Wrapping Up BYU's Spring Camp

Kelly Poppinga

On a cold and wet day before Friday the 13th, the Cougars wrapped up spring practice in preparation for the annual BYU Blue-White Game this Saturday. The team is pleased with the quality and amount of work they were able to accomplish in just 14 practices.

Much like last Tuesday, the Cougars held their final spring camp practice session outside on a windy, cold and wet day. Offensive linemen did their best to keep their big bodies moving between whistles and drills, so as not to waddle around the field like National Geographic's "March of the Penguins."

Coach LaVell Edwards was on hand to watch the final day of practice along with former Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl quarterback Danny White who is now the head coach of Utah's arena football team The Blaze.

Max Hall's father Mark and mother Cristall were there along with three of their children. Leaving the warmth of Arizona, the Hall family braved Utah's cold mountain cold to watch Max perform in today's scrimmage first hand.

Both offense and defensive units had a script of plays they wanted to perform during today's scrimmage, which involved just about everyone on the team.

"We kind of had a breakdown of play script that we wanted to use, and the defense had theirs that they wanted to use," said running back Harvey Unga. "From an offensive standpoint, we mainly wanted to focus on those specific plays and to try to perfect them. I'm assuming that it was the same situation from the defensive side as well."

The offense put up their scripted plays against those of the defense. The result was a scrimmage with successes on both sides of the ball.

"It was kind of a good battle going back and fourth as you saw, and there wasn't many big plays," said Unga. "We had some good drives coming down, and they had some good stops. It pretty much was a good battle going back and fourth."

Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff got just about everyone in a blue and white uniform involved in today's activities. Even guys further down on the depth chart got their chance to show the coaches what they've got one last time during spring camp. The involvement of the roster's depth kind of took some by surprise.

"To be honest I didn't know what they were going to do actually," chuckled Unga. "It kind of caught me off guard. I heard the coaches say, ‘Third teams are up. Third teams are up!' I was just assuming it was going to be the linemen and the quarterbacks, but the coaches used everybody today to allow them to get a feel. It was really good to see the guys that haven't had the chance but have been talking about how they're just waiting for that one chance.

"It was good to see guys get that chance and come out and make plays. It was good to see those guys get that chance like some running backs, some quarterbacks and even some of the linemen too. I think every single lineman got a chance to go out there, and it was fun to see them out there and to see what they got. It was good to see Tom Sorensen finally back out there, and I'm glad everybody got an opportunity."

Springing Back to Reflect

One aspect about this spring practice that was improved upon over last year was how effective the offensive and defensive units ran. The effectiveness and precision of Coach Mendenhall and his staff allowed the team to squeeze in many more repetitions over the limited time.

"Everybody says practice makes perfect," said Unga. "Everybody says that but practicing perfect makes things perfect. It makes perfect execution, which makes perfect scrimmages and will make perfect games.

"One thing that has really added to this was how fast our offense was able to do things. We were able to get in more repetitions during this spring than I can remember, and because of that we were able to practice perfection many more times and even get further along.

"The more repetition we were able to have helped us work on more situations. It allowed us to further develop ourselves as an offense rather then having to hold back and focus on things that should have already been taken care of. Because we had so many reps we were able to work on things that we might not have gotten to later on because we were going so slow. This was a really good spring for us as a whole, and we accomplished a lot."

The greater volume of reps this spring helped the team further advance as a whole, but the results of being able to get in as many repetitions as can be had really helped one specific group.

"Definitely it has helped us to better develop our offense with these new quarterbacks we have here," said Unga. "John [Beck] was a really gifted quarterback, but with the quarterbacks we have coming the more repetitions we as an offense had this spring really helped further their development. The quickness we were able to do things really helped them get up to speed. The more repetitions they had, the more plays we were able to work on, the more they were able to get in synch with the offense, and the better they were able to help perfect the team."

Many key starters had to sit on the sidelines to nurse nagging injuries. Their involvement over spring would have been useful to help further the team development.

"You don't really get better by playing against guys that are on par with you," said Unga. "You get better by playing with guys that are faster, stronger and better than you. It forces you to have to match their level of competition and then some in order to beat them. You either have to step up or get out of the way, and in my opinion, we've got a lot of guys that have helped others step up their game to make the team as a whole better."

However, the many repetitions the team was able to put out over the short period of time may have helped take up some of that slack. It also gave a chance for some up and coming talent to receive the bulk of the load, which will only strengthen the depth of this Cougar team once those key players return.

"We didn't have guys like Fui [Vakapuna], Manase [Tonga], Joe [Semanoff] back yet, but we had running backs step it up, and as far as I'm concerned we did really well," said Unga. "We tried to give the linebackers a good run to help them develop and I think we did a good job at that with the guys we had in spring. We got great linebackers and they've helped us out a lot to be become better running backs who will give us quality depth in a group of already talented running backs."

Looking Towards the Blue-White Game

Be advised Cougar fans that Coach Mendenhall and his staff won't give too much of a look into what this team can actually do, and for good reason. Expect a watered down version of both the offense and defense as they put on a show at LaVell Edwards Stadium this Saturday.

"I think the fans can expect a lot of execution stuff this Saturday," said Unga. "In my opinion I see the Blue and White game as being a grudge match that will go back and fourth.

"We're going to have some good drives and the defense will get some good stops, but for the most part I'm pulling for our offense to go out there and do our thing. I know the defense is going to go out there and play just as hard as well though."

Like Vakapuna, Tonga, and Semanoff, Unga will also be on the sidelines watching and cheering on his offensive teammates.

"It's going to be tough and probably a little bit frustrating to watch from the sidelines," said Unga. "I'll be on the sidelines cheering for our offense wishing I could be out there with my teammates, but I'll have the rest of summer to get myself ready to go all out come fall practice. It's going to be fun, and I can't wait."

Practice Tidbits

On hand to watch today's practice was Leuzinger High School linebacker Uona Kaveinga. He came with his mother, father, and two of his siblings to tour BYU's facilities, watch the team practice, and check out the campus environment.

Uona Kaveinga was seen on the sidelines talking it up with Manase Tonga and Saia Hafoka and was also introduced to former BYU legendary coach LaVell Edwards who was in attendance to watch today's scrimmage. TotalBlueSports.com will follow up on Kaveinga's visit once he returns home.

Former Chino Hills High School all-purpose athlete and BYU safety signee Steven Thomas is still in town and was at BYU's practice again today. Thomas has quite a few family members that lives in the area and has been visiting with them.

Poppinga Chat

Click on the following link to listen to Talo Steves battle the cold with inside linebacker Kelly Poppinga as they talk about thursday's performance and scrimmage goals, the overall results of spring camp, and what BYU fans can expect at the Blue-White Game this Saturday.

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