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BYU football: Depth will be tested at Saturday's scrimmage

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 1:50 p.m. MDT

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches his players as BYU football players work out Monday, March 19, 2012 in the indoor practice facility during spring practices.rn

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — As BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged this week, it's been "an unusual spring."

And Saturday's scrimmage at noon at LaVell Edwards Stadium will be somewhat unusual as well.

The Cougars have been decimated by injuries, meaning that this scrimmage, which is open to the public, will feature few, if any, starters in an attempt to avoid further injuries.

Senior quarterback Riley Nelson will not play, Mendenhall said. The scrimmage, which is expected to last only one hour, will mostly feature second-teamers and younger players.

"We've had enough little tweaks and things occur that the last thing I want to have happen is, for example, (wide receiver) Cody Hoffman to get hurt right now, knock on wood," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman.

So what's the format for the scrimmage?

"There will be a warmup, a little bit of individual work, and then probably between 40 and 50 plays," Mendenhall said. "Hopefully each quarterback that plays will get two series. It will be eight series or 40 or 50 plays, whichever comes first.There aren't enough plays to split (the teams). It's just a scrimmage."

Quarterbacks James Lark, Taysom Hill, Ammon Olsen and Alex Kuresa are expected to take the majority of snaps. At running back, Joshua "Juice" Quezada is expected to get carries, Mendenhall said, but Michael Alisa probably won't see much action.

"He's had an ankle (injury) on and off through spring," Mendenhall said of Alisa. "The thought of anyone that has anything banged up, there's not much value in adding to that."

What Mendenhall wants to see from this scrimmage is "just some depth development. We'd love to see some of the young ball carriers run. We'd love to see some of the quarterbacks that haven't had a ton of live work get a chance to move the ball. Mostly depth determination is really what the focus will be on at a lot of positions."

While the scrimmage traditionally marks the end of spring drills, the Cougars still have three more practices next week, with the final session to be held next Friday in conjunction with alumni day.

The injury situation, coupled with the upcoming scrimmage, prompted Mendenhall to conduct a no-helmets practice on Thursday.

"Just a little change. And based on the reaction that I saw, it was good," Mendenhall said. "We actually just practiced like we normally would. I just had them take their helmets off. It's amazing what a little change like that will do in terms of guys feeling like they're faster or healthier than what they are."

For Doman, the rash of injuries has been frustrating, but he does see a silver lining.

"We're not able to do as many team reps as I would like," he said. "The more I look at it, I'm not sure that's exactly what we need is the team stuff, although it would be nice to have. We're getting so much volume of throws from the quarterbacks right now. Inside this scheme of offense, they need as many as they can get. We've been able to increase the volume because of the injuries. In the end, it might actually benefit us more than hurt us."

The downside, however, is the limited number of plays that the experienced players are able to receive in the spring. A few offensive linemen have not been able to participate in contact drills due to injuries sustained last fall.

Doman said he would like the O-line as a group to be leaner and in better shape than it has been in the past.

"One of the biggest weaknesses we've had, particularly on the offensive line, has been their fitness level. They're big and they're strong, but they've been carrying too much weight. I don't mind saying that," Doman explained. "Their fitness level hasn't been where I would like to see it as offensive coordinator. There's a concerted effort to help the fitness level of those guys while they're gaining strength. They're older. We should be really strong. They've got more time to be in the weight room and their bodies are more mature. But I also want them to be lean, with lean muscle mass and be fit. We're getting close to that … Hopefully we can build that fitness in and we'll see less injury in years to come."

BYU spring scrimmage

Saturday, noon

LaVell Edwards Stadium

Free to the public

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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