The Brigham Young Cougars have finished spring practices for 2012. Players will take their final exams in the classroom in a few weeks. With everything wrapped up on the field, this professor is ready to hand out some grades for the BYU defense, offense, and coaches this spring.
There were several standouts on the defensive side of the ball. Along the defensive line, Ian Dulan is ready to replace the only starter lost on the line. He looks to be back to his pre-mission form. For added depth, Ezekiel Ansah moved down from linebacker and took a lot of reps on the line, and made his presence known.
The depth at linebacker is impressive. Even after losing three of the top four outside linebackers, the depth looks solid with Kyle Van Noy, Spencer Hadley, Alani Fua, Ezekiel Ansah, and Austen Jorgensen among others at that spot. Manoa Pikula has earned playing time at middle linebacker, according to Bronco Mendenhall.
The front seven found little resistance from the makeshift offensive line that they faced. Life is going to be harder come fall and once the real games get started. They need to be ready for it.
The secondary saw the most action this spring. Mike Hague spent a lot of time at cornerback, which might make Joe Sampson the surprise starting free safety in the fall. Jordan Johnson has the inside track for the starting cornerback spot left open by Corby Eason. The biggest surprise in the secondary has been O’Neill Chambers. He pulled a hamstring the first day, which caused him to miss a few weeks, but he finished spring really well making multiple interceptions.
Overall, the defense looks well rounded. If any player fails to live up to his spot on the two-deep, another competitor is poised to step in and take it.
The offense was hit the hardest with injuries. Most of the anticipated starting five offensive linemen did not participate in any form of contact. Those who filled in did not show well, which is of some concern. It is understandable that the back ups are not as good as the starters, but most of these guys have still been in the program two or three years. They should be able to do a better job than what was reported. It was almost impossible to work on the run game.
Speaking of the run game, Joshua Quezada had some good moments early in spring. He appears to be back on track. Adam Hine showed some progress to the point that he might get some carries this year on spot duty. The news in the backfield was Paul Lasike. He came over from the Rugby team and sounds well on his way to making a successful transition. None of the backs, however, appear to be emerging as a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Several wide receivers made strides this spring. Dallin Cutler, Cody Raymond, Kurt Henderson, Skyler Ridley, and Terreen Houk got plenty of reps and made several noteworthy plays. The biggest concern was that Ross Apo suffered a shoulder injury about midway through the spring. The development of Apo will be one of the biggest factors in how effective BYU will throw the ball in 2012. Apo is expected to be back for the season, but he and Riley Nelson lost some valuable time working together.
The quarterbacks showed well. Nelson’s starting spot is secure, but James Lark appears completely capable of starting as well. Taysom Hill and Ammon Olsen made their debuts. Hill took more reps than Olsen, but both seem to be assimilating well into the team.
Overall, the offense left a lot to be desired this spring. It was hard with all the injuries to get a good assessment of how the offense that will play on Saturdays is coming together.
I don’t fault Bronco Mendenhall at all for canceling the spring game and doing a scrimmage with mostly reserves. He also made good decisions to focus more on fundamentals and less on team sessions once the injury toll mounted, and to use the last week of spring to set expectations for player run practices.
Brandon Doman deserves some props as well. Although it wasn't connected with spring practices, he repeatedly assumed more responsibility for the offensive struggles at the start of last season when asked in interviews.
The coach that concerns me the most is offensive line coach Mark Weber. He needed to have his guys better prepared to make the quality of the team sessions better. As noted, guys with two and three years in the program should be better prepared to step in for an injured player. Fortunately, this was only spring practices. What if someone had gotten hurt during a real game?
I have some reservations about running back Joe DuPaix. BYU needs more from the running backs this year. It is up to him to get the backs ready. Given the offensive line issues, it was hard to tell how well DuPaix is doing in this regard.
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