Spring practices started on Monday, March 05. As a football fan, what do you want to see/learn the most about from the next few weeks?
Matt – For me the most important this will be to see how the quarterback situation shapes up. Historically, BYU has had amazing seasons with a senior QB taking the snaps, but the program is shifting from prototypical pocket-passer to a dual-threat quarterback. How will that play out in Brandon Doman’s second year as the play caller? And more importantly, how will the backup duties be handled? Yes, James Lark has done all he’s been asked to do and rightfully, he has “earned” his way to the role, but should he see the bigger picture here and step aside to let the younger guys who will be here next year and beyond have a chance to develop now? I think so.
Carl – Knowing the gaping holes in the secondary left by Corby Eason and Travis Uale, I will be most interested to see how the others look to fill the positions. I’m not looking for anything to stand out from Joe Sampson, Mike Hague, Jordan Johnson, or the others. Just looking to make sure there will be a solid second to accompany the rest of the defense.
Mark – I want to see a solidified run game. I want to know who the personnel is that I can count on come fall. This was an area where I felt we were very weak last year on.
David – Alisa is athletic, a strong runner, and has been doing great as a RB. He is undersized though and is not likely the permanent solution to the hole left by JJ DiLuigi. I’m going to be watching to see who will either fill the slot or at least back up Mike this season to take the reins next season.
What or who are you excited to see during spring ball?
Matt – The defense. I think the offense will find its rhythm with time and be clicking on all cylinders with little effort. The defense was fast and furious last season, but for all the hype, the pass defense was lacking, particularly in the secondary where recently graduated senior left a not-so-large hole (he stood 5’8”.) I think the younger talent will have a chance to really show where they can contribute and make a difference now that there aren’t a lot of returning players taking up the spots due to tenure. And how does the line improve? We know what we have with Kyle Van Noy, but how do the Cougars get a stronger push from the front three?
Carl – Riley Nelson, because I need to see progression in his decision making and throwing skills. I think everyone is interested to know if he can throw a 30- yard fade route, 15-yard deep out, and make smart decisions when to just throw the ball away and play another down. If we see progress, the offense will be much improved this season.
Mark – I think the Blue and White game has to be top of the list. As a fan, it is something me and the kids can participate in.
David – I’m really looking forward to watching Apo and Hoffman work their magic. Cody should definitely be looking at a 1000 yard plus season, and Ross will be right on his heels. As Riley keeps building confidence in his arm, we are going to see more and more of these two.
Who will have a bigger impact this year, Iona Pritchard or O’Neill Chambers? Why?
Matt – I probably just have a bias against Chambers, but I don’t see how he contributes. He failed as a WR. Pritchard has a better chance to make an impact, picking up blitzes and rushers, hitting holes and creating lanes for the running backs, and catching passes in tough situations to keep the chains moving. And after missing last season with a broken leg, I feel he will attack this season with a vengeance.
Carl – Tough question, but I’m going with O-Neill Chambers. I think the offense could be primed for him to have 1-on-1 coverage all the time this season. Teams won’t let Apo or Hoffman beat them, thus letting Chambers slip through. He could also be on kickoff and punt returns. O’Neill sat out last year for discipline issues. The fact that he stayed shows his commitment to making things right between him and the school. I think he’ll make it right on the field.
Mark – I have a hunch that Iona Pritchard was the piece that we were missing in the backfield last year. From what I understand, he is a solid three skill back (block, run, catch) much like Manase Tonga was. I love that Chambers is back with the team, but we didn’t miss him much in the return game with the Hoff stepping in and doing a great job. As an aside, can you imagine Chambers and Hoff back to field a kickoff? To have two of the top 5 return men in the history of BYU would be spine tingling.
David – O’Neill has the capacity to be great. Hopefully these last two seasons have taught him something and he’ll be able to keep his head and his mouth in check. I hope to see a lot from him.
Over the last 18 months, many BYU fans discussed at nauseam whether leaving the MWC for Independence and the WCC was a good decision. ATI guys: After seeing nearly one full season of sports, are you happy with BYU’s decision? Defend your claim.
Matt – I really couldn’t be happier with the decision. In football, the schedule was no worse than it was against the Mountain West Conference. And it is getting better. In basketball, the WCC may have been a step down overall from the MWC, considering the improved resumes of New Mexico and Colorado State, but as an overall package, I don’t think it was much of one. The biggest feather in the cap though has been visibility. I watched every football game and nearly every basketball game (when I didn’t it wasn’t due to unavailability via TV.) Yes, I’m happy with where we are right now.
Carl – After year one, I’m thrilled with how things are right now. BYU increased its exposure a ton with the ESPN contract. Being from Arkansas, I saw all 13 cougar football games either live or on delay via BYUTV. That’s more than double the amount of games I watched in the previous 3 seasons combined. It hasn’t stopped there, the basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer and gymnastics are all televised, with much better commentators that CSTV had when they were first starting out. I’m still not sure if independence is the best long-term choice for the Cougars, but for now, I’m happy with it.
Mark – How can you not? The MWC is a shell of its former self. Its carcass is slowly being devoured by the monstrosity that can only be described as Frankensteinian. BYU did not want to be on that sinking ship any longer. And I feel confident about the direction that BYU is moving with the Big XII potentially on the horizon. It is a case where BYU will most likely have its cake and eat it too.
David – I’m definitely happy with where BYU is at, although I wouldn’t complain if a major conference deal came knocking. The Cougars are poised for some very exciting football seasons coming up, and independence made that possible. The WCC has been a great home for all of the rest of the sports. The competition is good and we are already seeing some good rivalries develop.