Time to air it out

The second day of BYU’s Spring practice brought a “higher level of execution” (Bronco Mendenhall’s words, not mine) and, to each onlooker’s delight, a more vertical approach to the passing game. After completing a combined 9-for-18 passes for 58 yards — a meager 3.2 yards per attempt — yesterday, the quarterback trio of Riley Nelson, Jake Heaps and James Lark looked infinitely more comfortable in and out of the pocket on day two. Here are their stats from the in-practice scrimmages:

Nelson — 5-for-7, 44 yards, one touchdown
Lark — 4-for-5, 33 yards (and one touchdown that was called back by a “holding” penalty)
Heaps — 2-for-4, 72 yards, one touchdown

Combined, the quarterbacks went 11-for-16 for 149 yards — 9.3 yards per attempt — and 2 1/2 touchdowns. The numbers were boosted by the play of the day, a 56-yard bomb from Heaps to receiver McKay Jacobson, who got behind the secondary and cruised to the end zone for an easy touchdown. Heaps rolled to his left on the play then tossed a perfect spiral that hit Jacobson in stride 35 yards down the middle of the field. Not bad for two guys who are just getting to know each other.

All three quarterbacks spent time leading the first-team offense, and the improvement in overall execution was something the coaches were pleased to see.

“Comparing yesterday and today, it wasn’t even close,” quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman told me. “I’m blown away by how confident and calm all three of them are, especially with all the attention they’re getting. We have three talented quarterbacks and that’s a great thing as a quarterbacks coach. All three of them came out here and performed at a very high level and that’s a pretty awesome deal. Now, I say that knowing they have a long way to go, but they’re doing a good job so far.”

Here are some other notes from practice:

Lewis sighting: It’s not unusual for former BYU tight end Chad Lewis to show up at football events, and today was no different. He was out on the field — a place where only coaches and VIP guests can access during practice — watching the tight ends. Mendenhall was asked about Lewis’ role with the team.

“He doesn’t really have a role,” he answered. “I think he’s just considering his future and I think he would like to give back to BYU. We love having him around. All he can do is watch, just like any spectator but it’s important for me and our program to have former players who want to come back and watch our team.”

Former BYU receiver Ben Cahoon was also at practice.

Chambers back at practice … kind of: After missing the first day of practice yesterday due to academic issues, junior receiver O’Neill Chambers was back in his helmet and out with the team today, only his role was more like a grad assistant. He helped the other receivers run the drills at times, shagged stray balls and cheered his teammates on during the scrimmages. Chambers will be reevaluated on Monday, and it seems that he’ll have to earn his way back into participation through improved attention to the classroom.

“I like structure, especially for O’Neill,” Mendenhall said. “Yesterday he was away from practice with a lot to do, but I would like him around as long as he is doing those things he needs to academically. I think that keeps him motivated, and that’s why he was out here today.”

Linebacking help wanted: For the second straight day, Uona Kaveinga, who will sit out this season after transferring from USC, quarterbacked the first-team defense from the middle linebacker spot. The on-field experience is a bonus for Kaveinga as he acclimates to his new team, but his spot will be taken in the fall as more players join the team.

“We’re very thin at inside linebacker — we have probably only one player at that position who will see action in the fall playing right now, and that’s Aveni Leung-Wai, the junior college transfer from Grossmont,” Mendenhall said. “We have four players out on missions and some getting back who aren’t in school yet. So basically, other than Aveni, that group is almost all walk-ons that we’re trying to find a player or two to add depth for the fall. But Uona, from what I saw today, is a good football player.”

Leave a comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.