After a week of spring training, the BYU football team has made strides toward its goal of becoming as competitive as possible during the fall season.
The first week of spring practice marked the establishment of senior Riley Nelson as the highly favored starter at quarterback going into fall, as well as the beginning of a competitive battle between juniors Michael Alisa and Josh Quezada for the starting running back position.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said seeing Alisa and Quezada battle for the position is both exciting and encouraging after the Cougars’ running game struggled during the 2011 season.
“I really liked watching Michael Alisa and Josh Quezada in the back field at the same time,” Mendenhall said. “That looks pretty good. There’s a battle going on, but there’s also plays when they both play at once when it’s hard to know where the ball is going and I like it … [The running game is] going to be necessary for us to have a fantastic season. ”
[pullquote]”I think we have a competitive, physical, good football team and I think we’re on track to have another good season,” BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall said.[/pullquote]
The Cougars maintained a high level of intensity and a competitive edge throughout the week, as seen by the numerous scuffles on the field between offensive and defensive players. Though some might worry about such conflict between teammates, both Mendenhall and Nelson said the scuffles aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
“They’re just so competitive and I love that,” Mendenhall said.
Nelson said none of the angst felt in practice gets carried off the field.
“We’re brothers and we don’t carry it off the field,” Nelson said. “So as nobody gets hurt in those scuffles, then we’re fine with it.”
One individual who showcased BYU’s spirit of dedication and competitiveness during week one is senior defensive back Mike Hague, who was admitted to the emergency room late Thursday night with signs of a gallbladder attack. Mendenhall said Hague was in the emergency room until 5 a.m. Friday, but still managed to make it to practice on Friday afternoon.
“They thought his gallbladder was messed up and beyond capacity,” Mendenhall said. “He texted his position coach at 2 a.m. to tell him he’d be at practice from the E.R. So, I’d say [he is] committed.”
Both Nelson and Mendenhall said they were pleased with the team’s performance throughout the first week of spring practice.
“I loved it,” Mendenhall said. “I think we have a competitive, physical, good football team and I think we’re on track to have another good season.”
According to Nelson, there has been a leveling of the playing field, with both offensive and defensive players making good plays.
“As a team, I feel great,” Nelson said. “The first day, the defense dominated then the offense kind of came back and had a lot of completions, a lot of easy plays the second day. These last two days have been back and forth every play, so that’s what you’re looking for so we’re pretty pleased.”
Nelson also said a high level of performance will be vital to the team’s mindset going into the summer, which will ultimately serve as a spring board in the fall season.
“We felt like we established an identity during winter conditioning and we’re building on that during spring,” Nelson said. “The summer is when we’ll determine who we’re going to be in the fall because that’s where we work out on our own as players. We decide what we want to make into the team … It’ll be very important to finish off spring correctly then we can springboard into summer and fall.”