Young Players Step Up

Due to some recent injuries and other factors, fans are seeing a whole lot of the young talent currently in the program. During most games this year, many freshmen have been able to enter the game and show their abilities and contribute to the team. As the season goes on, these young players look to make more and more of a contribution with every game.

Luke Ashworth, Spencer Hafoka, O'Neill Chambers, Iona Pritchard, Spencer Hadley, Daniel Sorensen, Andrew Rich, Shiloah Te'o, Jordan Pendleton, J.J. DiLuigi and a host of second-string offensive linemen, among others; these are just some examples of second-string players that have been able to see some quality reps here of late as they contribute to the team this year and prepare themselves for greater roles in the future.

"Every time we get a chance as young players, we need to respond and show coaches that we can handle it," said receiver Luke Ashworth. "So, you have to take advantage of every opportunity you have to play, whether it be in blocking - which I love to do - or anything else. You have to respond well every chance you get."

Recently, starting wide receiver Michael Reed went down with an injury that should keep him on the shelf for the next two weeks or so. Coach Higgins wasn't rotating his two starting wideouts much at all prior to Reed's injury, but a quartet of wideouts are now getting a lot of playing time.

The quartet includes Ashworth, true freshmen O'Neill Chambers and Spencer Hafoka, and veteran Bryce Mahuika. While Hafoka was set to see perhaps the most work replacing Reed at the XR position, he went down early last game with a minor injury, which enabled Ashworth and others to see more time at the position.

"You hate to see teammates get hurt, but yeah, it was a great opportunity for me to play more than I otherwise would have," commented Ashworth. "I just love to play. I don't care if I'm catching passes, I just love to hit and to be out there. I love blocking."

Of course Ashworth, as a receiver, is expected to catch passes. He contributed with a reception this past Saturday and is looking for more.

"Yeah, I did okay," said Ashworth about his performance against Wyoming. "Max [Hall] threw a few passes my way and I was able to execute."

Ashworth loves the current situation he's in, as he's able to compete with some good young talent waiting patiently in the wings to take over once Austin Collie and Michael Reed move on.

"I love it," said Ashworth about his current situation as a Cougar wideout. "I have some great guys here to compete with while I learn from guys like Michael Reed and Austin Collie. It's a great situation to be in for sure. Mike is especially helping out now that he's hurt, which I'm always grateful for."

Speredon Improving

Sophomore Jason Speredon, along with most of the backup offensive linemen, has been able to see more than a quarter of regular playing time in each of BYU's last two games. Speredon, who has had to deal with an unfortunate wave of injuries upon his arrival to BYU, said he's grateful for the opportunity.

"I've only been fully healthy now for less than a year after getting hurt again last year," said Speredon. "So, it's great to be healthy and to have the opportunity to play."

Indeed, Speredon is a main cog in the offensive front that has performed so well doing mop-up duty when the game is out of reach. Speredon is grateful for that playing time and is hopeful that it continues.

"Yeah, it's always great to play," said Speredon. "It's great for me because if I'm in there it usually means that the team is playing very well, and it's always great to have the opportunity to play in a game-time situation because that's where you're really able to see how well you're doing."

Indeed, all the practice in the world can't quite match up with real game experience.

"It's a whole lot different," said Speredon. "You have the fans and it's real. You're out there going against a different opponent, you're in front of the fans, you have the noise and everything else, [and] so it's different for sure."

So how does a new guy respond to the new setting that comes with game-time play?

"You get excited for sure, but for me especially as an offensive lineman, you just have to sort of zone out the fans," said Speredon. "Once you do that and just play like you practice, you're fine. We all were able to do that successfully these past two games as a second-team unit and we did well."

Speredon is currently slated as the backup to Travis Bright at left guard, and Bright is providing a ready example and good tutor for Speredon. As he prepares to compete for a starting spot next season, Speredon is taking copious notes.

"I watch everything Travis does and I ask him a lot of questions," said Speredon. "And Travis is great in helping me out. I couldn't have a better tutor than Travis Bright. He seriously takes a lot of time with me, which I really appreciate."

High and Far

One of the more notable outings of this past game was the job C.J. Santiago did in punting the football. While he's shown flashes and some decent work, this past Saturday marked his best overall effort.

"We had a good game plan going in and worked a lot on the blocking and everything else, and I was able to kick it well," said Santiago. "It was definitely my most consistent outing since I've been here, so I feel good about it."

Santiago had seven punts for an average of more than 46 yards, and he pinned Wyoming inside the 20-yard line four different times. Pinning the opposition inside the 20-yard line is one of the more important things a punter can do.

"Whatever I can do to help the team," said Santiago about his role and performance. "Special teams [are] a very important part of the game and we all did better this past week in executing punts. The credit goes to the coaches. Hopefully I continue to do my part and we get an advantage when punting the football."

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