After more than two weeks of hard work in fall camp, the BYU football team has reached a milestone.
Starting on Monday, the focus of the Cougars' efforts will shift from the general improvement goals of camp to the more specific focus on getting ready for the season-opener against Washington State on Aug. 30 (8:15 p.m., ESPN).
"Right now I think we are on track," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Our full attention shifts. Most of what we've done has been to identify personnel, which I think we have a great handle on. We had a few things to clean up here and there, some roles to discuss offensively, then special teams work remains to get where we feel comfortable. But to do that in two weeks I think is reasonable."
The players note this change in approach with a certain enthusiasm because it means the payoff of the actual games is nearing.
"We're not going to stop for anything to prepare ourselves," said Cougar senior defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna. "I think we are prepared now to play but since we have the time left, it's good to use it to move a little bit further. It's been a great fall camp but we always try to be on our toes. We go to work and do our part so when game day comes, that work can pay off."
While the guys would love to be taking the field now, they also know that the next couple of weeks of work will be vital to their success.
"We need the two weeks," said BYU junior wide receiver JD Falslev. "We're not there yet. We have a long season ahead of us. I don't think we'll be 100 percent when we take the field against Washington State because that it the game of football. You are never going to be spot on for every little thing but it's the team that makes the most plays and has the most will to win that wins."
The big focuses for the Cougars in the first two weeks have been on depth, execution and staying healthy.
BYU has managed to make it through the most intense part of camp with limited injuries. Sophomore tight end Devin Mahina suffered a broken hand which will keep him out a few weeks, while others had a number of bumps and bruises, but no one was lost for the season.
Much of that might be credited to the limited live contact work. The Cougars only wore full pads a couple of times during the first couple of weeks and Falslev said he didn't expect much to change.
"I think it will be the same throughout the whole season," he said. "We'll stay healthy, we'll stay fresh and when it's game time, we'll be ready. We've all hit before. We are Division I college football players. We don't need to do that day in and day out to realize we are football players."
Perhaps that is one of the reasons the attitude seems to be so upbeat heading into this next step.
"Camp is still fairly long, so it's nice for the coaches and the players to then move on to something else," Mendenhall said. "Once Monday hits, the coaches will all go back and dive deep into the plans we already established. We'll refresh ourselves on those and then we start moving forward. It's a different base, but it is moving. Sometimes in camp, you feel like it's a practice and then another one the next afternoon and your sights become a little bit different."
The athletes landed the work they did early in August, but recognized they are now setting the stage for the next big challenge.
"We all know that these first couple of weeks are a big grind, but we all love it which is why we are out here doing it," Falslev said. "It's nice to get to this point where you know you can start preparing for an opponent. They are going to be good.
"Washington State is not going to lay down for us. They are going to come in here hungry and they are going to want to lay it to us. But as long as we continue to prepare as we have all fall camp, we'll be just fine. It's nice to be able to lay off the legs a little here and there but overall we had fun this camp."
Manumaleuna said he doesn't expect things to get easier with the change in focus. Instead, he believes the intensity needs to go up.
"That turn is a hard turn," eh said. "Not only are we fixing things up and preparing ourselves for the game, we've got to step it up even more. It's not just one step. It's three or four steps. We've tried to over-train ourselves to be ready for the game. They left the first team defense in for the entire team session (on Friday) and that's not to punish us. That's the type of practice we need. We need those steps to make this turn."
Falslev was also quick to point out that everyone on both sides of the ball can always get better — or worse.
"We still have wide receiver blocking things to work on," he said. "The offensive line and defense have things they can work on. We're never going to be perfect.
"I had a high school coach that told me every day you are either getting better or getting worse. You are never flatlining. Either we can come out and improve and work hard, or we can come out and lollygag around and get worse. We need these last two weeks to really improve on our skills and fine-tune everything."
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.