready to learn and asks the right questions. I like him and he's going to help us out this year."

Although Hadley comes from out of state, he too was able to get to Provo early by living with some family members, which has aided him as well in his quick development.

"I got here about a month and a half before practice started and it has really helped," said Hadley. "Just working out with the team every day, they did a very good job teaching me things and letting me know how practices went and they deserve all the credit for anything I'm able to do as a true freshman."

Hadley is cutting his teeth at the Buck position, which doesn't require quite as many reads as Mike but is demanding nonetheless.

"Spencer is doing very well moving around and covering open space, which is what we ask [of] a lot of our Buck linebackers," said Tidwell. "They're still making mistakes, but when they do we're telling them to still go full speed and they're doing that very well, both Spencer and Iona."

Putting on the Pounds

While Pritchard didn't have all that much work to do in the weight room because he graduated at pretty much the exact size he'd need to be to play an effective inside linebacker, Hadley weighed in at about 210 pounds when he graduated.

"I'm about 225 right now, which is okay, but I could probably put on even more weight," said Hadley. "I hit the weights hard after high school and did everything Coach Omer told me to and it's worked. I'm bigger and I'm able to take on blocks better while still moving well on the field."

Torrid Tempo

When talking to most true freshmen, the one big difference between high school and college that they mention is the tempo at which they practice. That is certainly the case at BYU, where coordinators Robert Anae and Jaime Hill coach their respective units on offense and defense with a torrid pace during every practice session.

"We're not in high school anymore," noted Pritchard. "This is big-boy football now and you have to be on your game with every drill or you're going to fall behind. There's no breaks. It's just, bam, bam, bam out there and it's tough, but I'm getting used to it."

What Coach Tidwell has noticed in his two true freshmen linebackers is a desire to work hard and be physical, which has earned them upward movement on the depth chart probably more than any other factor.

"They do what we ask them to do," said Tidwell. "They're physical, they don't slack off - at least not so far - and they're going to help us this year."

Practice Notes

-The team did a lot of work on special teams on both punt and kick coverage. Coach Mendenhall has chosen three of his four special teams captains, with Matt Bauman on punt coverage, David Nixon on kick coverage and Jan Jorgensen on kick return. Mendenhall has yet to name a punt return captain.

-The play of the day was made by Spencer Hafoka and Max Hall. Hall hit Hafoka for a 35-yard pass after being flushed from the pocket. Hafoka hauled in the perfectly thrown pass for a big gain.

-The team did a lot of blue zone work, where Hall was able to hit Michael Reed in the end zone from 20 yards out, Andrew George from 10 yards out, and finally Dennis Pitta from one yard out to end practice.

Coach Mendenhall Interview

Coach Mendenhall spoke to the press on Tuesday about a variety of topics.

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