PROVO — BYU practiced in full pads Thursday for the first time since fall camp started. The Cougars begin two-a-days Friday in preparation for their first scrimmage Saturday morning at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall's goal prior to that scrimmage?
"Recover, refresh assignments and try to get execution-sound and heal bumps and bruises so we have Saturday be the longest scrimmage of fall camp," he said. "Whether it is or not, I'm not sure. But I'd like to be able to prepare (Friday) for Saturday to be able to get a higher volume of plays so we can establish our depth at a higher level."
Both of Friday's practice sessions (at 10:15 a.m. and 4:50 p.m.) are open to the public.
"This is the critical time in the camp," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "We're still toward the beginning of camp, but we're headed for the middle. People are banged up and the defense and offense have to fight through things. This is where teams get better. You keep battling every day."
Van Noy and his teammates enjoyed donning full pads Thursday.
"I love it. It's our job. It's what we do," he said. "It's great to be in pads and get a feel for the game again. You hear a lot of popping, and that's good to hear."
"They're anxious to run into each other," Mendenhall said. "Sometimes that takes away a little bit from execution, but it was good. Our team likes to compete and they're maintaining that."
Quarterback Jake Heaps struggled for the first time since fall camp started, completing only 1-of-3 passes. Heaps threw his first interception of fall camp when safety Daniel Sorensen picked off a floating pass intended for wide receiver McKay Jacobson.
SPECIAL TEAMS WEAPON: Placekicker Justin Sorensen has proven he can make field goals from long range, including a 52-yarder earlier in the week.
It gives the Cougars some options when it comes to field goal range. What Mendenhall is looking for is consistency.
"It's still a little early to call it consistent but, man, it's a good start and it's a long ways away, too, which is nice," he said of Sorensen's kicking ability. "I'll have to make some hard decisions when the ball gets to about the 35-yard line what we do from there, because he's well within range at that point, and maybe even farther out. I've got to get a great feel by the time we get to our first game of how consistent he is from there and create enough situations to determine that."
CORNERBACK BATTLE: No one has emerged as starters yet at the field and boundary cornerback positions, Mendenhall said.
Those in the mix include senior Corby Eason, junior Preston Hadley, junior Robbie Buckner, redshirt freshman Jordan Johnson, junior Joe Sampson and junior DeQuan Everett.
"The good new is," Mendenhall said, "there are players there. I'd like to see it emerge a little quicker than it is."
Sampson, a transfer from College of San Mateo, just joined the team last week.
"His junior college experience is helpful. He's still learning our system, but he knows how to play the game," Mendenhall said of Sampson. "He likes to play the game, and he's confident and he's a good athlete. He's still learning about the conditioning and the level of effort it requires to play here. He's really capable."
DOMAN ON THE FIELD: First-year offensive coordinator Brandon Doman plans to be on the field, rather than in the press box, this season.
Mendenhall said that decision was left up to Doman.
"We certainly talked about it and I gave him my impressions. But it's not only where coach Doman needs to be, but we looked at the entire staff and looked at the strengths and where they match best. Looking at the entirety, we thought coach Doman on the field … was the right thing to do."
ANOTHER MANASE?: Sophomore fullback Iona Pritchard, who recently returned home from a mission, has been impressive during fall camp. Pritchard played linebacker as a freshman in 2008 before being switched to fullback.
Mendenhall paid Pritchard quite a compliment, comparing him to former BYU fullback Manase Tonga.
"I rarely like to compare (players), but the best analogy would be like Manase (Tonga)," he said. "He's going to be able to catch the ball well, block well and he can run it adequately as well. Really, really a nice addition. He's beyond what I thought he might be capable of this early. He's been one of the surprises to talk about."