Monday was not only the first day of school for BYU students but also the first BYU weekly football press conference of the season.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall, along with several players, discussed a variety of topics at Legends Grille, including two-a-days and feelings going into the first game against Ole Miss, on Saturday.
Mendenhall said practice after the first day of school is always difficult because players are “more distracted and tired.” However, he said overall he is pleased with how the team has looked after two-a-days.
“Our team is probably the healthiest I think it has been coming out of two-a-days,” Mendenhall said. “Our coaching staff has done a really nice job preparing to this point.”
Senior running back JJ Di Luigi said the coaches did a great job of placing players where they need to be in order to maximize their potential during fall camp.
“I think our whole team is a lot more in shape,” Di Luigi said. “I think we all got faster. I think we gained conditioning and stamina in the long run.”
Mendenhall also said he was impressed with the team and up until now there haven’t been any surprises since fall camp.
“I think our current depth going into the Ole Miss game really reflects what I did find out, maybe more individually than collectively as a team,” he said. “I like our team, I think we have a lot of depth and we have good players.”
Going against an SEC team, a conference that is known for producing national champions and being an elite football conference, will be something new and beneficial to this independent team, the head coach said.
“I’m anxious to see how we measure and how we fit against them,” Mendenhall said. “They have a lot of talent, good coaching and a lot of tradition at almost every school. I’m anxious to see and compete against these teams, maybe on a yearly basis to see how we stack up.”
With this being the first game and being at the home of a well-respected opponent, expectations are high for the Cougars. There are also concerns that the weather and humidity of the south could have a negative effect on the players. Players said they were a little worried about weather conditions in Mississippi at the beginning of summer, but after fall camp quarterback Jake Heaps said he isn’t worried about any of that.
“There isn’t any uncertainty other than it’s up to individual person to do everything they can to be ready,” Heaps said. “You hope that everyone on your team wants it as bad as you do and I am confident that they do and I know they will show up.”
Along with confidence, the main feeling of coaches and players is excitement.
“We’re excited to be able to play football again,” offensive lineman Braden Hansen said. “I love football. As a kid, just dreaming of playing for BYU and to be able to go to Mississippi and play against Ole Miss is going to be a great experience.”