BYU fans will recognize many of the rookie participants at BYU’s first fall practice today. Mike Hague, Andre Saulsberry, Matangi Tonga, James Lark, Max Hall and others were getting their first exposure to football at the next level.
The results were as expected. The football team’s newest members struggled to match the high level of execution displayed by its veterans. The first-timers were also hampered by the thin Wasatch air and soaring August temperatures.
Cries for “water!” were heard along the sidelines as Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s pursuit drills wore on.
Starting middle linebacker Cameron Jensen was out on the field to support and motivate new cornerback teammate Andre Saulsberry. Cornerback Kayle Buchanon and safety Aaron Gordon were also encouraging their defensive back group to not give up and to push through the pain and the heat of the day.
Robbie Buckner is one of the new Cougars who enjoyed their first day of Division I football camp. He faired well despite the heat and altitude. Arkansas' state high school 400-meter, long jump, and decathlon champion spent the last few weeks in Provo getting acclimated to his new home.
“It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” said Bucker. “What was hard about it was the pursuit drills. Other than that it was alright. All those drills are just really tough. I’ve been up here for about a month and week or so now, and it's way different now than running drills during the summer. The intensity that is out here on the field now doing these drills, and with the coaches being out here makes it much different and harder.”
Some were overcome by the heat and did not finish the day’s drills. Many issued a sigh of relief when the horn blew to signal the end of intense drills and the start of less demanding offense and defensive skeleton drills.
Although he was not as active in the scrimmage drills, Buckner was tested in a different manner.
“They’re way more experienced than I am,” said Buckner. “I had never covered most of these guys before, but I’ll get it. It’s going to be a really good learning process for me. I just need to learn and work more on my technique. I’ve got the speed to play and everything, but my technique is pretty much what I need to get down in order to be more competitive in covering some of these more experienced guys.
During the seven-on-seven skeleton drills, Buckner showed that he does indeed possess the speed to compete in the backfield at this level. As he develops his skills under the tutelage of defensive back coach Jaime Hill, Buckner will be a very good addition to the Cougar secondary. For the moment, Buckner will focus on building confidence, learning his position, and developing his skills.
“I know Coach Hill is a good coach, and he’s going to really help me to develop my skills to get me to where I need to be,” Buckner said.
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