Cougars intense on Day 1 of spring practice


Countless cups of Gatorade. Hundreds of sweaty guys. Numerous reporters. Shouting coaches. Helmets. Cleats. Jerseys. Anticipation. Frustration. Teamwork.

For the 2012 BYU football team, the first day of spring football practice was a story of high expectations, somewhat lackluster performances and a few heated fights.

According to head coach Bronco Mendenhall, the frustration seen between offensive and defensive players on Monday isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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Quarterback Riley Nelson gets ready for the snap during drills at spring practice on Monday in the Indoor Practice Facility.
“Both sides are competitive and have good leadership and neither side of the team wants to lose, so that’s a positive thing,” Mendenhall said.

Senior quarterback Riley Nelson said the conflict sometimes seen in practice doesn’t reflect on the team as a whole, but rather, shows how competitive the Cougars are.

“We had a highly competitive and intense winter conditioning — the most intense I’ve been a part of since being here,” Nelson said. “That carried over into practice today — guys were anxious to get at each other. It wasn’t full pads but guys were playing like it was and were physical, sometimes overly physical as we saw a few times. … I love that stuff. It’s all part of the game. We are mature enough as a team and close enough and good enough friends where we don’t carry it into the locker room. As long as nobody gets hurt, I’m perfectly fine with it.”

Both Mendenhall and Nelson voiced some frustration with the execution of plays and routes, but are optimistic the team will cut down on errors as the four weeks of spring practice continue.

“We don’t expect great execution of Day 1,” Mendenhall said. “We really want to teach and get players re-integrated into their spots and into the system. … By this upcoming Friday, it should look quite a bit different in execution.”

According to Nelson, as far as the offensive players go, the overall goal of spring practice is to become as efficient as possible.

“Today, there were balls flying everywhere and there were receivers everywhere and nobody was quite sure of the spot they were supposed to hit,” Nelson said. “Nobody was quite sure of the timing of the routes, and even the handoffs were a little bit sketchy. We want to get where we don’t even worry about that stuff, to where that’s second nature. When we make all those plays, then we can focus on making the great plays — going above and beyond what’s required of us.”

Going into the 2012 season, some BYU fans have expressed relief concerning the Cougars’ quarterback situation. In 2011, many students and fans gave their vote of confidence to Nelson, who had to work to overcome original starter Jake Heaps, and now are hoping he will once again deliver positive results as a guaranteed starter. According to Nelson, however, his position isn’t guaranteed.

“Who says there’s no question about it? I could stink it up,” Nelson said. “I didn’t complete a ball today in team and if that trend continues, I’ll be on the bench as quickly as anyone else. I still feel that pressure to perform. I’ve always kind of been second choice from my freshmen year to last year. … I don’t feel in any way that my spot is entrenched but I do feel a very deep need and urge to get better as quickly as I can.”

Mendenhall said he is not only expecting Nelson to play a pivotal role in Cougar leadership, but expects junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman and junior running backs Michael Alisa and Josh Quezada to step up and lead the team.

According to Nelson, BYU’s overarching goal going into spring football practice is to grow closer together as a team and build a solid foundation for the fall season.

“As a team collectively, we just want to be a close-knit team that is used to battling together,” Nelson said. “Hopefully the battle and grind of spring ball will have brought us close together and we’ll be ready for the grind of summer and then fall camp, and then have fun during the season. The season is the time to have fun. Now’s the time when you’re all stressed out and worrying about your assignments and stuff, so hopefully by the team the season’s come, all that’s in the back of your mind and you’re ready to roll.”

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