PROVO — Despite all the troubles both on and off the field this season — including a four-game losing streak, the firing of defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and the suspension of receiver O'Neill Chambers — the 2010 campaign isn't necessarily the most difficult one BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall has experienced in Provo.
"Each one has come with its own set of trials," said Mendenhall, who's in his sixth year at the helm. "Probably from a visibility standpoint, this would appear to be the most trying, but I can't say that it's been more trying than other seasons I've had. It's just more visible. The benefit of that is, I've probably learned more this year than I have in the other seasons."
Senior cornerback Brian Logan said this year's nadir came after the 31-16 loss at Utah State on Oct. 1.
"It was probably the lowest I felt. I was just so frustrated and I felt lost," he said. "After (the Nevada and Florida State losses), I felt like we were improving. For us to go into that game and just completely go backwards ... that was the lowest point."
But things changed dramatically, Logan said, when Mendenhall returned to his old job as defensive coordinator.
"Since then, coach Mendenhall lit a spark and it's in flames now," Logan said. "I can see that with every player. Even the coaches are excited and fired up."
HEAPS' DEVELOPMENT: True freshman quarterback Jake Heaps is receiving almost all of the snaps in practices, leaving few for backup James Lark.
"I would say less than 10 percent (for Lark)," Mendenhall said.
"There are so many reps invested right now in Jake to try to continue to keep his development going, there really aren't any for the backups," Mendenhall explained. "We're investing almost every rep, and most of this season and what remains of it, in Jake. Unless there's something that drastically changes, that's most likely the way it will finish."
Heaps said getting so many reps in practice "has been huge. It's not typical of a starter. They usually get three-fourths of the reps and the backup QB gets a little bit more. I've gotten the majority of the reps, which helps me to get involved with my receivers. It's been great to get on the same page."
HIGH PRAISE FOR RICH: Asked about what senior safety Andrew Rich means to the BYU defense, Mendenhall replied, "Andrew Rich is the cornerstone of the defense. He's the one that's most reliable, makes the most plays, and is the most consistent. He's just a great example and a great leader. I liken him to (former Cougars) Cameron Jensen, Kelly Poppinga, Aaron Francisco, Mike Tanner — those types of players, in terms of leadership."
Rich is No. 16 in the nation with 5.75 solo tackles per game and he's tied for No. 29 in total tackles per game at 9.5. He has played both safety positions for the Cougars this season.