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Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Mailbag: Spring Practice, NFL Draft, and Quarterbacks

Welcome to the Friday Mailbag where once a week I answer your questions and respond to your comments about Brigham Young Cougars football. As a quick reminder, there are three ways to submit a question:

1. Email: bluecougarfootball@gmail.com
2. Twitter: @BlueCougarFball and use #BCFmailbag
3. Leave a comment at the end of a BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL article.

On to the mailbag.

BYU is starting spring practices next week. I am excited for updates about the team, but also disappointed that some players (like Kyle Van Noy) won’t be participating. What do you think should be the coaches’ top priorities during spring?

Player health should always be a huge concern and priority for the coaches. While I am just as disappointed that some players won’t fully participate, I see the wisdom in it.

After player health, the top priority this time of year is always to identify who will replace the departed starters. Listening to Bronco Mendenhall back in January, he seems pretty sure who will step into those vacant spots. However, all players should be given a fair look and equal opportunity to earn the starting spot. The two-deep roster doesn’t have to be set in stone after spring practice, but there needs to be enough of a structure that summer workouts can help those who actually do end up starting to gel with each other.

Each year a team takes on a new identity. While several team leaders are returning in 2012, others are not. The linebackers won’t be the same without Jordan Pendleton. The offensive line has been anchored by Matt Reynolds the last few years. He is no longer there. The running backs have been a committee the last two years. J.J. Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya are gone. Will the committee approach still work or will a single back carry the load? It is critical that the coaching staff understands the identity of this year’s team so they can develop schemes and game plans appropriately in the four months between spring practice and fall camp.

*****

It was nice to have two Cougars at the NFL combine this year after none were invited last year. The NFL scouting/draft is a complex, rigorous process. Hard to say whether the combine helped or hurt [Matt] Reynolds and [Hebron] Fangupo.

Having the measurements and test results from the combine are nice, but what you say is correct. The most important part of the combine happened behind closed doors. The interviews with players and team representatives and the Wonderlic test can render a fast 40 time or amazing vertical jump meaningless.

Assessing the effect of the combine on Reynolds is difficult. He did not participate in several of the drills. His results in the two that he did do were average. His draft stock has been continuously dropping the last two years, and it doesn’t seem like anything can be done to change that.

Fangupo, on the other hand, helped his draft stock. While the scouting report isn’t very favorable for Fangupo, at least he reinforced what was positive. He showcased his strength by finishing in the top 7 of two tests (bench press, vertical jump). Fangupo’s major weakness, footwork, can be corrected. That gives him “up side.” He isn’t a finished product, but he can still contribute something now with his elite strength. His ability to contribute will increase as he improves his footwork.

*****

We can come up with all the reasons we want that James Lark will be a quality quarterback, if needed, and then find whatever stat or past example to back it up. But after last year, all I am worried about is how well the team rallies around him. That was the difference between Riley [Nelson] and Jake [Heaps] last year.

Very valid point. Lark can show just as well as Heaps did in practice, but a connection with his teammates has to be there. Conversely, Lark doesn’t have to be all-world for the team to continue to roll with him in there. As we witnessed last season, there is an intangible element to quarterbacking that can make up the gap for what a quarterback lacks physically. Without that intangible element, no amount of physical skills and gifts can compensate.

Unless he has been a jerk in practice and in the locker room, I would find it hard to imagine that the team wouldn’t be excited for Lark to get an opportunity after four-plus years of patiently waiting.

*****

I have heard lots of people say they think Nelson will miss at least two or three games because of injury in 2012. None of us know the future, but what is your personal opinion?

I try not to take a strong position on any issue when it is pure speculation. I realize Nelson has missed time both of the last two seasons, which seems to indicate he has a tendency to get hurt. On the flip side, how may players get hurt three years in a row? It would seem the odds are in his favor to not get hurt, as opposed to sustaining another injury. Injuries are so unpredictable. I tend to think Nelson will go through 2012 without missing any time.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

2 comments:

  1. Ummm...ever heard of the gambler's fallacy? The odds are not in Nelson's favor to not get hurt as you claim. If you assume the probability of getting hurt in the future is independent of the past outcomes, then he would be equally likely to get hurt this year as in prior years. Just because you flipped four heads in a row (with an unbiased coin) doesn't change the probability of getting a tails on the next flip.

    However, if they are not independent (which is more likely), it is probably true that being injured in the past increases the probability of being hurt in the future. It would take a drastic change of playing style to decrease the likelihood of getting hurt this year.

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    Replies
    1. No, I never have heard of the gambler's fallacy. Thanks for the explanation.

      As I said, I am not going to insist on my position and defend it until I am blue in the face. It is all just speculation.

      It either will or won't happen. If it does, I hope it isn't something that ruins the rest of his life, and I hope BYU is ready for it.

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