Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — With just two weeks gone in BYU's spring practice session, injuries are piling up. Starting linebacker Brandon Ogletree sustained a fractured foot while Brock Stringham, who had been running with the first team, sustained a leg injury.
"He was simply locked up on a defensive lineman and the running back, who got tackled, rolled into the back of his leg," said Bronco Mendenhall. "It was not kind of not preventable, but (he'll be out) 8-12 weeks, but he'll be back for the season."
As one could imagine, a dearth of able offensive linemen puts a damper on the spring game. According to Mendenhall, the team was already down to eight healthy bodies when Stringham went down.
"If we have a spring game it will be more like a spring scrimmage," said Mendenhall. "Most of the players who will play will be players who haven't had a lot of work this spring, but it will give them the LaVell Edwards stadium experience. It will be shortened, but it will give them a good experience and an opportunity to have a good time."
The spring game/practice is tentatively scheduled for March 24.
CLEANING UP MISTAKES: Any coach likes to see progression with every practice session and Mendenhall believed he saw just that during Thursday's session. After a sloppy practice that featured a bevy of blown coverages, the defense cleaned up a lot of its mistakes.
"(It was) sharp — I thought that players managed it well," said Mendenhall. "It was a non-padded day, but I thought the execution was cleaner. I thought it was crisp and we got a lot of work done for a non-padded day."
The sledding was tough for the offense with all running plays getting stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage. Riley Nelson went 2-for-5 for 8 yards, James Lark went 5-for-7 for 30 yards while Ammon Olsen hit on all three of his attempts for 14 yards.
The offense did end the session getting the ball into the end zone, however, with Lark hitting tight end Marcus Mathews for a practice-ending 17-yard strike for the score.
"The defense gets pretty huffy-puffy when they stop us, but when we score we don't hear a lot of chirping," said Mathews. "You have to get that momentum and have the mentality that we can score every time — you have to be grimy dudes and just go out there and beat people down."
Mathews is competing for an expanded role at tight end this season. After spending last season split out in spread formation due to his slight frame, he has the goal this year to be in there all the time.
To do this he's had to pack on some extra pounds in order to block effectively out of tight formations. He finished last year at just 205, but is currently up to 225 with the hope of getting to 235 by the time the season starts.
"He's trying and the effort is there," said tight ends coach Lance Reynolds. "His mindset is good, but he still has a ways to go, but I like where he is right now. He helped us a lot last year and I think he'll help us again this year and maybe even off the line — blocking and all that."
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