Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall took an unorthodox approach to fall camp this year. His players practiced almost exclusively without full pads. Wrapping up and taking down ball carriers was explicitly prohibited. In fact, players who engaged in contact were usually kicked out of practice. The only time the team donned the full football getup was for two team scrimmages.
Naturally, this approach brought questions and concerns from anxious fans. Missed tackles had plagued the team early in recent seasons. Would the team really be ready for game one?
All the concerns and questions were put to rest with an impressive season opening win by the BYU Cougars over the Washington State Cougars.
On defense, BYU dished out some pretty big hits. They also wrapped up and made tackles tremendously well. Washington State had a couple skill players who had some moves, but they couldn’t escape the grasp of the BYU defenders. There is no better evidence to refute any claim that the lack of hitting hurt the defense than the -5 rushing yards and 224 total yards allowed.
On offense, BYU had zero turnovers. Ball carriers were prepared for impact and did not repeatedly fumble the ball. The offensive line did a good job opening holes in the first half to make the ground game effective. Even more impressive was the downfield blocking by backs and receivers. They were getting after it.
Overall, BYU did not sustain any major injuries. The blue Cougars did not become fragile by not having any contact during the summer. Cody Hoffman suffered a quad contusion that was unavoidable considering how the injury happened. It was a hard hit in the right place. If necessary, he would have returned to the game. The players didn't look like they felt akward running around in the skin tight pants with padding, as opposed to loose fitting shorts. Players were able to keep their helmets on and avoid sitting out one play.
Mendenhall has been prone to making questionable training decisions, but this is not one that critics can use against him. In fact, he should be praised. The team health is better than ever following week one, and he found a way to get his Band of Brothers ready to go without beating up on each other.
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