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Spring has sprung, the grass has risen, 141 days 'till we are out of prison.
My seventh grade English teacher used this little rhyme to help us count down the days left in the school year. I am using it now to count down the days left before school starts. Actually, I'm counting the days before the 2010 BYU football season kicks off. After the spring that BYU had, these next 141 days will feel like being in prison. Maybe its just the fact that I have never invested as much time as I did this year in following spring practice, but I am ready to go. Even with major losses from last year's team, I am really excited about this team. Matching or exceeding the 11-2 mark from last year might not happen, but this team seems like it could be special in its own way.
On the defensive side, BYU has to replace six in the front seven. I have a lot of confidence that BYU has found quality players to start. That doesn't mean that the defense is taking the step to the next level, and that BYU will start to gain a reputation as a school with a traditionally strong defense. However, I do get the impression that we won't see a drop off on the defensive front. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jameson Frazier turned heads. Add to them returning starter Jordan Pendleton and the linebacking corps is taking shape and could be something special, if not this year then next year. The down linemen have been in the program for years and know what to do and what is expected of them.
The secondary, however, is normally the weak link in BYU's defense. While both corners are coming back, as well as strong safety Andrew Rich, Scott Johnson will not be back. Johnson was the free safety, which is the pivitol position in the BYU defense. He missed one game last year, and the defense fell apart (Florida State). Rich might be moved to free safety. Bronco Mendenhall has said whoever is the second best safety will play, whether that is a free safety or a strong safety will dictate what position Rich plays this year. Even if Rich stays at strong, the overall secondary experience should help compensate for anything that the new free safety lacks in experience.
No one impressed on offense more than Jake Heaps. He has made believers out of players, coaches, and fans. No one doubts that he will be the starter someday, but it is still uncertain if 2010 will be that day. The coaches have done the wise thing and not named a starter, yet. At this point, prolonging the competition will make all three, soon to be four, prospects better. While I like what Heaps has done, I still have some reservations about starting a true freshman. The reservations, however, are calmed somewhat by how well the rest of the offense played this spring.
Heaps was not the only newcomer to shine. Johsua Quezada built his case for immediate playing time. Harvey Unga will still get the lion's share of the carries, but his presence will allow Quezada to develop at his own speed without undue pressure to produce. Bryan Kariya, J.J. Di Luigi, and Mike Hague provide added depth and ability that could give BYU its most potent run game in ten years.
The offensive line should continue to be the unsung heroes that they were last season. The biggest concern will continue to be staying healthy, especially with Famika Anae out for the year.
The wide receivers are a veteran group and will be the new quarterback's second best friends. They will be Mike Muehlmann and Devin Mahina's best friends as these two tight ends work into the offense. They both made plenty of plays during spring, and I expect them to be significant contributors in the fall.
This spring has raised my expectations for the season. This is a special time in BYU football. Bronco has the program moving forward. I can't wait for September 4.