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BYU football notebook: Some of Cougars' newcomers will make an impact this season

Published: Monday, Aug. 22 2011 11:06 p.m. MDT

PROVO — At least a few newcomers will make an impact at BYU this season.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday all the newcomers to the program will redshirt this season with the exception of cornerbacks Joe Sampson and Preston Hadley, and offensive lineman Ryker Mathews.

Sampson and Hadley are both junior college transfers, and Mathews is a true freshman.

Pleasant Grove product Austin Heder, also a true freshman, might play this season, too. Mendenhall said Heder could play both linebacker and fullback this season, as well as special teams.

"We have some depth concerns at the fullback spot," Mendenhall said, explaining that in the first scrimmage of fall camp, fullback Iona Pritchard suffered a season-ending leg injury, and in the second scrimmage, fullback Zed Mendenhall suffered a sprained ankle.

Coach Mendenhall said Heder could play a role similar to what Pritchard played as a freshman, playing fullback, linebacker and special teams. "It's too early to say," the Cougars' coach said regarding Heder's status. "Wednesday we'll make a decision."

Coach Mendenhall said he likes Heder's knowledge of assignments and his physical play.

Meanwhile, as of now, Hadley is slated to start at boundary corner, with Corby Eason manning the field corner position.

"(Redshirt freshman) Jordan Johnson would be the second field corner and Joe Sampson would be the second boundary corner if we went today," Mendenhall said.

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: BYU finished up two-a-days on Monday, and by Thursday, the Cougars will turn their full attention to preparing for their season-opener against Ole Miss on Sept. 3.

"I saw that there's 11 days until Ole Miss," senior running back JJ Di Luigi said. "That just gets your juices going and your blood pumping."

"It is a different feel now. You can feel it coming close," said linebacker Jordan Pendleton. "It's crazy that it's almost here. You get that feeling that we're about to play soon. You can feel the intensity pick up a little bit."

SLUGGISH OFFENSE: The Cougar offense had a rough day Monday. Quarterback Jake Heaps completed only 2-of-6 passes for 28 yards, with an interception by linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

"Our offense just didn't come out to play today," Heaps said. "I think we hung in the locker room today and we just didn't come out. That first interception I threw, they just had the right call for the right play. Kyle made a great play on the ball. Our offense, we chose not to have a great day today. We could have had a great day, and we chose not to."

"We had a lack of focus on the offensive side," DiLuigi said. "The defense came out playing physical with a lot of emotion. As an offense, we needed to rise up."

Mendenhall's assessment?

"The offense was sluggish and didn't execute nearly at the same level as they had been building up to," he said. "The defense had a stronger day than our offense. I think most of it was mindset and coming ready for another day of competition, as it's getting toward the end (of fall camp)."

CATCHING ON: For the most part, BYU's receivers have been reliable and shown improvement during fall camp. Mendenhall credits first-year receivers coach Ben Cahoon for that.

"I think a lot of it's the emphasis by coach Cahoon. He's methodical in how he charts the catches (in practice)," Mendenhall said. "He keeps very specific statistics and he teaches them very elementary, and very specifically, how to catch the football. They're making harder catches more consistently than I think I've seen in a while the majority of days. I think it's reflective of coaching and how they're responding to him."

FACING A FRIEND: Mendenhall said that because he and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt have endorsement deals with Nike, he and his wife, Holly, are "really good friends" with Nutt and his wife, Diana.

"The last two times we've been on these functions together we've spend a lot of time together," Mendenhall said. "It's ironic that now we're playing. I know him well. He brings a lot of energy and I'm sure the players love him. We really like his wife as well. So they're friends of ours, which is becoming interesting for me as the head coach. It's easier to play people you don't know, I think."

NOT EXACTLY MISSING THE MEDIA: From this point on this season, the media will not be able to watch BYU's practices. Someone suggested he might have missed seeing reporters at practice on Monday.

"Does it show?" Mendenhall joked. "I'm trying to put myself together."

BYU camp report

DAY 14: The Cougars held their final two-a-day session Monday. Both practices were closed to the media.

STANDOUTS: The defense dominated Monday morning as Graham Rowley and Uona Kaveinga both recorded sacks and Kyle Van Noy had an interception.

INJURIES: Fullback Zed Mendenhall (ankle), defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo (ankle) and linebacker Austen Jorgensen (quad contusion) did not practice.

NEXT UP: BYU returns to practice Tuesday morning.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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