BYU Athletics Blog

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."

2014 offensive line preview

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Spencer Shamo at 11:26 am | Updated: June 23, 2014 2:03 pm | Permalink

De'Ondre Wesley

What do you expect from the offensive line this year?

“We’re coming in to our second year together and we have a lot more chemistry. We want to come in and beat guys up to win all of our game. We have the guys and the unity to come in and win all of our games.

“This year we don’t want to be timid. We had a lot of guys last year that were just coming in and playing college football for the first time. We’re going to come out, fight and leave it all out on the field.”

What’s the biggest difference for you between last year and this year?

“Being able to prepare myself for games is the biggest difference between my junior and senior years. I know what I’m doing now. I know what I need to focus on now. I’ve been watching film with Coach Tujague and when he shows me things I go out and work on it in practice.”

What do you want your role to be as a senior?

“My mentality coming into the season is getting my guys ready to play, mentally and physically prepared, and having that attitude to beat up any defense we come across.”

What’s it been like to work with Coach Anae and Coach Tujague?

“I love working with them. Those guys are fired up, they're emotional, I feel like they’re just like me when it comes to football. When they show that passion, show determination and they want us to be better it reflects on me and everybody else.”

Remington Peck

What have you seen differently from the offensive line?

“I see a big improvement from last year. Last year it was tough for them to jump into a scheme that they never played before. They’re like a whole different offensive line when you compare this year to last year.”

Coach Robert Anae

On changes to offensive line substitutions

“This year we’re going to have a little different dynamic than last. As far as a guy can go with his conditioning level, as dominating as a player as he is and with as sharp as execution as he can give, why take that guy off the field? There are a few guys that have made strides in spring in that direction.”

The offensive lines role in going far

“You have to be able to protect to throw concepts down field 20-some-odd yards. Last year we were good at that, but this next year we should be borderline great. The schemes are familiar and the offensive lineman are a whole year stronger. So when the protection sures up, now those routes get open and the deep ones that take a while. That’s what I’m hoping this offense has that last year’s did not have, that consistent deep threat.”

Coach Garrett Tujague

The impact of the summer workouts on the fall

“The summer is critical to obtaining our goals in the fall. It was awesome for them to get a taste in Spring and do some new things offensively, but they all met individually with us [as coaches] and we listed the things they must accomplish during the Spring and Summer Terms. They’ve done a really good job of meeting those goals so far. We’ve got a ways to go, but I like the progress that’s being made.”

On the new rules for coach interaction in summer

“Being able to keep them in check with the new things we add here and there. Being able to meet with them and go over those things will be huge going into fall camp.”

On players getting more significant playing time than last year

“The greatest thing we have going for us right now is people are fighting for a spot to get on the bus to travel. I think there will be some guys that will be hard to get off the field because of the way that they have been working. They’ve put themselves in a great situation by their offseason training and their habits to get in the film room right now by themselves. Those things are vital and that’s what will keep them on the field.”

Taysom Hill, offense ready to have breakout season in 2014

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Sam Yoshida at 11:18 am | Updated: June 23, 2014 11:26 am | Permalink

The quarterback position garnered a lot of attention at BYU’s football media day this morning.

Several coaches and players made appearances at the fourth annual event and made themselves available to talk about this upcoming season, including head coach, Bronco Mendenhall and junior quarterback, Taysom Hill.

With the return of the Cougar’s most dynamic offensive player, it’s hard not to see the star potential for the 2014 season. Hill says he is ready to assume even more of a leadership role this upcoming season. The Cougars have set the bar high for themselves and are expecting to have a standout season.

“I’m not conceding anything, but we have a good team,” said Mendenhall.

“I look at our schedule and there is not a game that we can’t win,” Hill said.

It all starts with the quarterback, which Mendenhall commented is a great position to have a starter returning. Hill hopes to build on a productive sophomore season where he had more than 4,000 yards of total offense and 29 total touchdowns.

It’s the second year of the Cougar’s “go fast, go hard” offense. There were some obvious growing pains with the new offense, but everyone is excited about ways they have improved the offense. Offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, mentioned in the “State of the Program” show that they have made some changes in regards to personnel to make the offense more efficient that even the defense has noticed.

“They’re hard to stop,” said defensive coordinator, Nick Howell. “Trying to stop them in practice only makes our defense better.”

The BYU coaching staff is also working on ways to convert at a higher percentage in the red zone, where they had issues in 2013. Anae mentioned that they are looking for ways to help Hill have a higher completion percentage. The audience at the live TV show laughed when Anae was asked if Hill ran too much.

“He should have ran more,” Anae said.

Hill knows that he will need more than his legs to help the cougars achieve their goals this season. Hill said that with a year of experience under his belt, he feels more comfortable asserting his feelings about the offense with the coaching staff. Hill also talked about ways he’s been improving to be able to make this offense potent through the air.

“I’ve been working on making sure my feet are set quickly and that I’m accurate,” Hill said. “The games we struggled were when the opposing defenses stacked the box and forced us to throw.”

Hill has garnered some national attention for this upcoming season, and is listed as one of the top returning quarterbacks, but the coaching staff is focused on making sure that his popularity doesn’t become a distraction. Anae mentioned that there will be weekly evaluations of Hill’s progress.

While Hill will be the primary star at quarterback, there are other players that have been making progress, and are ready to contribute. Senior Christian Stewart appears to be the clear-cut backup that saw some reps during the Spring. Freshmen Hunter Moore and McCoy Hill will also be seen on the roster.

The future looks solid at the quarterback position for the Cougars. Fans can look forward to some fireworks in the Fall. 

Senior tight end Devin Mahina looks to make big impact in 2014

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Spencer Shamo at 11:11 am | Updated: June 23, 2014 11:31 am | Permalink

Devin Mahina returns for his final year at BYU looking to make a big difference in BYU’s evolving offense.  The senior tight end from Upland, California, remembers BYU’s tough loss at Virginia to start off the 2013 campaign and is ready to do his part in making sure 2014 starts off with a win.

“I’m excited and anxious and ready for the season to start,” Mahina said. “July is going to seem like a really long month for me, but when the season comes I’ll definitely be ready.”

Statistically, BYU tight ends haven’t played a big part in offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s new up-tempo offense. Mahina saw limited playing time in 2013, finishing the season with seven catches for 54 yards and expects those numbers to increase significantly in 2014.

“The offense's chemistry has increased and our overall knowledge of the offense has increased as well,” Mahina said. “Last year we started from ground zero, but this year we’re a lot more comfortable and know exactly what is expected from us.”

One of the biggest reasons for the expected increase is a major tweak in the offense that Robert Anae eluded to during an interview on BYUtv.

“We’ve catered a little bit more to my needs as a tight end,” Mahina said. “We’ve done a lot more three-point-stance stuff, which is where I feel I thrive. I’m really excited for that.”

While the tight end position should become a bigger part of BYU’s offense in 2014, Mahina has seen progression throughout the entire team and expects big things in the upcoming season.

“Even if we just go off of spring practices, we’ve seen huge progress,” Mahina said. “I think this year we are going to see big things from the entire team, and especially the tight ends.” 

Recap of State of the Program on BYUtv

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Nicholas Henderson at 10:37 am | Updated: June 23, 2014 10:41 am | Permalink

BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe spoke about the state of the BYU football program on BYUtv during BYU Media Day.

Mendenhall and Holmoe are excited about the schedule for this season. Holmoe specifically mentioned Texas as a game he has been looking forward to since winning the game against them last season. Because of how junior quarterback Taysom Hill played in that game, Mendenhall is sure that Texas will pay closer attention to him to try to stop his running game.

BYU is set to play a bowl game in Miami in December. Holmoe talked about the difficulties of scheduling a bowl game when independent, but he is pleased with this game. Mendenhall said that only Florida State has won more bowl games than BYU in the past 10 years. He is excited about travelling to Miami.

“I like the weather, I like the water, and I like 10 straight bowl games,” Mendenhall said.

With all of the talk recently about BYU’s relationship with different conferences in regards to scheduling, both Mendenhall and Holmoe stressed that they are happy with where BYU is right now. They both mentioned that independence has brought BYU exposure and has helped spread the BYU brand across the country.

“We will continue to play teams in every conference,” Holmoe said.

Another topic of interest was the allegations against BYU regarding improper benefits. Again, Mendenhall and Holmoe were on the same page. BYU has gone through a complete internal investigation. Mendenhall focused on the high ethics at BYU and is not worried about the outcome.

“I’m at complete peace,” Mendenhall said.

BYU football offensive coordinator Robert Anae spoke optimistically about the state of BYU’S offense heading in to the 2014 season.

“Looking forward to a couple minor tweaks, the biggest of which will be personnel,” Anae said.

Anae believes that with the returning starters and new additions coming this fall, the offensive group is better prepared for the “Go fast, go hard” offensive scheme than last year’s group.

The offense looks to be more explosive with a highly anticipated group of receivers and one tweak Anae mentioned will be an offense that won’t hesitate to throw deep.

“This is an exciting group that will add to our team’s value,” Anae said. “They’ll be going deep a lot. They will go fast, go hard, and go far too.”

Anae told the media that he expects Jamaal Williams to break the all-time rushing record at BYU if he remains healthy.

“I’ve already spoken to Harvey because his record will go down,” Anae said.

As for Taysom Hill, Anae said the key to his success will be focusing on the present moment and how he can get better “week to week.”

Head coach Ed Eyestone and Jason Witt to appear on TrackTown LIVE

Jun 10, 2014 - Posted by Spencer Shamo at 1:05 pm | Permalink

BYU head coach Ed Eyestone and Jason Witt will appear on TrackTown LIVE at 2:00 p.m. PDT in celebration of Eyestone's victory in the 10,000-meter race 30 years ago. Witt will compete in the 10,000-meter race tomorrow at the NCAA Championships. You can catch the program live on the embeded video below.

June Baseball Blog

Jun 03, 2014 - Posted by Ralph R. Zobell at 8:34 am | Updated: June 8, 2014 5:40 pm | Permalink

VOTE FOR LOPEZ: Cast your vote on Facebook for Cougar designated hitter Bret Lopez to become The Fan’s Choice Award champion honored at the 2014 TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby, airing Thursday, July 3 on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET. While Lopez, the past co-chair of the Cougar Athletic Council, is not hitting in the derby, the only way he can get to Omaha is through your vote to help him win. Round 1 voting will take place from 12:00 pm CT on May 27 until 11:59 am CT on June 9. The top 10 vote-getters will advance to the next round.  Round 2 voting will take place from 12:00 pm CT on June 9 until 11:59 am CT on June 16. The top 4 vote-getters will advance to Round 3.  Round 3 voting will take place from 12:00 pm CT on June 16 until 11:59 am CT on June 23.

LITTLEWOOD’S BIG BAT: While in Portland last month when the Cougars swept the season-ending series, Coach Mike Littlewood was searching for a copy of Sports Illustrated which chronicled his son’s part in one of the biggest rallies in minor league history. That copy of Sports Illustrated featured Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez on the cover, but in the Rockies, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durrant was on the cover. The account said “…it was 17-13, one out, bases loaded, catcher Marcus Littlewood coming up. His wife, Nicole (her name is actually Morgan and she plays for BYU’s women’s tennis team), standing behind home plate, pressed record on her iPad. Littlewood did not feel nervous. He envisioned a single up the middle. And then the 2-1 pitch came in, a fastball up in the zone. He swung. "Drilled out to deep centerfield," Cheyne Reiter, the LumberKings' radio announcer said, beginning to lose his voice. "Back near the track, at the wall, THAT BALL IS GONE! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? A GRAND SLAM. MARCUS LITTLEWOOD. WE'RE TIED UP 17-17!"

COACH WATCHES SON: With the Cougars not qualifying for the West Coast Conference Tournament in Stockton, Calif., Coach Littlewood took advantage of that time and traveled to watch his son Marcus play five games in the Midwest. One of those games was against former Cougar Jacob Hannemann who had dinner with the coach.

COUGAR IN OMAHA: Former BYU coach Glen Tuckett is a long-time member of the American Baseball Coaches Association Board of Directors and as such often attends the College World Series. This year Tuckett is taking his oldest grandson along to attend the opening ceremonies on Friday and watch two of the CWS games on Saturday.

BYU BASEBALL CAMPS: June 23 marks the start of four baseball camps for BYU’s coaches.

SUMMER ASSIGNMENTS: One of the Cougars not playing summer baseball is relief pitcher Brandon Kinser who has a summer job doing sales for Direct TV in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Other Cougars are playing for the:

Day 12: Venice

May 22, 2014 - Posted by Rachel Hawks at 1:23 pm | Permalink

The Cougars enjoyed their last day of their European tour in Venice, Italy, on Thursday. The team took boat rides and visited the island of Murano, where Italians have been making world-famous Venetian glass since the 13th century. The Cougars were even able to watch the glass making process and see glass sculptures made from the glass.

The team also saw St. Mark’s Basilica, an Italo-Byzantine cathedral and one of the most famous churches in Venice.

Friday the team returns to the U.S. after earning a 5-2 record against foreign opponents from three countries. The Cougars visited six different countries during their tour.

Days 8-11: Zagreb, Rovinj, Pula

May 21, 2014 - Posted by Rachel Hawks at 8:28 pm | Permalink

This week the volleyball team has been in Croatia, starting in Zagreb. Sunday the Cougars went to church in Zagreb. There were only about 25 people in the branch. The team listened to the service via translators.

After Zagreb, the team moved on to Rovinj, a small Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea.

Monday, the Cougars explored the beautiful Plitvicka Jezera Lakes in one of the oldest national parks in Europe. The cascading lakes are known for their bright shades of green and blue, which change depending on weather, minerals and organisms in the water.

Tuesday the Cougars explored the city and the coast in Rovinj, then on Wednesday headed to Pula, another city on the Croatian coast. In both cities BYU played against club teams and won both matches.

Thursday the team will travel to Italy for the last leg of its journey.