By Steven Potter and Katie Nielson
Soon the seats of LaVell Edwards Stadium will be filled; roaring cheers of “Go, Cougars” will roll into thunderous chants of support for the boys in blue.
For now, Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, All-American quarterback Taysom Hill and his teammates are focused on beginning fall camp, preparing for a schedule that could possibly go down as one of the toughest in BYU football history, starting on the road with a matchup against Connecticut on Aug. 29.
One of the biggest obstacles of the season will be conditioning players at a new level, especially on the offensive line. While it has always been a key component, Mendenhall expects fitness to be addressed heavily during pre-season practice.
“Now within our specific system they (offensive line) have to be able to be conditioned at a level that is unlike any BYU offensive lineman,” Mendenhall said. “We’ve had to increase our conditioning program for our players and their body fats, not just in transition, but transformation. So a cultural transformation, a physical transformation, but then a performance transformation.”
The Cougars’ offense will be captained by returning junior QB Hill, who looks to take the program to new heights as it prepares to face a tough schedule that includes six away games, including at Texas (whom the Cougars beat 40-21 at home in a thriller last season), and end with a matchup at the University of California.
For Hill, the majority of spring training has revolved around building a relationship with the program’s new set of wide receivers, as well as taking on a win-big mentality for the upcoming season.
“Within our offense, because we go so fast and run so many plays I think that the wide receivers are going to play a big role, and we will have to rotate so we don’t lose much from our starters to our second string,” Hill said. “It will give us an opportunity to continue to maintain that go-fast, go-hard mentality.”
Robert Anae, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, in his second year the Cougars, noted that he needs tough, every-down players who have both the capacity to go the arduous four quarters and the skill to compete at a high level, most notably on the offensive line.
“We are trying to get the players with the most capacity in the starting rotations,” Anae said. “If you’re a really good player, say an All-American, and your capacity is large, are you (as coach) going to pull him out? I don’t think so — I don’t. When you (equally) rotate nobody is standing out; all you’re really getting is a fresh perspective, a fresh set of legs. It’s not going to be that way this year. It will be tough to get on the field on the offensive line.”
BYU football kicks off the season on Friday, Aug. 29, at Connecticut on ESPN at 7 p.m. (EST).