BYU's annual spring football game will be held Saturday afternoon in Cougar Stadium, and, if nothing else, it will give everyone a chance to meet all the strangers they'll be seeing next fall.
Adams? Balmforth? Coggins? Boyce? Dixon? Who are these guys?Introductions no doubt are in order.
And how are the Cougars looking, by the way? "Like grass," says offensive coordinator Roger French. "Green. Very green."
So green that, come Saturday, you can forget the usual day off normally accorded many of the regulars in this game. With few exceptions, they need the work. According to French, no more than 70 players will play Saturday - down from the usual 100 to 110.
A few regulars will miss the game - linebacker Bob Davis, quarterback Sean Covey, guard Mohammed Elewonibi, defensive tackle Pete Harston, running back Eric Mortensen, wide receiver Dave Frandsen - but only because of injuries.
Saturday's game, which will begin at 1 p.m., is expected to attract about 10,000 fans, just as it did a year ago.
With Covey sidelined by knee surgery, the once anticipated matchup between Covey and Detmer won't come to pass (so to speak). Detmer's rival Saturday will be Chris Hoge, a big-armed 6-foot-4 sophomore from Pocatello - and No. 12 in your game program.
Even the most ardent BYU fans will need a program to recognize the offense, except for the starting backfield, which returns intact - with running backs Matt Bellini and Fred Whittingham and quarterback Ty Detmer, who probably won the starting job with his late-season performance last year.
The rest are strangers. From wide receiver to wide receiver and everything in between, the BYU starters are new. If the season were to start tomorrow, the starting lineup would be: wide receivers Matt Odle and Andy Boyce (rotating with Brent Nyberg and Kevin Rita), tight end Chris Smith (only Odle and Smith have caught a pass in a game - 12 of them), tackles Brian May and Jim Balmforth, guards Devin Coggins and Kent Griffith and center Robert Stephens, plus Bellini, Whittingham and Detmer.
The defense is more experienced, with returning starters in tackle Pete Harston, linebackers Bob Davis, Duane Johnson and Chad Robinson, and cornerback Eric Bergeson. Tackle Craig Patterson and safety Steve Fuller were starters at one point in their careers until injuries sidelined them, and now both have returned to the starting lineup. The rest of the starting lineup consists of inside linebackers Shad Hansen (in place of the injured Davis) and Rocky Biegel, cornerback Brian Mitchell (who had four interceptions last year as a nickel back) and safety Norm Dixon.
"We've made good progress this spring," says defensive coordinator Dick Felt. "We've improved in the areas we needed to. We're much better in the defensive line than last season."
That's partly because of the addition of Kaufusi, who, coaches hint, will be difficult to keep out of the starting lineup next year, and the improved condition of Orr. Kaufusi, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior college transfer from Dixie, is often compared to Outland Trophy winner Jason Buck because of his speed, quickness and pass-rushing ability.
Two other newcomers have asserted themselves in spring practice - Hansen and Adams. Hansen, a 6-2, 230-pound freshman transfer from the Air Force Academy prep school, will back up Davis and Biegel next fall. "He's the sleeper, I guess," says Felt. "He's done a good job." Adams, a one-time starter at Kansas who transferred to BYU two years ago, has secured the starting noseguard job.
A couple of veterans are also pushing for starting jobs - Alema Fitisemanu, an outside linebacker, and Tony Crutchfield, a tough converted high school linebacker who, for now, will have to settle for the nickel back job.
While Felt is pleased with the progress of the offense, French is something else about the offensive line. "You know how the cream is supposed to rise to the top?" he says. "Well, it hasn't risen yet. No job has been won."
The Cougars' chief concern remains the interior line, which lacks both depth and experience from top to bottom. They've tried everything to solidify positions this spring, moving guards to center, centers to guard, tackles to guard and so on, but so far nothing is settled.
The Cougars are equally inexperienced at the receiver spots, although the return of Frandsen next fall should help.
"We're still learning," says French. "You'll see Saturday. We'll make a ton of mistakes."
It's not all bad news. Several offensive players have been singled out by BYU coaches for their good play this spring, namely Fotu Katoa, a smallish (6-2, 220) junior tight end, running back Stacey Corley and, of course, Bellini, Whittingham and Detmer.
"Ty has done an admirable job," says French. "He hasn't had much time back there. He's had to throw off-balance a lot, but he stills gets the ball there."