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Scrimmage to help BYU coaches sort out depth chart

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches his players stretch during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Head coach Bronco Mendenhall watches his players stretch during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

PROVO — With just two weeks until the season-opener, there’s plenty that coach Bronco Mendenhall will be looking for when his team scrimmages at LaVell Edwards Stadium Friday night.

The scrimmage is open to the public and starts at 6 p.m.

“I’d like to see the next step of our program that’s reflected in another week of practice,” he said. “I was really encouraged by what I saw the first scrimmage (last Saturday). I would like to see — and we’ll scrimmage everybody — really clean execution offensively, physical defense, good tackling, I’d like to see us protect the quarterback well, throw and catch the ball well and I’d like to be able to then assess what the personnel is and maybe sort out definitively what the two-deep will actually look like and see where our kicking game might be. A lot of questions. But then we’ll frame the amount of work that needs to be done from that point until our opener.”

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall coaches during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Head coach Bronco Mendenhall coaches during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

The Cougars visit Connecticut on Aug. 29. Friday's scrimmage will mark the end of the second week of fall camp.

“We have a great format already in place," Mendenhall said. "I think we’re progressing. What the emphasis becomes will have a lot to do with what I see (at the scrimmage).”

Mendenhall added that the coaching staff is “trying to find the best players in the best spots and the right depth before we play UConn. … There are all kinds of combinations right now, which is great. Hopefully (the scrimmage) adds some clarity to it.”

As an example of experimenting with different combinations, DeOndre Wesley played right tackle Thursday, switching with Ului Lapuaho, who played left tackle. Wesley had been manning the left tackle spot since camp started.

Defensive back Dallin Leavitt runs during a scrimmage at a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Defensive back Dallin Leavitt runs during a scrimmage at a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

Mendenhall feels good about his team depth at most positions.

“The good part for our team right now, after practice 15, almost the end of the second week of camp, at offensive line, we’re still three deep. At defensive line, we’re still three deep. At receiver, we’re still three deep. At inside linebacker, we’re still three deep. All that’s doing is facilitating guys trying hard every day in competition. I really like that. We not only have enough players, but we have enough depth to where if a player isn’t ready on any given day, guys go by him. I’m actually looking for the scrimmage (Friday) to be able to solidify those things and to make a few more decisions as to who gets more of the reps.”

Mendenhall isn’t as comfortable about the depth in the secondary. Projected starting cornerbacks Jordan Johnson and Rob Daniel have seen little practice time with the first team during fall camp. Michael Davis, who began camp as a wide receiver, has seen most of the reps at cornerback.

Craig Bills talks to teammates during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) Craig Bills talks to teammates during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

“We have a lot of depth and there are different combinations we could be playing,” Mendenhall said. “Possibly even a position change or two to get the best four on the field. There’s quite a bit that will have to be determined (Friday).”

Thursday’s practice marked the return of Manoa Pikula, who has been sidelined while dealing with academic issues. Meanwhile, Harvey Langi, who had been seeing time with the first team at inside linebacker, did not practice Thursday due to a knee bruise. He is not expected to miss much time because of the injury.

When asked to evaluate his team with two weeks to go before the opener, Mendenhall said, “I like our team a lot. I’m comfortable. Just need basically a little navigational guide (Friday) in the scrimmage to say, ‘OK, what’s left?’ But I like where we are now.”

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