PROVO — The LDS Church's announcement that young men could now serve missions at 18 years of age instead of 19 certainly stuck out to BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Like many, he was listening intently to general conference on Saturday morning, but found his mind wandering shortly after the announcement was made.
"I was watching (conference), so that should be a plus and right from (the announcement) I was thinking now this, this, this, this and this," said Mendenhall. "It was hard to concentrate on the rest of the talks after that."
Certainly the change in age will alter how BYU deals with recruiting athletes almost immediately. It was already a chore, to be certain, but the lowering of mission age will lead to a lot of extra reevaluation and management issues for the Cougars' coaching staff from day one.
Some prospects who wouldn't turn 19 until after the 2013 season concludes had plans to attend school for a year and then leave. Those plans may be changing for those prospects now, but Mendenhall has yet to hear from any of them specifically.
"We'll have a staff meeting at the end of this week and then each recruit will be called to put a plan in place exactly for them and then we'll listen to what their wishes are," said Mendenhall. "That will then reassess our numbers — what it could do to this recruiting class and then hit the road again to fill certain needs."
Mendenhall mentioned that he and his staff have a three-year plan with their recruiting, but that plan will have to be shifted according to when each of his current commits now choose to serve their missions.
Fortunately, this is largely something the football staff anticipated on happening in the near future, so they weren't caught completely off guard.
"We took a guess (that this would happen) a year ago and put a plan in place," said Mendenhall. "We'll now revisit that and make sure we're on track and make some really unique decisions over the next two years in transitioning, and hopefully the young men and parents will work with us and we'll certainly work with them when they serve. There's a ton of work ahead."
Overall Mendenhall likes the mission age being lowered to 18 for several reasons.
"I think there isn't a huge maturity level between a year. It gives them a chance for a clean start right out of high school to go on a mission and then uninterrupted play when they come back if they're ready and if they're willing to," said Mendenhall. "It will just take a lot of work, but we support the decision 100 percent and it's our job to make it work."
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: The shocking news of Famika Anae's career ending due to injury just prior to the Utah State game was a shock to everyone. It most certainly was a shock to Solomone Kafu, who was called on to replace him at left guard.
"I felt prepared, but I was nervous," said Kafu. "We try to be prepared for any situation, but it was devastating to hear that Famika was out and his career was done. He's an animal out there, so it was tough losing him as a player, but even more so as a brother. We're all brothers here, so not having him hurts."
Kafu isn't the only new guard in the lineup. Manaaki Vaitai replaced Brock Stringham at right guard just prior to the Hawaii game. Two games in, offensive line coach Mark Weber is pleased with what he's seen from both.
"They're doing a heck of a job," said Weber. "They're playing football, they're having fun and they're really fun to watch."
KICKING CHANGE: Mendenhall mentioned after practice that Justin Sorensen will now be handling all kicking responsibilities. Riley Stephenson had been handling short field goals and PATs, but not any more after several botched attempts.
Mendenhall has not been happy with the kicking performance and plans to spend a lot of time working on it this week.
"We'll put increased emphasis on volume, the places the ball is kicked from, how it's held, how it's protected," said Mendenhall. "We'll maybe triple the number of snaps and try to improve it."
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