PROVO — When BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall broke the surprising news to his players and coaching staff Thursday morning, the team room erupted.
"It was probably the loudest I've heard our team cheer in six years when I told them there was no practice," Mendenhall said. "Then it was loud and sustained. I couldn't get them to be quiet. Coaches, too. … We announced we were going to the Provo Beach Resort. Then it was mayhem for five minutes at least."
Instead of practicing, the team loaded onto buses and made its way to the Provo Beach Resort — which features a Flowrider, bowling, golf simulators, rope course and arcade — for a day of fun.
The Cougars appreciated the rest, then staged a productive practice Friday morning.
"We had a great day. It kind of reaches that point in camp. From what I saw in practice today, it's already come back to us in terms of production," Mendenhall said. "It was a great practice, really sharp. The intensity is almost unmanageable right now, which is great."
Quarterback Jake Heaps, who completed 6-of-7 passes for 100 yards on Friday, said the team benefited from the break.
"It's amazing how well our coaching staff knows us and what we need at certain times. Everybody was kind of dragging at the end of practice. I was like, 'I don't know how we're going to make it through.' Coach Mendenhall says that we get a break and have fun at a team activity. I've never seen our team more pumped up. Everybody was doing chest bumps in the team room. We broke a chair. Loni (defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo) went crazy and broke a chair. He's a big dude. It was a lot of fun. It was one of those moments where your team comes together. I think our guys were refreshed mentally and physically. Both sides had a good practice today."
SATURDAY'S SCRIMMAGE: BYU has a "50-ish" play scrimmage scheduled for Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, though Mendenhall said it will be scaled down from what was previously planned.
Several key players will be held out and the scrimmage will mostly be for the younger players. Essentially, the scrimmage that was scheduled for Wednesday will take place Saturday. The fall camp timetable has been moved up.
"From what I've seen in our practices, I'm gauging execution and I have a pretty good handle on where we are without having watch them scrimmage," Mendenhall said.
As such, game planning for the season-opener on Sept. 3 against Ole Miss could begin as soon as Monday.
"We'll start preparing earlier than normal because of how the team's doing so far," Mendenhall said. "Wherever I look right now on the field, it looks like there's good football players and the execution is starting to match ability. Just in the small window I saw today, I was encouraged."
OGLETREE BACK: Inside linebacker Brandon Ogletree returned to practice after being sidelined for more than a week with a groin injury. Mendenhall was glad to have him back on the field.
"The experience is one thing, but the respect he has from his peers, he's just such a fierce competitor and he's a good football player," the coach said. "There's a heightened intensity when he's out there."
SAMPSON IMPRESSES: Junior college transfer defensive back Joe Sampson was playing with the first-team defense Friday at boundary cornerback. He's battling another JC transfer, Preston Hadley, for the starting job.17 comments on this story
"Joe Sampson continues to emerge as a good football player. We're trying to find where he's actually going to fit best," Mendenhall said. "His knowledge of the game is similar to (former Cougar) Brian Logan. His knowledge of the game of football and being where the ball is, when it's there, certainly he has a lot of work to do in terms of preparation, knowledge of assignments and conditioning, but it just seems over the past two weeks the number of plays he's making or could make is starting to warrant a little bit more attention."
SORENSEN INJURED: In a freak accident, placekicker Justin Sorensen injured himself while lifting weights and suffered cuts on his forehead and face that required 17 stitches. Sorensen still kicked during Friday's practice.
HELD OUT: Mendenhall said linebacker Ezekiel Ansah, safety Jray Galea'i, quarterback Alex Kuresa and linebacker Aveni Leung-Wai were all held out of practice for off-the-field issues. All are expected to return to practice soon.