Wednesday, April 14, 2010

BYU spring report

The Cougars faced a progression of spring questions in the last month.
Will Max Hall's backup, Riley Nelson, or returned missionary James Lark, or early-enrolled super-recruit Jake Heaps seize the starting role at QB? There is not a clear answer to that question, except that Nelson and Heaps do appear to have edged past Lark in the competition. By all accounts Nelson (spring 11 on 11 stats: 29-of-51 for 389 yards and 5 TDs) and Heaps (spring 11 on 11 stats: 62-of-105 for 774 yards and 7 TDs) are contending to start, while Lark (spring 11 on 11 stats: James Lark 27-of-46 for 253 yards and no TDs) is contending for the backup role. All three were given the same number of snaps with the first team; apparently Heaps is the least inclined to run with the ball-- making him the philosophical heir to Hall and Beck before him. This battle continues into fall drills.

Who will snap the QB the ball? 2009 starting center R. J. Willig graduated, and the spring competition to replace him was less successful than Cougar fans hoped. Terence Brown leads for the starting role, but he was sloppy with snaps often enough to unsettle the BYU faithful.

Will new TEs figure prominently in 2010? All-star TEs Dennis Pitta and Andrew George graduated, taking with them fully one third of BYU's 2009 receptions and receiving yards. BYU watchers expect WRs O'Neill Chambers, McKay Jacobsen (pictured), Luke Ashworth, and Ross Apo to pick up most of that slack, while new TEs work their way into the gameplan.

The defensive questions cover most of the field-- six of the front seven 2009 starters graduated.
Will the D-line backups morph into solid starters? For the second year running, BYU must replace all (or most of) one of its lines. It was offense in 2009, and that project went better than expected. 2010 will feature a new starting d-line. Backups Matt Putnam ('10 junior), Romney Fuga ('10 junior) and Vic S'oto ('10 senior) showed well in the spring, and will be joined in the fall by returned missionary Eathyn Manumaleuna, and a quartet of freshmen.

Who'll man the open linebacker spots? There're three of them open for 2010, in the fruit-basket turnover on defense that has upended the Cougar two-deep. Hotshot early-enrolled prospect Kyle Van Noy showed well, once he showed up. His absence, punishment for the ever-vague "violation of team rules" raised eyebrows early in the spring. Aveni Leung-Wai has the edge for a starting spot by smart play in the spring; as does Brandon Ogletree. Recruits Austen Jorgensen and Zac Stout will be in the mix in the fall, as will zenior Shane Hunter.

Who replaces safety Scott Johnson? Johnson was the brain of the Cougar defense, and his replacement has yet to come to the fore. Andrew Rich practiced little this spring; top prospect Shiloah Te'o was dismissed from the team. Junior Steven Thomas and redshirt freshmen Jray Galeai and Travis Uale will press Rich for the starting spot this fall.

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