(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – Football coaches and players began fall practice on the Student Athlete Building practice fields on Friday afternoon. Offensive and defensive units went through position drills as well as some 11-on-11.
"Our team is really anxious to play," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "A lot of today could have been spent holding back, but we let them go. There wasn’t much extra curricular, which was good – especially as hard as they practiced. I think our team is hungry. I think they’ve got a chip on their shoulder. I think they feel like they’ve got a lot to prove and I was impressed today."
With a new group of receivers and a healthy set of defensive backs, the run game wasn't as prominent as the passing attack for the Cougars on Friday. Adam Hine led the team in carries with six.
Receivers Mitch Mathews, Ross Apo, Michael Davis, Devon Blackmon and Nick Kurtz were each targeted three or more times. Blackmon was a favorite of second-team quarterback Christian Stewart, with four receptions in six targets including some deep balls. The highlight of the practice was Kurtz' 60-yard touchdown reception down the sideline after he'd beaten the defender by a good five yards.
"We have more balls going downfield maybe in the first practice today than I had seen maybe all spring," Mendenhall said. "More weapons, more depth, more athleticism, more speed, more ball skills. Now add the consistency, the diligence, the character and the maturity to handle the BYU workload to go with it. In terms of the athletic ability – that’s certainly there."
The best play on defense came as linebacker Zac Stout picked off a Taysom Hill pass a play after a big gain over the middle. The Cougars practiced for two hours and fifteen minutes in the afternoon heat before breaking for the day.
"I actually thought that we went a little bit too much, but they handled it well," Mendenhall said. "I didn’t intend to push them quite that hard until maybe four, five or six days from now. As usual, coaches get a little overexcited. So, we asked a lot of them for the first day and they handled it well – especially because they did their conditioning test this morning as well."
Fall practice continues on Saturday with an open practice at the outdoor practice fields at the Student Athlete Building. Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and will continue closed practices on Monday.