A couple of weeks ago we posted a list of Cougars to watch at the start of spring training. Here is an updated list of how each player has fared thus far.
Sampson made an immediate impact at the safety position as a junior college transfer and saw steady improvement with every game played. He returns for his senior season as one of the two most impactful playmakers on the defense, along with Kyle Van Noy. Sampson saw most of his time playing kat safety in BYU's 2-4-5 defensive formation during the final half of last season, but plans to try out free safety this spring. There is an opening there with Travis Uale graduating and he'll look to prove equal to the starting task this spring.
Result: Sampson spent all of his time this spring playing at free safety. Although his presence playing close to the line of scrimmage will be missed, coaches mentioned that it's imperative to get their best 11 players on the field at the same time, and in their minds moving Sampson to free safety will help to accomplish this.
Sampson suffered some coverage mistakes during spring, but that is to be expected from someone new to a position. He did well in cleaning up those coverage errors as spring went on and looks to be a very good bet to fill the starting spot there for the coming year.
Tialavea left on his mission as a three-year starter and is now back, ready to compete for a spot. Experience he has, but will he be ready to compete following his two-year mission service? BYU has some need for depth at the defensive end positions and that looks to be where Tialavea will compete for a spot. Although almost all his experience has been at the nose tackle position, decreased weight along with some experience at the position makes him more apt for competition at defensive end this spring. Juco transfer Marques Johnson will be competing this spring and will be another lineman who will receive a lot of attention as a potential immediate contributor. Look for Johnson to compete at nose tackle.
Result: Tialavea was unable to practice at all due to a leg injury from his mission service. He was seen around practice consistently and looks to weigh less than his listed 260 pounds, indicating more reps at defensive end than at nose tackle when he takes the practice field and into the season.
Both quarterbacks hold a lot of intrigue as they'll both be looked at as potential starters in 2013. Both of their reps are likely to be limited, but it will be an opportunity to gain a first glance at the future of the most visible and important position. Hill transferred from Stanford following his mission service while Olsen transferred from Southern Utah. Both bring a dual-threat aspect to the position with their ability to run the football.
Result: Both Olsen and Hill saw more reps than anticipated as coaches know that getting both players up to speed is imperative as they look forward to the 2013 season.
Olsen showed remarkable composure in the pocket and looks to have a very live arm along with good mobility. Fans saw the best aspect of Hill's game during the spring scrimmage as he showed very good speed out of the pocket. Hill also proved to have a very strong arm during practice sessions.
Hine holds a lot of intrigue following an exceptional prep career and some huge accolades regarding his performance on the scout team last season. If it seems like forever ago when Hine first committed to BYU it's because it has been, but fans should finally get a good glimpse on how he'll realize his potential this spring. The running back position is fairly wide open after the graduation of both Bryan Kariya and JJ DiLuigi, and Hine certainly has an opportunity to make his bid for the starting spot this spring.
Result: Hine, along with all the other running backs, was limited due to the lack of experienced offensive linemen due to mass injuries at that position. His best work of the spring came during the spring scrimmage where he worked as the primary ball-carrier before leaving the scrimmage with a minor injury. Hine showed good instincts and good burst through the line when he was able to compete.
Linebacker isn't a position of need immediately in 2012, but it will be in 2013 and it's this trio of linebacking talent that will likely receive the most attention this spring. Stout played sporadically as a true freshman before sitting out all of last season with injury. He'll be limited this spring, but will be making his bid to surface on the two-deep roster at inside linebacker for the coming season. Fua saw some good reps last season playing at outside linebacker and will look to establish himself there this spring. Fua, like Stout, came to BYU with a load of potential and a lot of expectations, which he'll attempt to realize this coming spring.Unga transferred over from Oregon State last season — having to sit out a year due to transfer rules. He showed as a very good and capable inside linebacker throughout last season's practices and should make a serious bid for the two-deep roster this spring.
Result: Alani Fua saw perhaps the most progress of this group during spring. He saw almost exclusive first-team reps playing at both Sam and at Will linebacker, performing very well during most practice sessions.
Zac Stout saw time playing at Mike linebacker with the second-team defense and looked able as he works to recover from surgery to both his knees. Uani Unga was injured for almost the entire spring session and was unable to perform as a result.
Mathews was sure to play a big role along the offensive front last season until he tore his ACL. He looks to be fully recovered by the time the season starts, but could be limited this spring. With four-year starter Matt Reynolds moving on, the left tackle spot is wide open with Mathews looking to be the heir apparent.
Result: Mathews was expecting to practice fully, but coaches deferred on the side of caution, holding him out of full contact work. He was able to practice on a limited basis, but wasn't able to legitimately compete for the open left tackle position.
All three are big, imposing prospects at the wide receiver position who are looking to take over when Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman move on. They're jockeying for positions on the future two-deep chart begins this spring. Thompson is the lone candidate with playing experience — he's recently returned from mission service and will compete for a spot on the two-deep. Mathews and Smith have both shown very well during practice sessions and will look to do the same on the heels of their respective mission service.
Result: Both Mathews and Smith were hurt throughout the practice session and unable to perform as a result. Thompson showed some rust coming off his mission, but improved steadily as the session wore on. Coach Ben Cahoon noted that he showed good burst off the line and very good route-running ability, but needs to work on catching the ball consistently.
At this time last year Quezada was the assumed frontrunner at the running back position, but some injury issues kept him performing as well as anticipated in 2011. He's back and there's a big void at the running back position that he'll look to help fill.
Result: Quezada accomplished what he needed to this spring — showing renewed burst through the line and on the edge. He saw a lot of his reps playing at fullback along with Michael Alisa in the backfield.
Hague was the story of last year's fall and spring practice sessions — shedding loads of weight to compete at the free safety spot. He came within a hair of winning the starting spot from Travis Uale for last season and will look to earn the starting spot starting with this spring practice session.
Result: Hague was certainly one of the standout performers throughout the spring session. While it was anticipated that he'd see most of his time at free safety, he spent almost all of spring playing at boundary cornerback as Preston Hadley was held out. Hague has a good head on his shoulders and looks to be used in sort of a utility role this coming year — filling in at nickel, boundary corner and at free safety.
Alisa will likely get the first look at what appears to be a wide-open competition at running back. He started seeing increased reps during the latter half of 2011 and showed very well, giving him the leg up on what looks to be a three-man competition at running back.
Result: Alisa was limited throughout spring due to a nagging leg injury. With the mass amount of injured offensive linemen, the team was limited severely in working on running plays with all running backs suffering as a result. Alisa did nothing to indicate that he won't be the lead running back option heading into fall camp, however.