PROVO — Two days into battling a scout team, and Bronco Mendenhall believes he might be facing the best preparation squads he's seen at BYU.

Mendenhall has used Friday and Saturday's practices as "bonus" sessions where he could focus on whatever he deemed necessary. "Actual game preparation will start on Monday," Mendenhall said.

"Our players are excited to play, they are working very hard. These bonus practices give us an edge in execution."

Mendenhall came to BYU in 2001, and he says the scout team assembled last week is pretty good.

"It's the best one since I've been here, and I think it's because the program is reaching a level of maturity. We don't have as many issues with seniors on scout team. Most of the players are younger, freshmen, and they're anxious to prove their way and they are more talented. That combination gives you a lot better chance to be prepared going in, especially early in the year."

In Saturday's session, receiver Austin Collie took to the field with the quarterbacks but motioned over to receivers preparing to run on the field that he was still one of them.

In brief QB action, Collie completed a well-timed and executed 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Reed.

"Austin is just an excellent athlete," said Mendenhall. "Again, I don't know how much volume he can handle," the coach said of Collie coming off a stress fracture that limited his practice time the past three weeks.

"We'll limit his time at fielding returns for right now as we give him reps as a possible quarterback candidate with different plays. How we're going to use him and the volume of plays is yet to be determined. But we'll use him as much as we can."

Mendenhall said the last four or five weeks last year, BYU put in some plays for Collie, thinking they might be useful against teams that were vulnerable.

"Or they were situations we believed he could manage very well," the Cougars' coach said. "So it has been in place prior but (there was) increased urgency when I was not pleased with our backup quarterbacks last Saturday."

EXTRA POINTS: Senior linebacker David Nixon missed Saturday's practice to attend a family wedding. Ian Dulan (shoulder) did not practice. Kickers Justin Sorensen and Mitch Payne both took turns completing a series of field goals, two of them long ones more than 40 yards. While C.J. Santiago is the punter, Sorensen did kick a few punts and showed off his leg strength with both hang time and distance. RB Wayne Latu practiced Saturday but left quickly for Primary Children's Hospital where his premature daughter is fighting for her life. "She's a fighter," he said.

Season opener

BYU vs. Northern Iowa

Saturday, 4 p.m.

Edwards Stadium


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