The first two weeks were all about Jake Heaps, and for good reason, as he was clearly the best performer at the position starting out. Those in attendance every day assumed that he'd glide his way through to the starting spot without much competition.
Enter Riley Nelson. With how he performed at the end of last week, the quarterback battle looks to be a an actual battle once again. After Nelson reasserted himself with two very prolific days of practice, the competition looks to be legitimate heading into fall camp, which is a good thing for all parties concerned.
It's very much in both Heaps' and Nelson's best interest to have the battle remain competitive so that they can push each other. Coaches often manage practices to allow for better competition, and them doing as much should work well here to keep this position battle as competitive as possible.
What continues to be interesting about this battle is how different each quarterback is with their respective strengths. Heaps simply cannot bring to the table what Nelson can in regards to running the football, while Nelson doesn't have the pocket presence or the ability to make some of the throws that Heaps can. It's an interesting dynamic that will continue to play out come fall.
While Harvey Unga is a given as the primary featured back in the offense, the intriguing byline this spring has been the battle for the spot behind him. After a full three weeks of practices, that guy looks to be J.J. Di Luigi, as he's shown to be the most consistent of any of the battling backs behind Unga.
Di Luigi has been making some very good plays here of late, and at the end of the day, he simply stands as the most complete and consistent back in the offense behind Unga. He catches the ball extremely well and knows his blocking assignments, which is a big commodity in the backfield and with how Coach Reynolds manages his players.
Di Luigi reasserting himself is not to suggest that true freshman Joshua Quezada has not had the impact many were hoping for ,as he certainly has shown some very good ability during spring. He's seemingly separated himself somewhat from Malosi Te'o here of late with his ability to catch the football and with his better lateral ability.
What Quezada holds over Di Luigi is that he appears to be a better natural runner. Should he manage to gain all the intangibles such as blocking and showing to be Di Luigi's equal in catching the football, then he could very well make a bid for the second spot at the position.
It's becoming more and more clear with every day that McKay Jacobson is poised to have a monster year. He's been running just about every rep out of the HR position here of late, which is where he's best suited and should give opposing defenses enormous headaches with his precise route running and superior lateral movement.
The other wideouts have been relatively quiet this spring due to a couple of contributing factors from my point of view. These two factors are the tendency of new quarterbacks to throw toward the middle of the field on underneath routes and the strength of BYU's current coverages. BYU's defense is stronger on the outside thanks to strong cornerbacks, whereas the defense isn't as strong on the inside because of a lot of inexperience at both safety and inside linebacker.
Mike Muehlmann and Devin Mahina have both shown to be very consistent options throughout the spring. Going forward, they're the two most likely to rotate at the position this coming season, as they've both shown the ability to get open and to make plays.
Richard Wilson got hurt at a very bad time, as he really needed this spring to prove himself as the top guy at the position. He's been unable to do so while being inactive and watching from the sidelines for most of the spring. Meanwhile, the two guys ahead of him have done extremely well in solidifying themselves as the top two options at tight end.
I still like Braden Hansen as the best option to play at center. While Terence Brown knows the offense and corresponding blocking reads better, Hansen looks to be the better able of the two in snapping the ball quickly while getting back or forward in his stance and effectively blocking his assignment.
Houston Reynolds will obviously have his say come fall on who will man the position, but when keeping the best five on the field regardless of position, then it's somewhat hard to put him among those five given his inexperience and the abilities of Braden Hansen, Matt Reynolds, Terence Brown, Nick Alletto and Braden Brown.
It's becoming apparent during spring that coaches will be rotating more at the end position than they did in previous years. If one of the linemen won't be rotated out much, then that player looks to be Vic So'oto, who has been dominant at times during most practice sessions. Should he prove to be a consistent every-down defensive end, then he could very well play every snap throughout a ball game like Jan Jorgensen did.
Thomas Bryson has made a strong bid to be a mainstay on the two-deep roster, and should he continue to progress, he may end up starting. With Matt Putnam ailing and still struggling somewhat in defending the run, Bryson has shown good ability in both stopping the run and in rushing the quarterback, which could translate to a starting spot this fall.
The inside linebacker play has improved with the return of Brandon Ogletree and Shane Hunter to the practice field. Both players know the position well In my mind, ILB is still the position of greatest concern on the team, but that concern has been eased somewhat by their play and with the continuing improvement of Aveni Leung-Wai.
On the outside it's been all about Jameson Frazier at the Sam position and Kyle Van Noy at the Will position. Both players have seen a lot of work due to Jordan Pendleton being held out of spring practices and Jordan Atkinson not practicing most days. Frazier looks to be a definite two-deep guy, while Van Noy could very well end up starting at his position.
Safety play has been spotty at best, which should have been expected given the collective inexperience of those playing the position this spring. Replacing players with the caliber of know-how and play of Scott Johnson has not been an easy task, and it remains unclear if the player who will most adequately replace him has been manning the position this spring. Look for a lot of new faces to be tried out at free safety come fall.
With both Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley not seeing reps last week due to minor ailments, it's been a great opportunity for players such as Robbie Buckner, Corby Eason and Lee Aguirre to show what they can bring to the position. All three have shown very well, as the outside coverage has remained very tight throughout the spring practice session.
No, we haven't seen a nickel coverage as of yet, but the smart money is on defensive coordinator Jaime Hill reinstalling one this fall since he appears to have many players on the roster able to fill a good and consistent nickelback slot. The cross-training of both Eason and Aguirre at both cornerback spots would seem to indicate that he's grooming either of them for that role come fall.