Every year after the Brigham Young Cougars complete fall camp and begin preparations for the season opener, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL gives out its Fall Camp Superlatives for Biggest Story, Biggest Positive, Biggest Disappointment, and Biggest Surprise. As an added bonus this year, runner ups will also be included.
The biggest story of fall camp started to unfold on day three. The NCAA requires all players go through an acclimation period meaning they can wear helmets only for the first two days, and move on to helmets and shoulder pads for days three and four. Not until day five can players wear full pads.
When day three arrived, Saturday, August 4, the Cougars were still in helmets only. On day 5, BYU was equipped with shoulder pads for the first time. The seventh practice, first scrimmage, was the first day BYU players wore full pads and hit for the first time. The only other time BYU would wear full pads was a week later at the team’s second scrimmage.
This was definitely an unconventional approach. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall repeatedly claimed this style of practice allowed the team to get more done, and focus on technique and fundamentals. It was also an effective measure to protect against injury. Of course, it won’t be until the games are being played that the real fruits, good or bad, are apparent.
Runner up: Wide receivers aplenty. Going into camp, Cody Hoffman, Ross Apo, and JD Falslev were the clear cut top three receivers. Little was known about the players behind them. Seven made noteworthy plays and displayed potential to be pretty good, including Alex Kuresa a surprise position change from quarterback.
Just days before BYU convened for camp, the news broke that junior running back Joshua Quezada would transfer. That left the Cougars with just one experienced running back. As camp progressed, a handful of players helped ease the pain of losing Quezada.
Incoming freshman Jamaal Williams immediately caught everyone’s eye, even if he is just 17-years old. Career backup David Foote looked ready for a larger role. Rugby convert Paul Lasike appears to be transitioning well, and redshirt freshman Adam Hine showed he just mght end up to being the best of the bunch. Fullback Iona Pritchard also gave reason to believe the run game would be alright.
While it was just fall camp, and non-contact most of the time, there appears to be no shortage of able body men ready to carry the ball effectively for the boys in blue.
Runner up: The general health of the team is very good. Season ending injuries during fall camp were becoming an increasing concern in recent years. This year the injury list was almost exclusively the bumps and bruises types. Tight end Devin Mahina had a hand injury that caused him to miss a few weeks, and Walter Kahaiali’i was lost for the year with a knee injury. Other than that, nothing stands out.
All offseason, fans were led to believe that placekicker Justin Sorensen was rehabbing his back following a routine procedure to fix a bone spur. His role in the 2012 season was never in question. During fall camp, Sorensen never made an appearance.
An MRI about midway through camp was cause for concern. Doctors didn’t like what they saw. At first, Bronco Mendenhall was optimistic about Sorensen’s return for the season opener. As the days passed without Sorensen being cleared to play, BYU started to prepare punter Riley Stephenson and backup quarterback Taysom Hill for placekicking duties.
This may not result in an appreciable difference between the kicking game in 2011, but the placekicking will be a far cry from what was expected when Sorensen signed with BYU in 2008.
Runner up: No apparent progress from the tight ends. In two team scrimmages the tight end totals were 4 receptions, 50 yards. Four different tight ends caught passes. None of the tight ends are pulling ahead of the others. The tight ends are not playing a bigger role in the offense like in years past. The worst part of it all is that these are some of the highest rated TEs BYU has ever had.
On day two, BYU was mysteriously missing two starters. Cody Hoffman and Joe Sampson were kept out of practice for disciplinary reasons. When confronted about it, Bronco Mendenhall said they would be back the next day, and fans should not worry.
The next day came, but Hoffman and Sampson did not. Three days passed, they were still no shows. Four days and it was the same story. No details were ever disclosed. The issue was consistently called minor and nothing to worry about.
How do you not worry about two of the best players on the team missing practice? How do you not worry about a disciplinary issue that was originally expected to be one day, but turned into four? What are the implications that this might have on any possible future rule violation?
On the other hand, after they came back the issue seemed to disappear, and even Bronco Mendenhall said he completely forgot about it when asked at the end of camp.
Runner up: No O’Neill Chambers. Chambers was supposed to be the feel good story of the year as he made his long awaited return after being kicked off the team nearly two years ago. As camp was set to open, it was released that Chambers had not been invited to attend camp.
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