The good news during Monday's practice session was the return of inside linebacker Brandon Ogletree, who made his presence known immediately with a forced fumble among other plays. In only his second year, he stands as sort of the old dog among the inside backers, which has been somewhat of an adjustment.
"Last year I was the guy asking all the questions and this year it's just the opposite," he said. "I have to know everything now. I like it because knowing that I'm being looked at as the guy who has to have all the answers, I have to make sure that I have them, so that helps. When you teach it, you learn it better."
BYU is having to replace five senior inside linebackers from a year ago, so Ogletree's presence on the practice field as a full participant has been a welcome thing for not just the linebackers, but for the entire defensive unit. Slowly he's been working his way back from a groin injury, and on Monday he felt well enough to undergo a full practice session.
"It felt great for sure," he expressed following practice. "I was hurt last spring too which kept me out for a while and it's really frustrating, but hopefully I'm done with injuries and I can just play now."
Ogletree's presence is more than a welcome sight for a linebacker corps that is very short on healthy bodies and experience. On Monday he got reps with the first-team defense at the Mike position along with Uona Kaveinga and Aveni Leung-Wai, who had both been manning the two inside spots prior to his return.
"Both of those guys are going to be really good players, you can already see it," said Ogletree about his two new teammates. "They work hard, they're fun to be around and it's great being with them and helping them learn. Uona ran a very similar defense at USC, so he hasn't had to learn as much as you'd think, but he's definitely improving and we're spending a lot of time in the film room."
Ogletree's goal is to become a leader on the defense, and he is learning both the Mike and the Buck positions. He's more than willing to play wherever the coaches need him, as most leaders are wont to do. His hope is to solidify himself in a starting role this spring so that there won't be so much to sort out at the position this coming fall.
High on Heaps
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall complimented true freshman Jake Heaps on what he's seen from him so far this spring. While it's his first college practice session, sometimes it's become hard to notice.
"It's hard to remember at times that he's a true freshman," said Mendenhall about Heaps and his performance thus far. "He's only been practicing with us five days, and to be performing the way he is, I've been very, very impressed. That's not to say that Riley [Nelson] and James [Lark] aren't doing a great job, but just the thought that it's a true freshman practicing in the spring that has the poise and confidence and the execution that he has, it's been impressive."
Heaps was able to complete just one pass during Monday's practice, a 20-yard completion to J.D. Falslev, but two of his passes were dropped, which ended his one series of reps early.
Lark meanwhile saw the most reps and led the offense to a successful field goal attempt of 37 yards by going 4-of-5 for 49 yards on what was his best showing of the spring so far. His big gainer came by virtue of a 30-yard screen pass to McKay Jacobson.
Hansen takes to center
In part due to injuries, Braden Hansen has been seeing just about all the work at the center position. Terence Brown should be returning later this week, and they look to be the two players battling for the position so far this spring.
"It's a great position and it's really a lot of fun," said Hansen about playing center. "It's a huge challenge because I played tackle in high school, last year I played guard and now it's all about learning the center spot, but I love it, I really do. It's a great experience for me and with great coaches, I've been able to learn what a center does. Terence Brown has been great too in teaching me what to do, since he's a little more experienced than me with what everyone does."
The center doesn't just block, but also has to read the coverages and the way the opposing defensive front lines up, and make blocking calls for the other four offensive linemen. He has to have to have a lot of knowledge and also a lot of trust from his offensive teammates.
The techniques can vary a lot as well according to Hansen, but so far he's been more than happy to undergo the challenge and hopes to help the team as best he can.
"It's fun battling with Terence since we both really like playing center," he said. "It's not like we're at each other's throats battling for it, but we have sort of the same attitude. I'm all for him playing there if he's the best option, and it's exactly that way with him if I prove to be the guy. Right now it's just us battling for the spot, but that might change too. We're just hoping to find the right guy."
-Marcus Mathews saw extensive work with the tight ends Monday for the first time after he'd been playing wide receiver thus far during practices.
-Mendenhall mentioned that outside linebacker Jordan Atkinson is being held out of practices as he looks to make up some work academically. According to the Cougar head coach, Atkinson has been behind on his academics for some time now and must have his work all made up before he rejoins the team in practices.
-Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins was at practice Monday observing, and Coach Mendenhall mentioned that they've forged a relationship through some endorsements.
-Recruit Kalvin Cusick was in attendance Monday. Cusick is an offensive line/defensive line recruit from Timpview High School that was recently named as the top lineman at a Nike combine in Santa Monica.