By Colby O’Very
One word was on the mind of BYU football players Thursday morning, Feb. 27, as they met for their first spring practice, – cold.
“Refreshing, stimulating, challenging,” said junior defensive end Brady Poppinga describing the brisk morning when temperatures dropped to as low as 26.8 degrees. “It”s not easy to get out of that nice, warm bed and come out in this cold, crisp air. It”s a challenge,” Poppinga said.
Head football coach Gary Crowton made sure players got out of their beds by using the buddy system.
Each player had a “buddy” who was responsible for making sure the other woke up in time to make it to practice.
Crowton joked about an electronic whistle given to him “so my lips wouldn”t freeze on the other one.”
“I can”t feel my feet and fingers,” said sophomore running back Fahu Tahi, who recently returned from his mission.
Tahi, who has been fighting sickness, said he”s trying to get used to playing and “having a helmet on again.”
“I”m kind of rusty,” Tahi said. “It just takes time.”
Although it was cold outside, BYU”s defense was hot.
Crowton said the offense wasn”t too confident because the defense was so aggressive.
“The defense was moving at such a fast pace,” Crowton said.
A major focus of these spring practices will be getting defensive players comfortable with the defense run by new defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall, who left the University of New Mexico to come to BYU this off-season to replace Ken Schmidt.
Mendenhall”s defense is an aggressive blitz-based defense, and spring practices give defensive players a chance to show their new coach what they can do on the field.
“I love it, it”s my style,” Poppinga said of Mendenhall”s defensive scheme. “If I was going to coach, that”s exactly how I would coach, with the exact same philosophy. It”s fun too.”
Spring practices hopefully will answer questions that surfaced last year, but new ones will also arise.
After the quarterback carousel last year, questions exist about how the quarterbacks will perform this year.
“Four quarterbacks took snaps and I felt like they”re much further along than last year,” said Crowton, who didn”t say much about his quarterbacks, but opted instead to speak more about his wide receivers and tight ends.
One player Crowton mentioned is sophomore wide receiver Bristol Olomua.
Olomua is listed as a tight end, but will probably play wide receiver.
“I kept him at wide-out because he”s so big and athletic,” Crowton said of Olomua, who is listed at 6-feet-5 inches and has close to a 40-inch vertical.
Crowton said overall his team looks good.
“Athletically these guys are doing pretty well,” Crowton said.