Men's Football Blog

Football team preps for game day in Connecticut

Aug 28, 2014 - Posted by Aaron Sorenson at 9:04 pm | Updated: August 28, 2014 9:38 pm | Permalink

Thursday in Windsor, Connecticut, the BYU football team completed its final full day of preparations in advance of Friday’s season opener at UConn.

The day included meetings in the morning, a team practice midday at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor and visiting Rentschler Field in East Hartford in the late afternoon. After a few coaches met with ESPN in the early evening, many members of the team participated in a fireside at the Hartford Stake Center in Bloomfield.

During the fireside, junior receiver Kurt Henderson, senior kicker Trevor Samson and junior defensive lineman Graham Rowley each gave talks and running backs Adam Hine, Toloa’i Ho Ching, Algernon Brown, Paul Lasike, Nate Carter and coach Mark Atuaia all sang the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” A question-and-answer session followed with head coach Bronco Mendenhall, Hine, senior defensive back Harvey Jackson, sophomore defensive lineman Travis Tuiloma, junior receiver Mitch Mathews and junior quarterback Taysom Hill all responding to questions from those in attendance.

Check out the photos below to get a feel for the day. 

Bronco Mendenhall promos

Aug 22, 2014 - Posted by Kyle Chilton at 11:34 am | Permalink

Coach Bronco Mendenhall got the chance to show off his acting chops in these promos for BYU Sports Nation. Check them out.

2014 National Football Media Day — summary and content index

Jun 24, 2014 - Posted by Aaron Sorenson at 5:50 pm | Updated: July 2, 2014 12:24 pm | Permalink

On June 23, BYU held it fourth annual Football National Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building. The event featured 15 players, seven coaches, director of athletics Tom Holmoe, former players, including four special guests: Dennis Pitta, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, Leon White and James Dye, and more than 60 media members including newpapers, radio stations and TV stations.

Starting at 7 a.m. MT, BYUtv televised nationally 21 straight hours of football content, including four hours of new live programming, while five different radio stations, including BYU Radio/SiriusXM 143, were on hand to produce live content from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. MT. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall was interviewed on national radio by Jim Rome, while two of the live shows (State of the Program and Great Moments Then & Now) broadcast by BYUtv were also available on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.

Three hours of live online video chats, including 30 minutes of Spanish chats, were available throughout the day on BYUtvsports.com. Chats were conducted with with more than 15 people including current coaches and players, former players and ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich.

Media Day also featured constant social media interaction via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Three current players, Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams and Michael Alisa, each took time to directly respond to questions from fans that were submitted via Twitter.

Below are some of the interviews, articles, photos and videos from Media Day:

BYU Football: Great Moments Then & Now

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Kyle Chilton at 3:48 pm | Permalink

BYU football legends return to Provo to discuss career highlights, what it means to be a Cougar

Former BYU players Leon White, James Dye, Dennis Pitta and Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah returned to their alma mater Monday to appear on the BYUtv program “BYU Football: Great Moments Then and Now.” The program, hosted by BYUtv’s Dave McCann, gave viewers an inside look into some of the great moments from each of the former Cougar’s careers and the lasting impact BYU leaves on its athletes. 

Leon White, who played linebacker from 1981 to 1985, began the program by giving his perspective on BYU’s magical 1984 National Championship season. White was named Defensive MVP of the bowl game against Michigan, but few know the personal challenges he and his family were facing at the time. 

“My father had been diagnosed with cancer,” White said. “I was ready to quit school and go home to be with my dad, but my mom told me he wanted me to finish the season and finish school.”

Eventually White decided to stay at BYU, and was one of the most instrumental players in BYU’s run to a National Championship. The season finale would be the last game White’s father would attend as he passed away shortly thereafter. 

“He knew I loved football and playing at BYU,” White said. 

The attention then shifted to former BYU receiver James Dye, who played wide receiver and returned kicks for the Cougars in 1995 and 1996. Dye, whose son Trey recently signed with BYU, was a part of a 1996 BYU team that set a school record for most victories in a single season with 14. 

One of Dye’s most memorable plays came on a punt return against Wyoming in 1995. Dye gave his analysis of the play and exactly what went into the moment. 

“The first thing I saw [after receiving the punt] were brown pants,” Dye said. “I figured I gotta get past these guys cause if I can get past these guys, I got the Raass brothers (John and Stan) leading me.”

After spinning away from multiple tackles, Dye ended up pushing John Raass out of the way en route to the end zone. 

“John Raass told me that if I ever pushed him again that I’d have to pitch him the ball,” Dye said. 

Next up on the panel was former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta, who played for the Cougars in 2004 and from 2007-2009, was a two-time all-American and a 2009 consensus all-American. Pitta also set the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in NCAA history before being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, a team that he helped to a Super Bowl Championship in 2012. 

Pitta began his career at BYU as a walk-on, but developed into possibly the greatest tight end in BYU history. Most of the passes he caught over his career were thrown by former Cougar quarterback Max Hall, who is more than just a teammate for Pitta. 

“There came a point where Max and I really got on the same page and we knew what the other was thinking and I think that really translated to success on the field,” Pitta said. “I even went as far as marrying his wife’s sister to really solidify that relationship.” 

The brothers-in-law went on to become one of the most dynamic passing duos in BYU history, and hold claim to some of the most memorable moments in team history, including 2009’s historic win against No. 3 Oklahoma on national television. 

“That’s one of those games where you look back and you’ll never forget what happened on that field,” Pitta said. “Not a lot of people were giving us a chance to win that one.”

Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah was the final former Cougar on the panel to share some thoughts. Ansah, who was drafted fifth overall by the Detroit Lions after only starting to play football a few years earlier, gave credit to his coaches and teammates for their influence in getting him to where he is today. 

“There was not a day where you wouldn’t hear ‘Ziggy’ come out of [Bronco Mendenhall’s] mouth,” Ansah said. “It wasn’t Ziggy as in a nice way of saying it, he was always on me. He always pushed me.”

In Ansah’s first play as a Detroit Lion, the rookie intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Many have praised him for the play, but Ansah had a secret to share about what really happened.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that I was in the wrong place,” Ansah said. “My position coaches were so mad at me.” 

The panel, which also included current quarterback Taysom Hill, finished the program by sharing their feelings about how BYU affected them not only as athletes, but also as people. Hill summed up a running theme that the entire panel included in their final respective remarks. 

“BYU has a much bigger impact on you than you will ever have on the University,” Hill said. “I am constantly surrounded by great people. Whether it’s the guys I’m playing with, the coaching staff or the administrators.”

BYU Media Day quotes from former players

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Jason Kitchen at 3:11 pm | Updated: June 23, 2014 3:16 pm | Permalink

Ziggy Ansah

“The NFL is a business. You have to put in the work.”

“One thing that drives me is when someone doubts me.”

On Kyle Van Noy being selected to the Lions:

“Having someone like Kyle joining you in the pros has been great for me.”

“I’m enjoying the moment. Seeing Kyle at OTAs I was thinking, 'who would have thought?'"

Leon White

On playing in front of his father one last time:

“Everyone was thinking about the Holiday Bowl and the National Championship. I was just thinking about getting back to play in front of my dad.”

On 1984 team:

“That was a special defense. No one really knew much about us but we had great linebackers.”

On Playing at Lavell Edwards Stadium:

“It was always an exciting game. We knew we had 60,000 people showing up each game. We loved the passion of the fans and that helped us with our commitment to the game.”

On BYU’s independence:

“There are a lot of obstacles but winning overcomes all those obstacles. BYU has to keep winning to stay relevant.”

Dennis Pitta

On winning the Super Bowl:

“It’s obviously an awesome accomplishment and something I will look back on in a few years. It’s special to be able to say I accomplished that.”

James Dye

“Moving this program into the forefront of pop culture will be important in getting LDS and other Christian athletes who might be interested in what we have to offer.”

Wide receivers quotes from Media Day

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Kimberlie Haner at 2:55 pm | Permalink

Mitch Mathews

Competition with other receivers:

“I love it. As long as we’re the best group on the team, the group that everyone looks up to, I’m happy no matter what. It’s just going to be our four best players. It’s exciting to know more guys are coming in because the more guys you beat out, the better you are. I’m ready.”

On Jordan Leslie:

“He’s really good. What I like about him is he’s so mature. The only thing is learning the plays. He has a learning curve right now. Once he really gets in the offense and understands it, he will be great.”

On Taysom Hill:

“He’s the best golfer on the team. You tell him to play tennis, he’ll play tennis. You tell him to play badminton, he’ll play badminton. You tell him to throw the ball anywhere, he’ll throw the ball. As receivers, we never worry. If me and him have a miscommunication on the field, it’s fixed in five minutes.”

Height advantage of wide receivers:

“I would love for someone to look up who the tallest receiving core is in the country is. It would have to be us. A couple of six foot guys, 6-4, 6-3. I think that’s what separates us."

Recruiting tall receivers:

“We put a big emphasis on the blue zone, which I guess is our red zone. You can be the fastest person in the planet, but it’s hard to get up in the red zone unless you’re big. We have a big emphasis on man-handling. Having big receivers is impossible for people to defend.”

Importance of having good hands:

“You can work on your reach, you can work on your hops, but even after you catch it, it’s not a catch until you can actually turn and tuck it away. It’s a talent you can’t really work on until you’re in practice working one-on-one.”

Replacing Cody Hoffman:

“Cody is irreplaceable. A great guy, good friend. It’s hard to replace individuals, but I think the receiving core we have right now is so deep. That’s going to be a prized possession for us. Being able to have four starters in and four subs come in that are just as good as each other, that’s probably a bigger worry for the defense than having one player who can play.”

Competition at practice:

“Every single practice feels like a game. There’s chatter back and forth, people talking smack. It’s good though.”

What wide receivers are working on in the off season:

“Something (head coach Bronco Mendenhall) made clear to us is the most conditioned guys on the team are the guys that can go full speed the longest. The more that we can stay fresh and the better shape we’re in, the longer we can go full speed. Being in the best shape possible while remaining the weight that we do is probably the biggest key that we focus on.”

Depth of receivers:

“We have too many players. Is there a way we can utilize all of us? If there is, we are pretty unstoppable. Even our backups are darn good. This year we’ve gotten together as leaders to discuss the potential we have. You can’t perfect the team unless your own position group is perfected. I think we’re ready.”

Taysom Hill

Receivers:

“I think Mitch (Mathews) will remerge as a go-to guy as we go through this season. I’m looking forward to watching him. Ross is another guy. Ross’ injury was a little more extensive. But Ross is another guy that’s been working extremely hard. Nick Kurtz is a guy who works extremely hard. He is big and he is going to be a guy that helps out jump people. Naturally because of his size, much like Mitch, will create a mismatch there. Then Jordan Leslie is a really physical guy. I think he will be a guy DBs will have a hard time pressing.”

Breakout player:

“I think Mitch (Mathews) is one of the best receivers we’ve had come through the program. I know he’s had issues staying healthy, but if he can he’ll have a special year.”

Transfer receivers:

“I haven’t had an opportunity to work with all of them. Jordan Leslie just got here and I’ve worked with him a couple of times. Leslie is a big, physical guy. My expectation for him will be I think he will be a guy in the red zone that when guys come to press him, he will be able to get off the press and win in a one-on-one coverage and help us in that avenue. I think he will help us in the slot when he is matched up with linebackers. I think he’ll be a great addition to what we have. Nick Kurtz is a guy who works extremely hard. He came in and has worked really hard, jumped right into spring ball. He had the deer in headlights look at times with the signs and going as fast as we do, but he's a guy who came in and adapted really well. He’s a big, tall target and can jump. I think he will also be one who will help us in the red zone.”

Linebacker Preview

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Nicholas Henderson at 2:44 pm | Updated: June 23, 2014 3:02 pm | Permalink

Bronson Kaufusi

On his transition from defensive line to linebacker:

“The first thing that was the hardest was learning my responsibilities when the play call comes in I need to know what I’m doing, where to line up, so that was the hardest thing for me. The second thing was pass coverage, understanding it and actually doing it was pretty hard. The easiest thing was the pass rush, that’s something I love and playing the run. I love playing the run from that position because you’re attacking.”

On emerging players at linebacker:

Zac Stout has been playing really well. He had a great spring and has established himself. Jherremya Leuta-Douyere is really good as well. We have a lot of really good players that can establish themselves in fall camp. Sau Tautu is a really good player because he can play inside or outside linebacker. He is a super physical player.”

On replacing Kyle Van Noy:

“I look at it more as filling a position. You can’t really replace players because every player is different. In our defense this position makes a lot of plays. Coming from the defensive line, your job is to take the gaps and allow the other guys to feed off of how you play. Now being the guy to make the plays it makes you grateful for the guys up front. They’re the guys that make you good.”

On playing at a much lighter weight from last season:

“I feel way more athletic, way more fluid. I feel like I can run with guys that are smaller than me because I am much lighter. It’s nice to be at that natural weight because your body feels better. You can play faster and longer.”

On strengths of the linebacking core:

“I feel like we are really physical and there is a lot of leadership there in the linebacking core. I’d say the unity amongst the whole defense is steps ahead of last year. I feel like everyone has the ability to rush the passer. We also have length.”

On areas for improvement:

“For all of us it’s probably doing more than what’s expected. We all know our job and can do it. But then it’s also about doing your job and making plays. We just have to play fluid and loose with no strings attached. It will take knowledge and experience to where it just becomes natural to you.”

Coach Paul Tidwell

On the linebacking core:

Jherremya Leuta-Douyere has had a great offseason. Spring was a learning curve for him. Moving from outside to inside linebacker and now things are coming from different directions but we expect him to play a lot. He’s a student of the game.”

“Toloa’i Ho Ching will be someone we will count on. He’s coming back from a knee injury. We have to get him involved as soon as we can. He’s strong and athletic and we’ll have to bring him along as quick as we can.”

Austin Heder reminds me a little bit of Cameron Jensen. Just really dedicated, a hard worker, smart, and puts the time in the classroom to study.”

Manoa Pikula and Zac Stout will go in to fall camp as our No. 1s on the inside and then we’ll just battle for No. 2s and have those guys push the No. 1 guys and we’ll make it competitive. We have a lot of good inside backers so it should be competitive.”

“If I had to pick one area where we need to come along the quickest in, it’s experience. We just need reps and experience.”

Defensive line preview

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Nicholas Henderson at 2:01 pm | Updated: June 23, 2014 3:02 pm | Permalink

Remington Peck

On some of the emerging players on the defensive line:

“First I’d say Travis Tuiloma and Graham Rowley who played before their missions. As they’ve matured on their mission and grown I think they’ll be better than they’ve ever been. Kesni Tausinga, he’ll be a true freshman, I see him playing and helping. Theodore King, he seems more mature and ready to play. Another one coming off a mission is Tanner Balderree. He is a bit undersized but he’s really strong so I can see him helping.”

On the nose tackle position:

“That’s the most important position on the defense. A lot of people might not give it a lot of credit because they might not make the most plays, or they might not be in the newspaper, but that’s the key especially in Coach Mendenhall’s defense. This year right now I’d say the two main guys will be Marques Johnson and Travis Tuiloma. Marques has a bunch of experience and Travis did before his mission. Kesni Tausinga just got back from his mission and showed great things during the spring so I definitely think he’ll see some time there as well. “

On his role this year:

“As far as my role goes, I’ve been able to get a lot bigger and a lot stronger this year. Last year I only played at 245 pounds and I’m like 270 pounds now so I’m stronger and that will help me a lot. The biggest thing for me this year is to try to emerge as a leader on the defensive line. I have experience and I just gotta try and help those young guys come along.”

On where the defensive line can improve from last year:

“I’d say on first and second down. Last year on first or second downs we averaged 3.3 yards per carry. If we could cut that down just to allow us to get to the pass quicker and make the opponent have more difficult third downs especially with how good our defensive backs will be this year, I think that would help a lot.”

On the defensive line as a unit this year:

“I think one of the biggest challenges from last year was there was no depth. There were four guys that played sometimes 80-90 snaps a game and that’s just too much so I think the biggest thing this year is we have depth. It will allow us to give the starting guys a rest. I see around six guys rotating and playing during the game.”

Cougar defensive back preview

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Jason Kitchen at 12:00 pm | Updated: June 23, 2014 12:55 pm | Permalink

Coach Bronco Mendenhall is proud of his defense. “If you can’t get around us, you have to go through us and that is not happening. If we keep them from going over us, we keep the score down.” The 2014 Cougar secondary appears up to that standard. While this defensive group has not played an official game, one thing is certain: there are high expectations and this crew is ready to perform.

Last season’s defense was a force and the passing defense ranked well nationally. The defensive backfield lost prominent leader Daniel Sorenson, currently working himself onto the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster, but this year’s group is poised to fill that void.

Senior defensive back Jordan Johnson and junior Trent Trammell are both returning from knee injuries suffered during last year’s fall camp. Johnson started 12 games as a sophomore in 2012 and earned All-Independent First Team honors. He recorded 48 tackles and one interception. Meanwhile, Trammell is a transfer from City College of San Francisco where he helped San Francisco to a 22-2 record and a No. 1 ranking.

“We really missed Jordan last year,” defensive coordinator Nick Howell said. “It will be great to have him back.”

Johnson and Trammell will be joining returning starters Craig Bills, Robertson Daniel, Skye PoVey and Sophomore Kai Nacua to bolster this year’s Cougar defensive backfield. BYU also added Nebraska transfer Harvey Jackson and freshmen Michael Shelton and Kavika Fonua.

“I’m looking forward to see who steps up,” Bills said. “We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of depth. We will be able to use a lot of different packages that will help our defense.”

Howell said the increased depth in the Cougar secondary will allow the team to play a lot more packages and get creative. The team boasts a lot of strength at corner and will have the ability to play more man, freeing up other defenders to make plays.

“When single coverage is a possibility, it adds an element to an already dominant defense and will make it much harder for anyone to score,” Coach Mendenhall said.

This new talented secondary has gone toe to toe with the equally talented Cougar receiving corps. A battle junior wide receiver Mitch Mathews knows all too well, saying it is the most talented group he has seen since being at BYU.

“There are guys that are backups right now that would start other places no doubt, Mathews said. “Each day is a battle. It feels like a game every single practice. It’s intense. It’s made me better and I know for sure it’s the best group we’ve had.”

The Cougar defensive backfield is excited and ready for the season to begin. They’ve been the topic of a lot of discussion, but come fall, this group will be ready to step up and legitimize the hype.

“We’re excited,” Johnson said. “We want to get out there and make plays.”

Williams talks about offensive improvements

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Sugene Lee at 11:29 am | Updated: June 25, 2014 3:18 pm | Permalink

Jamaal Williams 

On what the team is doing right now and the tone of the team:

“We’re weight lifting and looking to get into shape and getting into the mindset that this could be a great year to start off in Connecticut and go to Texas. We’re furious and ready to play. I feel like this is the year we should show people we can beat big teams and stay consistent every year."

This summer on familiarity of the offense:

"Last year felt like it was too new and people were nervous in the first game and didn’t know what to do. This year is different. We all know what’s at stake and we’re going to go in there and do our offense that we know now that we learned last year. It’s nothing new for us and it’s just the flow of the offense."

On offensive line improvements:

"I feel like they have. Their motivation and the way they get at it is getting good. They’re getting dirty now and they’re getting mean. De'Ondre Wesley, Edward Fusi, Ryker Mathews and Brayden Kearsley are getting everyone pumped up and is getting everybody ready for a special season."

How improvement in passing game helps the running game:

"I feel like having a great passing game is always great to have, especially if they’re on a roll and they expect a pass and you run the ball. It also just shows how big of an arm Taysom has and how much accuracy and precision he has as a quarterback. Everyone knows he can run, but he didn’t have that many opportunities to throw the ball as much, but since we have new wide receivers and deep threats, he can finally go out there and show what he can do."

On Virginia game last year:

"I was afraid of making mistakes, but now, we’re just angry for that game and we’re ready to go against Virginia again. We’re going to come back and this time we’re not going to be hesitant."

On rotations:

"We want everybody to be great. We don’t just want the starters to be great and we want the productivity to stay up, so if the backups can come in and provide the same type of game the starters do, that’ll be even more tremendous."

On incoming players:

"It’s great to have them here. It’s great to have them all hear so they can learn the offense as soon as possible."

On physical changes:

"I’ve grown and I’m around 208 pounds right now. I want to get to 215 to 220 pounds and I just feel older. I’m not as hyper as I used to be, but I’m just growing up and getting into my grown man body."

On breaking Harvey Unga's record:

"I’m happy Coach [Robert Anae] said it. He knows I’m up for it and I’m going to break it this year."

On pressure on bigger games and succeeding:

"I think it’s just about doing us. Of course we want to win, but I feel like if we just play our game like we have been, because we have a lot of weapons, so I’m glad this is the opportunity we get to do it with. Coming into the second year with last year’s offense is going to be great."