PROVO — As expected, Jeff Grimes has X-ray vision compared to the casual observer.
That’s the takeaway from BYU’s spring football practice Monday, a split session inside and out. Practice No. 4 of 15 is in the bank.
During the team segment, myriad quarterbacks received reps with good success. Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge, Zach Wilson and Joe Critchlow each got chunks. It was a fast-paced affair, mixing in runs and passes, shifts, motion. The energy was high; the effort impressive. On the defensive sideline, players were dancing and shouting to the beat of loud music blaring over giant speakers.
Former NFL star Merril Hoge was there to see his son Beau along with his nephew Tristen, an offensive lineman who transferred from Notre Dame. Critchlow threw an impressive seam route TD to Micah Simon, but he also threw an interception. At times, a few guys were out of position, a lineman jumped before the snap count, but generally, the offense looked impressively organized and clean.
Grimes filters through it all and sees the nitty-gritty. He notices things measured in inches, other things timed by fractions of seconds. In other words, he wants it perfect.
So, coach Grimes, what did you see and what were you trying to get done?
“Well, it wasn’t a very clean practice. I’m not very pleased with the execution,” said Grimes.
“There were too many missed assignments, too many false starts. We had a lot of install today ... so I expected some of that, but there was more of that than should have been.”
There. That’s the difference between a casual, perfunctory glance at a portion of a practice session and a professional getting paid to get it right.
“We did a good job keeping the ball from hitting the ground, job security, but the execution could have been better. We have a lot of work to do.”
Grimes said BYU’s offense is on its third install.
“We put one in the first day, another the second day," Grimes said. "We did not install on the third practice on Friday, the first day in pads because I don’t like to put in anything new that practice but just repeated plays from our first and second installs. Today was a combination of the first three installs. We got a little oversaturated.”
Grimes said his first week of working with his new staff that he got more than he expected out of their performances and worth.
“They have been fantastic. More than I thought it would be. They are a great group of guys who hold their players accountable.”
Pointing back at the practice field, Grimes gave examples of what he was talking about. He pointed to an area where Ryan Pugh had his linemen gathered and he was going over mistakes. He pointed to a group of running backs where AJ Steward was fixing some minute items. Same for Steve Clark with the tight ends, and Fesi Sitake with a few receivers. Aaron Roderick spent some time after practice going over some issues with quarterbacks.
Said Grimes, “Look over there, some guys are still out here working on the JUGS machine. Guys are working hard.”
It is evident this Cougar offense is in transition. The insertions are all based on a philosophy of what is wanted in a look, in a design, with timing and execution. All are based on principles the staff agreed upon before drills began.
“It’s a fun offense,” said Roderick. “I like it.”
“It’s a lot to handle, but we’re doing a good job and working hard,” said Mangum. “We’re giving our defense a lot of looks. That our guys are picking it up fast is a tribute to how hard they’ve worked in the offseason, getting extra film work and time with coaches.”
Mangum said having seven to eight quarterbacks in camp is mostly fun because everyone gets along and respects one another. “It can get frustrating at times because everyone is a competitor and wants to play.”
But as Roderick keeps telling his passers, “Don’t count the reps. Make the reps count.”
In a two-hour practice, Mangum says the reps are coming at such a quick pace that everyone gets some work done and he’s good with that.
They all better be good at it because Grimes has hawk eyes.