BYU football: Simulating Ole Miss, conditions tall task for Cougars
Lennie Mahler, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU began preparing for its season-opening opponent, Ole Miss, in earnest Thursday at the indoor practice facility.
The Cougars visit the Rebels on Sept. 3.
"You have to kind of shift it from playing against your own team to trying to imagine Ole Miss out there," said safety Mike Hague. "It's kind of a surreal experience for a minute."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged that "there's no way we'll simulate the atmosphere or what the conditions will be like," in hot and humid Oxford, Miss. But the coaching staff did what it could.
"During special teams period, we had a little bit of loud music," Hague said. "Throughout the week, we'll practice to different kinds of crowd noise."
Earlier this week, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt announced sophomore transfer Barry Brunetti would start against the Cougars and that backup Zack Stoudt would also see playing time.
Mendenhall said he hasn't watched film of Brunetti, who saw limited action last season at West Virginia. "We're focusing more on schemes than quarterbacks," he explained, although he said he might try to find high school film of Brunetti.
Because the Rebels went through a long quarterback battle during fall camp, "my guess would be that they wouldn't put as much in the quarterback's hands as maybe an inexperienced returning player. My thought would be, and what I think their identity is and would like it to be, is run and play-action and try to stay as unpredictable as possible when they're going to drop back and throw it, just because of a new quarterback."
PERSONNEL UPDATE: It's unlikely that defensive lineman Matt Putnam, who missed fall camp due to academic ineligibility, will join the team on the first day of school next Monday, according to Mendenhall
"It doesn't look favorable for Matt Putnam," the coach said. "It's not likely, but not definitive yet."
O'Neill Chambers, who was suspended indefinitely last fall but has remained enrolled at BYU, will be given a chance to try out with the Cougars on Monday with the walk-ons.
"My plan is for him to rejoin the team in January," Mendenhall said. "If for some reason I think he ought to be a scout team player from what I see on Monday, that might be allowed. But right now he will be joining us in January."
Asked about what position Chambers — who was a wide receiver the last three seasons — would play, Mendenhall said, "Most likely in the secondary."
Freshman linebacker Austin Heder will play fullback through the first four games "with the hope to redshirt him," Mendenhall said. The Cougars are going to try not to play him, but will if necessary.
CAMP OVER: Fullback Iona Pritchard is the only player BYU lost for the season due to injury during fall camp.
As Mendenhall knows, it could be worse. The coaching staff set up fall camp with the intention of limiting the number of serious injuries.
"We lost one player. It's one too many, but it was by design," Mendenhall said. "We worked hard to do it. We came out really well."
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