"I came out here over the summertime to work out with Coach Omer and the team to try and improve on my abilities," said Pritchard. "I wanted to make sure I was adjusted to the pace of this level and to get myself physically ready for what was coming in fall practice. All I can really say is that I'm grateful for the opportunity that was given to me."
During his senior year, Pritchard started at middle linebacker for Bingham High School. It was a common sight to see BYU assistant coach Brandon Doman sitting in the stands watching intently as the Miners of Bingham made their run towards the state playoffs. It was also common for Coach Doman to question the staff about the potential of Pritchard, despite the fact that Pritchard didn't have any scholarship offers, wasn't receiving national exposure and didn't receive much star power from scouts on recruiting networks. It was Coach Doman who continued to pursue and make the case that Pritchard needed to be a Cougar.
"You know, I'm just glad that I have the opportunity to be here," Pritchard said. "It's a real blessing to be a Cougar and play at this level with so many great linebackers here in the program. Matt Ah You, Shawn Doman and Matt Bauman have really helped me out a lot in understanding more about what's expected."
Now despite the fact that Pritchard has moved up the depth chart to receive quality reps with the second-team defense, he'll be the first to tell you that he's only a true freshman trying his best to not mess up. Pritchard's strength against both the run and the pass varies in degrees, yet there is no one who understands this more than Pritchard himself.
"It's tough because I'll learn something and then the coaches will throw in something else that makes everything else I learned previously hard again," Pritchard said while laughing. "I'll think I'm getting something down pretty good and then the coaches throw something in that kind of messes me up. All I can do is just continue to try and work hard and learn the new things the coaches throw at me. They just keep telling me to keep pushing through it, keep pushing through it."
The pace of learning a new defensive scheme, new terminology and new defensive plays while increasing personal physical performance to compete at this level is enough to make any 18-year-old kid a bit nervous. This is especially so when that person is in a position to possibly receive in-game reps, that is of course if he can continue to progress within the expectations of coaches.
"Man, that's big," Pritchard said with a smile. "That's huge and a big burden on my shoulders. Maybe I shouldn't say that it's too much of a burden, but coming straight out of high school it's a real eye-opener. It is hard though, and so I'm just trying to learn from the older guys and get used to the pace. The best thing I can do is just try my hardest [and] listen to the coaches and the guys playing in front of me."
Indeed, given Pritchard's mindset, work ethic and drive to be the best he can be, Coach Doman must have a slight grin on his face. Yet Pritchard is quick to deflect his early second-team success and place his standing more on attrition rather than personal progress.
"I am grateful for the chance to play and develop my skills with many of these other great linebackers we have," Pritchard said. "We've kind of been a little thin at the position and have had a lot of guys get hurt. What that means is us new guys coming in have to work that much harder to learn and develop our skills in order to make sure we can get the job done."
As a true freshman, one of the largest adjustments Pritchard has had to make was getting used to the pace of how practice is being conducted under the direction of head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"It's not easy," Pritchard quickly said. "But tempo is the biggest adjustment. It's fast and held at a rapid pace. On top of that everybody is big and fast that you go up against. You're not running around with little kids any more. Everybody is big and everybody is fast. So for me speed, size and tempo have been some of the biggest adjustments for me."
Because he has quickly moved up to play Mike linebacker with the second-team defense, Pritchard has to take upon himself the mantle of a leader by calling out the defensive plays. The Mike linebacker, along with the safeties, is responsible for making sure his fellow players are in the right position and aware of what the offense is doing.
"Man, it's tough because you have to have an understanding of what the offense is doing," Pritchard said. "You have to recognize certain things like what the running backs may be doing [and] how far up they may be, which could tell you if they're going to run or pass. You have to pay attention to what offensive players are coming in and out so you can have a better idea of what the offense may be trying to do. Then you have to relay the message to the rest of your teammates so you can all be on the same page, so it can be a lot of responsibility, but those are the things that are expected of us. It's our job to step up and take care of business."