PROVO After completing a 70-play scrimmage Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the work for BYU's coaches began in earnest.
They met to break down film of the scrimmage and make some tough decisions about which players will start and who their backups will be in the process of solidifying the depth chart. And there's a sense of urgency, of course, given that the season-opener against Northern Iowa is less than two weeks away.
"We have a couple of hours of film work to do. That will sort out the depth," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Some decisions might be made, some we may have to push to Wednesday. I'm hoping not. I'd rather have it solidified by Monday.
"With two weeks to play, a lot of those decisions will be made over the weekend. We'll be spending a lot of time on this one (in the film room) to determine competition, scheme, possible combinations of players and then areas where we need to improve."
Coaches chart how players do in each practice and scrimmage. There are five or six spots that coaches are still looking at to determine which will players help the team the most. The main battles are at inside linebacker, cornerback and backup running back. The decision of who gets on the field in games sometimes comes down to grades as well as a gut feeling.
"It's both," Mendenhall said. "You have to use the numbers to substantiate any decision you make. Gut feel comes when the numbers say they're the same. That's when you have to go with gut feel."
As far as his initial impressions immediately following the scrimmage, he called it "dead even" between the offense and defense. He added that there were positives on both sides of the ball.
At times, the Cougars' offense showed glimpses of its potential. From the outset, quarterback Max Hall directed an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive on the scrimmage's first drive. He dissected the defense with a mix of running and passing plays that culminated with a five-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver O'Neill Chambers.
Keep in mind that was without projected starters Harvey Unga and Austin Collie. Unga was held out as a precaution and Collie is still resting the stress fracture in his leg, which was injured before fall camp opened. Tight end Dennis Pitta was on the field for only a few plays during the scrimmage.
Hall, who finished the day completing 10-of-14 passes for 130 yards, led another drive that ended with a short touchdown run by running back Wayne Latu.
"We have so many options and so many threats," Hall said. "You can't double-team anybody, you can't focus on one guy. It's nice to have weapons, so many guys to go to."
Yet, Hall had a couple of drives that ended with punts. "We have to be more consistent. We've got to have a nice drive every time we step onto the field," Hall said. "I feel like every time we get onto the field, we should score. It was nice to get in twice, but we definitely have stuff we can improve on."
Running back J.J. DiLuigi finished with three carries for 25 yards. On the opening possession, the redshirt freshman had a 15-yard run, showing off speed going around the corner, then caught an 18-yard pass. Tight end Andrew George turned in a key nine-yard catch on a third-down play just before Chambers' TD grab.
While backup quarterbacks Brenden Gaskins and Kurt McEuen each had a couple of drives, neither of which resulted in scores, the Cougars showed a new wrinkle Saturday. Fourth-string QB Stephen Covey ran the option, similar to what he did at Timpview High School. It's a look BYU may unveil during the season, Mendenhall said.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, the scrimmage took a toll. Third- string linebacker Dan Van Sweden sustained a possible broken leg. Team doctors and trainers applied an air cast to his leg, and he was carted out of the stadium. Cornerback G Pittman was held out after suffering a concussion earlier in the week.
Mendenhall said he was pleased with the physicality of the scrimmage.
"It sounded right for the most part," he said. "Probably more missed tackles than what I would have liked. And maybe not as clean in terms of blocks and tackling, but overall, for what we prepared them for, I think it's maybe the cleanest to date since I've been the head coach in the second week."
As for the kicking game, incumbent Mitch Payne hit a 55-yard field goal prior to the scrimmage. Freshman Justin Sorensen missed his attempt from the same distance. Payne also drilled two kicks from 42 yards. Sorensen was solid on kickoffs, sending two well into the end zone.The Cougars finish up two-a-days Monday. Mendenhall said depending upon what remains unsettled on the depth chart by Monday, he might hold one more scrimmage next week before fall camp wraps up.
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