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LLOYD: Top 10 things I learned about BYU football from spring camp

2014-04-07T06:00:00Z 2014-04-07T14:07:21Z LLOYD: Top 10 things I learned about BYU football from spring campJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
April 07, 2014 6:00 am  • 
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  • For the last five weeks, I watched BYU football practices, talked to players and coaches and analyzed strengths and question marks. There were moments of brilliance, humor and insight as well as errors, frustration and ineptitude.

    But the overall goal for the Cougars was always very simple: Get ready for the 2014 season.

    With four-and-a-half months until BYU heads east to Hartford to kick things off against Connecticut, there are still plenty of improvements and additions that will impact the upcoming year.

    But that doesn't mean there was nothing to be gained from this past month of practice.

    Scroll through the slideshow to see the Top 10 things I learned about the Cougars during spring.

  • Everyone knows Hill can run. That means he has to come out and make opponents pay when they try to take that away.

    BYU players and coaches pointed out that the pass game was one of the big areas of focus and I saw it on the field during the parts of practice media was able to watch.

    Even though the offense only ran three plays at a time, there was a clear difference when Hill got the ball out on time and on target. That's when the Cougars moved successfully down the field and got to the end zone.

    If Hill can maintain that when the season rolls around, this BYU offense will be on a completely different level.

  • I really liked what Terenn Houk showed throughout camp and the development of Nick Kurtz, including an excellent showing last Friday. Michael Davis also appears to be a dangerous threat.

    But those guys by themselves aren't going to give Hill enough weapons to throw to. That's why it's vital for the Cougars to get more size, speed and talent stretching the field.

    If BYU can get Mitch Mathews and Ross Apo healthy, and get contributions from newcomers like Jordan Leslie and Devon Blackmon, the Cougars will exponentially increase their big-play capabilities and overall scoring.

  • How many units lose a pair of huge contributors from one season and look to be dramatically improved?

    Daniel Sorensen might be off to NFL and Davis, a former cornerback, might be back on the offense, but BYU is still rightfully excited about the potential of the Cougar defensive backline.

    I've watched guys like Trent Trammell, Trevor Bateman and Dallin Leavitt make big plays for the defense throughout the spring. Add in healthy guys with experience like Craig Bills, Rob Daniel and Jordan Johnson and this unit has talent, knowledge and ability to be special.

  • Kanuch comes over from the defensive line with some familiarity with offensive technique from his high school days.

    But I've seen him become a rock both physically and emotionally on the BYU front, proving to be a key spark.

    I like the possibilities of his fire being added to that of guys like De'Ondre Wesley and Ryker Mathews. These guys are not just in better condition for the tempo the Cougars run but they also have shown the attitude the team needs.

  • I found it interesting that when BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall was specifically asked about the nose tackle position after the final practice of spring last Friday, he said he wasn't concerned.

    Mendenhall said the return of Marques Johnson would shore up that position but I think the Cougars are pretty confident in the guys that play such a big role to the defense.

    Graham Rowley, Travis Tuiloma, Remington Peck and others aren't ready to step on the field and dominate right now, in my opinion, but I think they are right where BYU wants them to be at this point.

  • "Go fast, go hard" is still a phrase that circulates periodically around the Cougar football team but it's not the constant mantra it was a season ago.

    I believe that's because speed only gets a team so far and Anae is satisfied enough to turn the focus toward being more consistent with the execution.

    Many fans are like I am and have emphasized that speed alone is of limited value but if Anae can get the offense to go fast and be more crisp at making plays, then the BYU offense will realize its true potential.

  • Scott Arellano will be better in 2014 simply because he is more accustomed to performing at this level. He'll get the ball off more quickly with more confidence.

    None of the kickers have that luxury. Trevor Samson and Moose Bingham both made some nice kicks and are fairly close coming out of spring, but neither was phenomenal from long distance.

    That's an area that the Cougars need to be ready to go come August, so this offseason will be important for both guys and any others who might be in the mix.

     
  • It is football so guys were going to get hurt. There were a variety of minor injuries and a few more significant ones, but overall BYU should be fairly confident with the overall health of the team.

    This spring, there were not Trammell-type injuries in which a guy was completely lost for the upcoming year. Many guys need to heal up and get back into full football condition but the Cougars should have most of their contributors ready to go when fall camp begins.

  • I only caught glimpses of what Kaufusi will become, mostly due to the limited contact BYU had during spring.

    Still, he was tough to block coming off the edge and seemed to be getting a decent idea of how to add the coverage requirements to his repertoire.

    I don't think Kaufusi will instantly become Kyle Van Noy or Alani Fua, but it fits his skill set and thus I look forward to seeing the move bear fruit next fall.

  • Williams has proven to be an effective running back, but he's added greater versatility in the pass game and improved his blocking ability. I expect him to be a valuable contributor in all of those areas on the field.

    And off the field, I will always look forward to talking to Williams because he has such a fun personality. His comments about Nate Carter (who he said he calls "the Leprechaun") and the running back relationship with the offensive line were some of my favorites from spring.

  • So there is my list of things I learned from BYU football's 2014 spring camp but it's certainly not comprehensive.

    What would you add?

    I'd love to get your thoughts, so please comment here, on Facebook at BYUCougarBlue or send me a message.

    Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

  • The NFL Draft features 256 selections every year.

    That means in a five-year period, roughly 1,280 college football players will hear their names called on one of the draft days.

    In the last five drafts only four of those have represented BYU.

    Yeah, that’s right: four.

    Percentage-wise, that’s 0.31 percent.

    That’s not exactly a glowing number for a program that wants to be considered a national power.

    To put it bluntly, the NFL draft has to be considered a disappointing statement on the professional perception of BYU.

    If you look at some of the other local schools during the same five years and you find that Utah has had 13 players drafted, Boise State has had 14 players picked and Utah State has had eight players selected.

    Some might say the Cougars have ended up with a decent number of guys in the NFL because they have some sign as free agents.

    But guess how many BYU players are currently in the league (including Kyle Van Noy who was picked by Detroit on Friday)?

    Six.

    You don’t really want the comparisons, do you? (Here they are anyway: Utah has 25, Boise State has 17 and Utah State has 12).

    So why has the Cougar program fallen behind as far as getting players into the professional ranks?

    I don't think there is one clear answer, but scroll through the slideshow to see five of the key reasons why BYU isn't an NFL pipeline at this point.

  • I often hear Cougar fans complain about their team not getting enough five-star and four-star recruits. But realistically those athletes aren’t going to consistently come to Provo because of the academic, ecclesiastical and personal demands required of BYU players (and no, I can't imagine those ever changing).

    So BYU gets the guys who are willing to live a certain way and then makes the most them. That team concept, however, doesn't translate as well to the individual talent emphasis of pro football.

  • Not all Cougars serve LDS missions but many do and thus are older than the traditional college athlete. If you tack on redshirt years and maybe a medical hardship year (see Hague, Mike), often BYU players are in their mid-20s by the time they graduate.

    The traditional wisdom then is the Cougars have developed more and so they won't get that much better in the pro ranks. Remember that the pro draft just like college recruiting is often based on potential and that perception hurts Cougar athletes.

     
  • The Cougars have won a lot of games over the last five years, but let's be honest -- they haven't really made a national splash.

    BYU doesn't have Utah's 2008 claim to fame (although admittedly that is fading) nor Boise State's lengthy list of accomplishments this century. The league does pay more attention to players from teams who reach the top of the college ranks.

  • Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall emphasized it in the latest recruiting class, and it’s probably never been more evident in both the college and pro game: Speed is key.

    Perhaps more in this area than any other BYU hasn’t been able to keep up, although the renewed focus on it might mean that is changing. The best example of this might be the fact that the two most recent Cougar draft picks — Van Noy and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah — have solid-to-exceptional speed for their respective positions.

  • The most obvious proof for this assertion is Cougar linebacker Uani ‘Unga, a tackling machine who might’ve gotten drafted if he hadn’t suffered a tough knee injury at the end of 2013.

    But I think this has also adversely affected other BYU players because injuries have forced them to make sacrifices for the team.

    I think 'Unga would’ve been better if Spencer Hadley (another potential draftee) had been healthy. Perhaps Daniel Sorensen gets a closer look if the rest of the Cougar secondary had been able to be at 100 percent this past year.

  • There are probably other reasons why BYU hasn't had as many players drafted or being successful in the NFL, ones that I didn't think of.

    Why would you say the Cougars aren't making a splash in the pro ranks?

    I'd love to hear what you think. Feel free to email me (jlloyd@heraldextra.com) or comment here or on the BYUCougarBlue Facebook page with your thoughts.

  • June is not my favorite sports month -- usually.

    College basketball is a distant memory, while football season is on the horizon but still far enough away that it's hard to really get excited.

    But as far as a June weekend goes, it doesn't get much better than this weekend.

    There are major sporting events all over the place, something to keep your thirst for athletic excitement satiated for at least a few days.

    So now the question becomes which is the most interesting to you?

    Do you love the "Beautiful Game"? Are you riveted by golf's biggest tournaments? Do the finals get your blood pumping?

    Everyone probably has their own way of ranking the weekend's big showdowns, including me.

    Scroll through the slideshow to see my countdown of the Top 5  sporting events this weekend.

  • For those who can't get enough of America's Pastime -- yes, Neil Warner aka the Great Zuke, I looking at you -- this is probably very near heresy to have baseball at the bottom of the list.

    But they've only played 65-70 games out of 162. Even the team with the worst record (Tampa Bay is at 25-42) is only 13.5 games back so theoretically they could make a big run.

    It's just too early to get excited about baseball, so even though many consider the summer to be baseball season, it takes a back seat to other events.

     
  • I love to play golf, but I've never been much for watching it. The leaderboards are of interest and it's fascinating to see the ebbs and flows of the tournament, but only the final day can be riveting and that's when it's really close.

    But Martin Kaymer (yeah, I had no idea who that was either) holds a commanding lead after the first two rounds of the U.S. pro championship, and thus I'm not planning on it turning into a really big deal. As a sidenote, I am pulling for Cougar golfer Zac Blair, who was at 5-over-par after his round on Friday, to finish strong.

  • I find the big local golf tournament far more interesting than the big national tournament, simply because I know a lot more of the golfers competing.

    When it wraps up today, I'm hoping that guys I've talked to at various tournaments, covered in high school or even a couple I've actually played a few holes with will be atop the leaderboard.

    Kai Ruiz, Milo Lines, Nick Killpack, Clay and Cole Ogden, Mike Jurca and Ryan Rhees all appear to be in the mix heading into the final round, which makes it a pretty thrilling local event.

     
  • Soccer fans will be aghast that the world's biggest sporting event isn't the top draw; non-soccer fans will be aghast that the World Cup will be this high on the list.

    I grew to love the "Beautiful Game" played at the highest level while in Europe 15 years ago. I remember being on a somewhat rural street during the Euro Cup in 2000 when a goal was scored by that country's team and being awed at how the cheers echoed from all across the countryside (nothing in the USA gets that reaction).

    But it's still very early in the tournament, as this will just be the first weekend of action. I get a month to enjoy watching the best players in the world represent their countries as they seek the immortality of World Cup fame.

  • Some would argue that with the San Antonio Spurs holding a commanding 3-1 lead over Miami, the thrill of this year's pro basketball championships is fading fast.

    But to me, this has been a fascinating exhibition of contrasts: team vs. stars, passing vs. 1-on-1, the older generation vs. the new superpower.

    I think there is a vast contingent across the country of non-Miami, non-LeBron James fans who delight in seeing the two-time defending champs not just lose, but get crushed by a team that simply is playing the overall game better.

    Some Jazz fans cling to lingering hate of the Spurs for what they did to Utah for so many years, but I love the way they play basketball. That's why I hope San Antonio proves it learned its lesson from 2013 and just closes it out at home in Game 5 on Sunday.

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