As BYU fall football practices are set to wrap up their first week, several stories have risen to the forefront. Some of these were anticipated before fall practices began, while some have begun to develop as practices have drawn on.
Every year there seems to be at least one true freshman who rises up to find himself on the two-deep roster, if not starting. So far it doesn't appear as if any of the incoming freshmen will be making huge impacts, but it's still early.
After the first scrimmage is when true freshmen usually begin to emerge. With the first scrimmage coming today, we'll begin to learn which true freshmen, if any, will be earning playing spots on this year's team.
This is shaping up to be a two-person battle between junior Zed Mendenhall, who manned the lead-blocking spot last year, and sophomore Iona Pritchard.
Pritchard is back from a mission after having contributed quite heavily during his true freshman year. Coaches have drawn comparisons between Pritchard and Manase Tonga, who was an every down-type fullback for the team throughout his career.
It seems as if defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi has tried combinations of just about every sort so far this fall. The starting spots look to be retained by senior Romney Fuga at nose tackle, with sophomore Graham Rowley and junior Eathyn Manumaleuna manning the end positions, but that could change.
Players such as freshman Travis Tuiloma and senior USC transfer Hebron Fangupo have both shown well and could secure spots. Junior Jordan Richardson is a proven, reliable option who could very well earn himself a starting nod at one of the end positions.
There are four proven performers to man two linebacker spots this season. Senior Jordan Pendleton looks to have returned to form, and sophomore Kyle Van Noy has made as many plays as anyone this August.
So what happens when seniors Jameson Frazier and Jadon Wagner, each with starting experience, return to practice after recovering from injury? Furthermore, how will coaches manage up-and-comers Ezekial Ansah, who has been a sack machine this fall, and Alani Fua, who has received constant praise from his position coach, Kelly Poppinga?
Few receivers have received the hype that Apo has before joining BYU's football program. There were questions on whether he'd live up to that hype, but this past spring and into August, he's proving to be equal to it.
With sophomore Cody Hoffman firmly established as one of the starting outside receivers, coaches are looking for another consistent deep threat on the other side to either pair up and rotate with McKay Jacobson or to allow Jacobson to operate more out of the slot position.
In most practice sessions, Apo has looked like the legitimate deep threat necessary to spread out defensive coverages and subsequently open up the underneath routes.
This is a storyline that many weren't anticipating, as junior Riley Nelson looked to have secured the spot by quite a margin out of spring practice.
Due to some underwhelming sessions by Nelson and much-improved play by junior James Lark, the primary backup duties at quarterback look to be up for grabs during the final three weeks before the start of the season.
The offensive front entered fall practices with four returning starters in seniors Matt Reynolds, Terence Brown and juniors Braden Brown and Braden Hansen. It's well assumed that each will reprise his starting role from a year ago.
But who will start alongside them?
It was assumed that Terence Brown might move back to guard, but so far he's seen every snap as the first team's center. The open spot appears to be at the left guard position, as Braden Hansen has been moved over to right guard.
So far, it's been pretty cut and dried regarding the two top candidates to be the fifth starting offensive lineman. Freshman Houston Reynolds and senior Marco Thorson have been the only two who have taken reps with the first teamers among the remaining pool of players, switching off reps with the starting unit day-by-day.
Coaches raved about senior Travis Uale's ability to lead the defense at the free safety spot, and the starting spot is his to lose. He's being pushed hard by junior Mike Hague, however, who is a converted running back.
Uale remains a steady influence, putting his defensive teammates in the correct spots, but it's Hague who has been making most of the plays this fall during practices. So far, it's shaping up to be one of the more competitive positions this fall.
This year's fall practice session features something BYU coaches aren't used to at the cornerback position: many viable options from which to choose.
Every practice session has seen a different combination playing with the first team at the cornerback positions. Those who have seen the most looks include Corby Eason, Robbie Buckner and Preston Hadley.
Other players who are in the mix to start or at least break into the two-deep chart are freshman Jordan Johnson, junior DeQuan Everett, freshman Cameron Comer and junior college transfer Joe Sampson.
The tight end position is a marquee position at BYU. Almost every prolific Cougar offense has featured a productive tight end.
From Dennis Pitta and Jonny Harline to Gordon Hudson and Clay Brown, BYU has a tremendous history of fielding talented tight ends.
So who will it be this year?
This past season and into the spring practice session, no tight end has established himself as the clear starter. So far this fall, it's been largely the same story.
Sophomores Devin Mahina and Austin Holt have seen the most looks with the first team. Sophomore Marcus Mathews hasn't been able to compete lately due to injury, and sophomore Richard Wilson has started to show some good play recently.