Once I got in the spring game, I was able to catch a couple of balls and get loose and break a tackle or two, it boosted my confidence. —BYU tight end Matt Bushman
PROVO — A year ago during spring practices, BYU tight end Matt Bushman had only been home from his mission six months and he was struggling.
“My first few weeks were not good. I couldn’t catch the ball. I was worried,” he recalled. “I was thinking about other things. My mind was racing. I wasn’t focusing on the plays.”
But as spring practices went on, Bushman got more comfortable. Then, during the spring scrimmage, he emerged as a budding star. He made several big plays, including a 65-yard touchdown that saw him make a reception, spin and race to the end zone on a rainy, overcast day at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“It definitely boosted my confidence last year. Last spring, coming back from my mission, I was pretty nervous, just getting used to the tempo and physicality,” Bushman said. “Once I got in the spring game, I was able to catch a couple of balls and get loose and break a tackle or two, it boosted my confidence. I thought, ‘I can hang with these guys, I can perform at this level.’”
As it turned out, Bushman was one of the lone bright spots for a punchless offense. He earned Freshman All-American honors.
As BYU hosts its annual spring scrimmage Saturday at 11 a.m. at Edwards Stadium in the culmination of spring practices, will someone else burst onto the scene?
Bushman, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound sophomore, has talked to younger players about making the most of this opportunity to shine.
“For a lot of the guys, returned missionaries and those straight out of high school, they haven’t played in front of a crowd and they haven’t played in a scrimmage at the stadium in a game setting. They haven’t done that at this level or in a couple of years,” Bushman said. “Once I started getting my feet dug in and started feeling better, I felt good in the spring game. I’ve told the guys if they’ve messed up in the first couple of weeks of spring, you’ll have your chance. As long as you’re showing progress, the coaches will see that and take note and hopefully they’ll see the field in the fall.”
Quarterback Beau Hoge is looking forward to finishing spring drills strong.
“We just want to end on a high note, capping spring on a good note,” he said. “We want to put all the pieces together for our spring game.”
Hoge added that he is excited about performing for the crowd.
“We love playing in front of our fans and we appreciate everything they do for us,” he said. “The fact that they show up for the spring game means a lot to us. Every time you step into LaVell Edwards Stadium, it’s special.”
Hoge said the offense has progressed during the spring.
“It’s been good. As a team, I feel like everybody’s made great strides. People are starting to really grasp the offense, the concepts.”
Recently, Hoge has been limping slightly during practices, but added that it’s nothing to worry about.
“It’s been good. I got stepped on earlier in spring,” Hoge said. “It’s a bone bruise. It will go away soon, hopefully.”
As for the scrimmage, the Edwards Stadium gates open at 10 a.m. The practice/scrimmage is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Parking is free and is available in the west lot next to the stadium. For fans that would like to do some tailgating, the west parking lot will be open for that starting at 8 a.m.
The first 5,000 fans that arrive at the stadium will receive a free poster of this year’s team.
Coach Kalani Sitake is hoping his team will perform well in front of the Cougar faithful.
“We want to see our guys execute cleanly, focus on the fundamental part of the game and finish strong,” he said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now for the spring scrimmage. We’ll see how it works.”