The Brigham Young Cougars just finished one of the most anticipated fall football camps ever. The coaches have decided who they might redshirt, and the players have voted Andrew Rich and Matt Reynolds as team captains. To wrap up the last three weeks, here are my fall camp superlatives.
This is a no brainer: the quarterback battle. Coach Bronco Mendenhall first mentioned using two quarterbacks at the MWC media days at the end of July. The longer camp went without a starter being named, the clearer it became that BYU would, in fact, use two QBs during the season. Bronco made it official Friday, August 27. During camp, both Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps had their moments where they showed they could be the guy. In the end, the decision to use two QBs is a result of 1) Nelson and Heaps' contrasting playing styles, and 2) Heaps' true freshman status. In principle, I oppose any team using a two quarterback system. However, I get the feeling that BYU can pull it off this year, if the whole team fully embraces it. That will be the key. My only other concern is what about next year? Nelson is only a junior. While the two QB system maybe BYU's best option this year, I don't think it will be next year.
Steve Thomas emerging as the starting free safety. The Florida State game showed how critical this position is in BYU's defense (it was the only game Scott Johnson missed last year). With three senior starters returning in the secondary, it would be a shame for all this talent and experience to go to waste solely because the free safety had to be replaced. Thomas was able to stand out early. Coaches Mendenhall and Jaime Hill commended his decision making abilities, and he followed that up with strong play. It appears the secondary will live up to everyone's lofty expectations.
No one suffered a season ended injury, per se, during camp. However, speedy, true freshman running back Drew Phillips suffered an injury that limited his action. Compound that with his delayed start due to NCAA Clearinghouse issues, and he most likely will redshirt this year. After hearing Bronco explain why letting Phillips play in games without playing in camp would compromise the culture of the team, a light switched on in my mind. Bronco's reluctance to play talented freshman just because they are better than the other players at their positions makes complete sense. As does redshirting Phillips, from a depth chart standpoint. In the long run, Phillips will probably see the field more and have a more productive career by redshirting this year.
The unresolved quarterback battle was no surprise, but the continuing linebacker battles are. Six middle linebackers are still fighting for two spots. This is not a cause for concern, rather it is a pleasant surprise. The nexus for the competitiveness of this position is the depth of talent. All six appear to be capable of starting and playing well.