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BYU football: Cougar offense marches to the beat of a different drum

Published: Monday, March 5 2012 9:25 p.m. MST

Quarterback Riley Nelson takes a snap on BYU's first day of spring football practice.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

PROVO — It's their turn now.

And while they're a true Band of Brothers, on this day they were a Band of Huffers and Puffers.

Moving to the bark of a command; sprinting to position exactness and scattering in choreographed time like ants at a picnic: it's an exhausting and demanding dance and it kicked off BYU's spring practice on Monday.

The defense has its pursuit drill. The offense has the GET drill.

Both of them are sort of like getting a root canal.

On Monday, BYU's offense found out what their brothers on defense have had to do for years under Bronco Mendenhall in meeting a minimum standard of physical and mental toughness during practice.

It's called the GET drill, the acronym for Grit, Execution and Tempo.

On Day 1, it took the air out of BYU's offense and left them panting and dizzy. Then they began practice.

"I thought it went well for the first day doing it live after introducing it to them," said offensive line coach Mark Weber.

Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman gathered offensive coaches around him a few weeks ago and began designing this GET drill. It is born of spirited debate as elements were added and taken away.

"It was hatched out after long conversations with the offensive staff with serious brainstorming, debate and discussions," said receivers coach Ben Cahoon. "It is intended to train precision, execution and maximum effort."

Weber said the time spent on creating GET reflects how important it is to get those three things in the offense.

"In our execution," said Weber, "there are commands they have and instructions they need to follow from breaking the huddle and getting up to the ball. It has to be done in the right tempo. It's going to take a lot more of it to sink in, it doesn't happen overnight.

"We have a lot of young kids in there who are learning football. They just have a great attitude and did a lot of great things, but it slows everything down when you have to think. There was a lot of energy and guys are eager, they want to be good and have a lot of work to do."

Cahoon liked what he saw Monday in this body scattering exercise.

"It is similar to what the defense is doing but it is tailored to what we do on offense. The pursuit drill is for getting to the right positions and getting after people. Ours, for the receivers, is for running routes and simulating blocking. We're just trying to establish expectations of finishing hard. It's precision with very specific assignments of what they are to do. If they mess up, they have to repeat it."

Mendenhall's exhaustive pursuit drill, in part, is a measuring device to see who is in shape, alert and prepared to deliver maximum effort on every play.

"I like the way it felt," said Cahoon. "Obviously, we'll watch it on film and see if it accomplished what we wanted done, but I feel good about it."

Running back Michael Alisa admitted Monday he got winded and it tested his conditioning.

"At first, I think all the players were confused about what we were going to do," Alisa said. "Our coach stressed that it wasn't going to be like a pursuit drill, it was going to be an offensive drill. It wasn't like they were trying to run us, it is about grit, execution and tempo and it helps us work hard, work fast. We want to be grimy at the end of practice. We practice and grind all the way to the end. That is what is going to help us be a better team.

"We're still learning. We're all trying to understand why we are doing it but we're trying to get it through our thick skills to do it and do it well. In time, we'll really get the GET drill.

"I'm still huffing and puffing but it makes you focus," said Alisa. "We're a pass-efficient team with a great run game to support it and if we all come together we'll have an offense that puts defenses on their heels."

In the meantime, GET was the word of the day in BYU's first spring practice.

It's not something you want to do right after a lunch with chips and salsa.

email: dharmon@desnews.com, Twitter: Harmonwrites

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