Cougs' opponent BYU taking different approach

BYU HAS GONE WITH a very different approach to their fall camp. A particular mandate was enforced just about every practice session -- from the start of fall camp to when BYU went to closed practices on Monday. When a player violated the edict out on the field, discipline followed swiftly. What was it?

No tackling.

The NCAA mandates helmets only for the first two fall camp practices, shoulder pads can be added the next two practices and then on Day 5, full pads and full contact – tackling through to the ground – are allowed.

But BYU boss Bronco Mendenhall this fall camp instead went with a mere two sessions out of a possible 12 (through Monday) that featured live tackling. And those two sessions? They were the two official scrimmages – and they featured relatively few of the projected starters.

Players who couldn't help themselves were sent to the sidelines or locker room. On one occasion, Mendenhall cut short practice drills by 30 minutes after a player tackled a teammate to the ground.

Indeed, it was only just this Tuesday in a close practice that BYU defenders were now "wrapping, and basically tackling every play," Mendenhall told, "which is how they train all year, other than fall camp."

Consider also that with one week before the opener, in a few days the window will be closed again, and for good -- no team goes full contact in the last days leading up to a game.

WHY THE LACK of contact for BYU? Is the depth paper-thin? Are the two-deeps peppered with freshmen and youth? According to Mendenhall, the opposite is true. The level of depth and talent on his team led him to conclude that a normal amount of fall camp contact would be less beneficial because…

Mendenhall said Tuesday the 2012 BYU squad is the "deepest, for sure," with a talent level "equal (to), if not possibly exceeding" any of his previous BYU teams (2005-11.)

That sounds ominous for the Cougs for when they take on BYU – in Provo – on Thursday, Aug. 30 at 7:15 pm PT.

BUT IS THERE a flip side to that coin?

Talent and experience are huge, no doubt about it. But there is also something to be said for being in "football shape."

It must be pointed out here, based on multiple comments he's made this fall camp, Mendenhall isn't concerned in the least about that. He's confident his players will have no issues in the areas of tackling, nor in stamina, due to the scarcity of fall camp contact.

But it still remains hard to discount from this vantage point. A Mike Leach -led offense already figures be a difficult stamina challenge for anyone – the nature of the offense, the wide splits on the offensive line that force defenders to run further in both pursuit and rush, it's all designed to have even the fittest of defenses resting their hands on hips long before the final gun.

Against a team that has tackled exceedingly sparingly to this point, Wazzu might just end up with a valuable edge in the season opener, particularly when that fourth quarter arrives.

One of many things to keep in mind when the ball is snapped in Provo one week from today…

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