Matt Berry's Back, Healthy and Ready to Roll

<b>MATT BERRY</b>

The qualitative difference in the level of quarterback play among BYU's top two returning signal callers is already apparent several days into fall camp. The character, experience, crisper passing, confidence, quicker reads and accuracy confirm they will be better than the last two seasons – which were probably the longest and most depressing in all <b>Gary Crowton's</b> years as a college head coach.

"I felt like Matt Berry has had to play early, a little too early in his career. Then, this last year, he's had some injuries, so he's had some ups and downs in his two years as a player," Crowton explained in an interview after practice Thursday.

"John (Beck) came in as a freshman and had to play too early (as well)," Crowton noted, "and we had to suffer through those. But right now, those guys have experience and they know what they need to do to be ready – and its showing up a little bit."

With a slight chuckle, Crowton added, "Of course, they have to do it during the games. We'll have to wait and see in the games, but it sure makes you optimistic."

Heading toward fall camp, there were mixed reports that Berry's broken hand from last season was still not fully healed and Beck was almost a certainty to start this fall.

To coin a phrase from mythical detective Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot. Berry has returned to camp with no signs of lingering injury in his hand and has been throwing crisp, accurate passes with good velocity during the first two days of camp, giving Beck all the competition he can handle.

That must be viewed by Crowton, and certainly by Cougar fans, as an exceedingly positive signal that BYU will have two very effective quarterbacks capable of starting and playing well against BYU's toughest non-conference schedule in many years.

"I feel completely different. I feel like I'm a lot better than I was during Georgia Tech and USC games last year," Berry told TotalBlueSports.com today. "You know my deep ball is back and I'm throwing it really good right now."

Hundred of fans who turned out to morning practices can attest to that. Quietly and without fanfare during the summer, Berry subjected himself to a new, painful rehabilitation process to speed the healing of his injured throwing hand.

"It was this new form of rehabilitation where they put coco butter all over my arm and they basically take these plastic pallets and grind on it," Berry explained. "There was scar tissue basically all the way up to here (elbow) because the trauma had basically reached all the way up, and they would just grind on it."

He added, "I would say I'm 100 percent football-wise, but there is still scar tissue in there. I can still feel a lot of junk (tissue) in there, but football-wise, yeah, I feel 100 percent."

Pointing out a scar that jagged across his pointer finger, Berry confirmed, "At the beginning of this year, I wasn't healthy. I had that gash right here that cut my whole finger up. I didn't feel totally healthy because I had a big bandage right here. You know you can block those things out as much as you can, but it's going to change things and the feel of how you throw."

The injury from last season affected Berry's grip and, consequently, his ability to throw the football. Many fans noted he often threw like he was shot-putting the ball during some games as he struggled to recuperate from his injury. Berry confirmed it.

"Last year I had to compensate and shot-put the ball because I couldn't grip it," he said. "It was cold. I had a metal plate and metal screws in there and it was a mess. I was gripping it with my middle finger, index finger and my thumb and you just can't do it. It just doesn't work with just those fingers; it just doesn't happen."

Brimming with renewed confidence, Berry said, "I'm finally getting my ball more over the top with more juice on it because my hand is better and my arm strength is back. I feel totally different than I did this time last year, tons better."

He commented that multiple injuries sustained on two fingers of this throwing hand, prevented him from making easy throws and, over time, his confidence began to wane.

"Subconsciously, it was kind of an issue where I would think to myself as I was dropping back, ‘You know, I don't think I can make this throw, and I wouldn't.' I would check down or I wouldn't throw it. But now, I'm just like, ‘forget it, I'm throwing it," Berry said with a smile. "I guess just getting my hand healthy was the main thing."

Having spent months in rehabilitation, Berry simultaneously focused on getting himself mentally prepared for fall practice and the upcoming season.

"I did a lot of film study and I was working hard. In the afternoons, I just kind of did my own thing to clear my head and it wasn't anything selfish or non-team (related). It was more important for the team to get my head right. Last year shook me up pretty bad. I mean, I felt really good at the beginning and after USC to the point that I would have been shocked if we would have lost another game after that," Berry said.

Most Cougar fans probably felt the same after the hard-fought game against USC when he almost brought the team back for an upset over the Trojans on their home turf. Then injury struck.

Asked how he felt now, he said, "I feel great! I pretty much worked out everyday like today all summer long. I did a lot of stuff and I just got back (from California). I did a lot of swimming and a lot of running up in the mountains, clearing my mind to get my head right. I'm night and day in comparison to that. I feel ten times better, I'm stoked," the confident Berry said with a wide grin.

Watching Berry and Beck duel it out on a friendly basis for the coveted starting spot against Notre Dame, Crowton sounded pleased. "I'm really much happier with the progress of the quarterbacks this year because they've been in the program a little bit longer," he said.

"You know he's (Berry) healthy. He and John (Beck) are both very experienced. Jason's (Beck) had some JC experience. I just feel like they are further along and it's showing in practice. They're working hard. If they get rid of the ball, it helps everything. They know where to go and if the ball's off on time, it helps every position in the passing game. That's what they're working on. I've seen a lot of improvement there and I think we've got a lot to go, but I've seen a lot of improvement," Crowton continued.

One thing is certain: BYU fans are fortunate to have two quality quarterbacks that are noticeably improved and developing under Crowton's daily tutelage.

"All of us help each other, raise each other up and push each other up," said Berry. "This is good to have especially these days because the types of defenses run and the size of the guys playing in them. You're going to need more than one quarterback. You really need more than one," Berry concluded.

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