PROVO — After three weeks of spring practices, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said after Friday's practice that several players have started to emerge.
One player in particular earned Mendenhall's praise.
“Alani Fua has been, if not the brightest spot of spring, one of the brightest spots,” Mendenhall said. “Not only with how hard he’s playing, but with his knowledge — he can play both at sam (strong side linebacker) and at will (weak side linebacker.)
Fua is seeing increased reps this spring with both Spencer Hadley and Kyle Van Noy being limited with their reps. Fua is taking full advantage. His goal this year is to become a better-rounded player — capable of playing in any type of situation.
“I think my main problem has just been my inability to keep my weight up,” Fua said. “I’m really happy where I’m at now. I’m weighing in at 225 and if I can get to just 230 by the time the season starts — I’ll be real happy with that.”
Weight has been an issue with Fua since he arrived at BYU in 2010. His overall athleticism and upside have been apparent since Day 1, but his slight frame dictated a lot of bench time up until last season, when he played a lot during passing situations.
Fua weighed in around 215 pounds last season and proved capable of rushing the quarterback and covering the flats with his surprisingly nimble 6-foot-5 frame. This season the goal is to maintain enough weight to stop the run.
“Everyone wants to play as much as they can and help out as much as they can. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Fua said. “I feel like I haven’t lost any of my speed and movement with my added weight and I’m looking forward to playing better at outside linebacker along with Kyle (Van Noy) and Spencer (Hadley.)”
It’s easy to consider BYU’s current set of outside linebackers as the strength of the defense, if not the strength of the team for 2013. Considering the strides Fua has made the spring, Mendenhall mentioned that his 2-5-4 nickel alignment could be used often this season.
“I feel a lot more comfortable with the schemes this year and I feel real comfortable in coverage and rushing the quarterback, but I think I’m on my way to holding my ground and not being pushed around by offensive linemen like I have in in the past,” Fua said. “It’s all about basics right now and I think coaches will throw in the specific formations we run out of in fall. Kyle and Spencer are obviously great players, so it’s great playing with them and I believe we’ll be able to do some great things on defense again.”
MATHEWS AND THOMPSON HAVE ALSO EMERGED: So far this spring Mitch Mathews has emerged as a legitimate playmaker at wide receiver with his superior 6-foot-6 frame. At the inside Y-receiver position it’s Brett Thompson, who has switched to inside receiver this spring.
Mendenhall pointed out both players without being specifically asked about them following Friday’s practice along with Adam Hine and Jamaal Williams.
“Mitch Mathews is really emerging as a quality receiver and that’s been positive,” Mendenhall said. “Brett Thompson is emerging at the Y-spot, which is a modified tight end. And I really, really like the combination of Adam Hine and Jamaal Williams in the backfield.”
HUSTLE OUTPACES EXECUTION: After three weeks of practice Mendenhall gave an abbreviated progress report of the entire team.
“I’m very pleased with where we are from an effort standpoint, from a hustle standpoint (and) from a desire standpoint” Mendenhall said. “With the focus being almost entirely on that the execution is still a ways behind, but we’re capable.”