Bronco Mendenhall previews spring practices

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall spent some time with reporters Friday on a teleconference to talk about spring practices, which begin Monday.

Here’s a transcript of some of that interview:

What positions are you most concerned about and want to focus on this spring?

“We need to replace our field corner. We lost Corby Eason … We have a good young player in Jordan Johnson and a player that’s been a backup for a while in Robbie Buckner. So we’re seeing how field corner shapes out. We’re also looking to replace a free safety in Travis Uale. We’ve moved Spencer Hadley to sam linebacker to replace Jordan Pendleton and Jameson Frazier. That spot needs to be solidified. We’re looking to establish the next tier of wide receivers. You have Ross Apo,
Cody Hoffman and JD Falslev coming back. Now we have Mitch Mathews and Brett Thompson and Jordan Smith. If we can develop those three players in addition to our existing three receivers, that will be a great thing. Tight end. We have plenty of players there. Many will be hurt through the spring. That will be something we’ll have to manage during this time period. It will emerge against in the fall… It will be fun to see the continued battle with a healthy Josh Quezada and Mike Alisa (at running back). And a player that transferred over from rugby, who’s one of the best rugby players in the world, Paul Lasike. We’ll have a nice running back battle going on as well.”

How is fullback Iona Pritchard (who suffered a leg injury during a scrimmage last August) progressing?

“Still a ways to go. The injury was very, very severe. It will take him, most likely all the way until fall camp to be ready and healthy. It was a bad break. He’s making progress but he won’t be ready for spring.”

What is the status of O’Neill Chambers (who was suspended during the 2010 season and was not of the program last year)?

“O’Neill has been given a very clear plan. So his first objective was to make it through the fall doing well, not only on campus but off-campus in terms of decision-making. Then he had to make it through the off-season, which ends (Friday) with a perfect record, not only in terms of class but in terms of his workouts. He hadn’t been able to use the locker room. He’s been doing it all on his own. He’s been very impressive. As of today, he’ll be allowed to get a locker, and fill it, and participate through spring practice. Based on how he does through spring will determine whether he remains with us for the next segment, which is summer.”

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy will miss spring practice due to shoulder surgery. Is that a concern?

“It really isn’t. He’s really tough. He didn’t say a word. He was hurt in the TCU game and just expected it to get better. He kept playing and playing. He went into the off-season and expected it to keep getting better. Eventually it just started hurting to the point that they did an MRI and found a labrum tear. But there will be time for him to get back and with plenty of time before fall camp to be ready. Kyle has really matured. He’s trustworthy. He’s doing well academically. He trains hard. It will be a great chance for us, and necessary, to develop a few guys behind him at outside ‘backer that we’re going to need to rely on so we can have five healthy and productive players at outside linebacker to get us through the season.”

How do you view spring practices?

“The one thing to keep remembering is spring isn’t fall. Spring is still a developmental stage. I’ve learned a lot more to put spring in perspective. I want our players healthy at the end of spring. I want them as experienced as they can be. I’d like our best idea of depth. But it’s not fall yet. If anything, we’ll err on the side of hitting less, not more, to make sure that we can continue to build our personnel getting to fall.”

With so many coaches on the staff entering their second season, talk about how they are doing.

“As part of our program, we have coaches evaluation every four months. The coaches went through that process at the end of this season. They got very clear and precise feedback with things I think they could certainly improve on. Then the staff dynamic, leveraging coaches’ strengths to a higher level … I was very pleased with the start and I love our coaching staff. But there are things we can do to do better. We’ll work on them in the spring also.”

What are your goals for this spring?

“In addition to young player development, I think it’s just to make sure we embed the culture of BYU football in this next team. A lot of that has to do with the younger players, the redshirt players, now that they are integrated fully. A lot of that mantle or burden has to come from our seniors and our upperclassmen. So making sure they understand how to play BYU football would also be a goal.”

It was announced last week that BYU will play Nebraska in 2015. What do you think about game?

“I love it. Again, we went independent to challenge ourselves against the best teams possible with the most exposure on the biggest stages. We’re continuing to work on making those kinds of statements against anyone we can play and we’re anxious to have some of them come to Provo. In 2013, you’ll see a great schedule with a lot of great games in Provo. It won’t take long for not only the exposure that we’re gaining, but against great teams to come together to help our program take another step. I’m really excited about the direction that we’re going.”

Will the format of spring practices be similar to last year?

“If we can have enough depth, I’d like to have it very similar to last year where we would divide teams, have a running clock, and have an exciting format to finish spring, Not play every player, but still have a fun, competitive experience to learn from. That is our hope. I can’t commit to it yet, but that is our hope.”

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