PROVO — A crowd of 1,257 turned out for BYU's first public session of fall camp, and those fans provided a lively sound track for the drills and team sessions on the practice field.
"I appreciate the fans coming. It was nice to play in front of people," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I think the players love to hear and see the interest. I've always made the comment that it's a home game for the offense and for the defense it's an away game, and that's good preparation. Just that people care that much to watch a half-padded practice on a Friday morning is pretty neat."
Fans were treated to impressive plays, including a couple of long touchdown catches by wide receiver Ross Apo, and a 60-yard field goal by placekicker Justin Sorensen during individual kicking drills.
And there was also a brief melee the fans seemed to enjoy.
During a one-on-one drill, wide receiver Rhen Brown and defensive back DeQuan Everett mixed it up, exchanging shoves before their teammates rushed in and piled on. Coaches were able to get things under control quickly, however.
"(It's) practice No. 6. Normally, about No. 5 is when it starts happening between coaches and players," Mendenhall said. "It's normal and it's healthy. I want coaches and players that want to compete and I want them to try as hard as they can and when they go (in the locker room), I want them to be friends again, which is what happens."
Among those who watched part of practice is former BYU basketball star, and member of the Sacramento Kings, Jimmer Fredette.
BYU's practice on Aug. 16 (10:15 a.m.) will also be open to the public.
SCRIMMAGE SATURDAY: The Cougars will hold their first scrimmage of fall camp this morning (10:15) at LaVell Edwards Stadium. It is open to the public.
Mendenhall said his goal for the scrimmage is "continued assessment of where we currently stand. We need to come out of it with a better idea of exactly where we are execution-wise and then we have to make some personnel decisions."
While key positions like quarterback are already set, "there are some pretty good battles going on at other places, which is great because our depth is better. The sooner we can get those settled, the better so we can get a little more continuity with the same people playing with the same people."
Among the positions the coaches are monitoring closely are safety, cornerback, tight end and left guard.
HOLT EMERGING: Once again, Mendenhall praised sophomore tight end Austin Holt for his performance in fall camp, explaining that Holt is emerging as a reliable option at that position.
"Austin Holt has shown more determination, more grit, more work ethic, more consistency than any of them," he said. "I value that. That's what he's done to separate himself. The others are hurt or practicing sporadically. Every day he keeps doing what he's supposed to do, and that's impressive."
ACCOUNTABILITY: Following Friday's morning practice, Mendenhall kept the defense on the field for a while.
"We have a point system, defensively, that we score every single rep for the entire practice," he explained. "If they came out in the negative, they have to do something until they have a clean slate. So they were paying for yesterday. … It's collective. Everything every single defensive player does, the entire defense is accountable for. It's something I believe in."
NELSON'S IMPACT: Even though quarterback Riley Nelson is a backup, Mendenhall said Nelson "is a leader. He was selected to be on a couple of our special teams because of who he is. Our team loves him. They follow him. Our job as a staff is to create a role for him within the offense and special teams to let him lead. I think he will."