Football players ‘spring’ into action

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    By Elyse Peterson

    For football fans the one-month drought is over.

    For the second year in a row head coach Gary Crowton is kicking off football”s spring training by welcoming back approximately 100 players.

    BYU cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell believes spring training benefits last year”s starting players as well as the new freshmen.

    “First and foremost, it helps the guys that played for you last year to just reaffirm the things that they”ve been doing well, and have an opportunity to improve upon things they didn”t do as well this past season.” he said.

    The Cougars will have a total of 39 returning letter winners for the upcoming season. Ten of the returning players are starters from the 2001 season, including four offensive and six defensive players.

    “It”s a good opportunity for us to refresh our skills and keep our focus,” said sophomore returning wide receiver Toby Christensen.

    Mitchell said spring training gives the new players an opportunity to show what they can do, especially freshmen who didn”t get to play last year because they redshirted.

    “They get an opportunity to get more reps, and a little more experience against our offense, just more of an opportunity to show what they can do,” he said.

    Some key players returning from missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are quarterback Matt Berry, receivers Brett Cooper and Chris Stevens, tight end Jeremy Gillespie and offensive lineman Nathan Hall.

    Christensen, who returned from serving a mission in December 1999, said that having spring training really helped him get back into focusing on football.

    “BYU spring ball is especially important for returned missionaries; it gives them a good chance to get back into it, and for the coaches to really look at them,” he said.

    Mitchell said highly regarded quarterback Berry, who is a redshirt freshman, will benefit from spring training because he”ll get a whole semester of practice before it really matters.

    “He”ll get plenty of reps, more one on one coaching, because you are not in a week where you”re game planning for an opponent. You”re just working on the basics, you just have more time to prepare during spring than you would during the season,” he said.

    Some players who will miss spring drills due to injuries and off-season surgeries are safety Levi Madarieta, cornerback Brandon Heaney, defensive end C.J. Ah You and offensive lineman Scott Jackson.

    Sophomore offensive lineman James Eastman hopes to make it through spring practice without any problems from his recurring back injury.

    “Spring practice is a chance to play with intensity and play hard after a long break. I just want to hit it hard. I”m excited,” he said.

    Daily practices begin at 3 p.m. on the practice field.

    Spring work out will continue through Friday March 22. The final week of spring drills will include a practice session on Monday March 25, followed by a final practice Friday March 29.

    The infamous Blue and White game will be on Saturday, March 30 to conclude the spring schedule.

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