We’re only through two days of fall practices, but certain observations can be made given the limited viewing opportunities along with interviews with coaches and players. Here’s an overview of some key developments:
-Taysom Hill shows no ill effects from his knee injury sustained last season, but still needs work on his overall consistency throwing the football. This was anticipated, but there is no question Hill is the leader on offense.
Hill shows command of the new offense and pushes the pace offensive coordinator Robert Anae demands. On at least two occasions Hill has pushed defensive players out of the way following the whistle to ensure coaches (playing the role of officials) can reset the ball as quickly as possible.
-Jason Munns looks like he’ll battle effectively for third-string quarterback responsibilities through two days. Munns looked efficient during one set of reps Monday — completing two of three passes while moving the offense effectively.
-Coaches Garret Tujague and Anae are riding these guys harder than I’ve seen in any practice session since I started covering the team in 2003. The talk of pushing these guys hard certainly has been just “talk” as evidenced through spring practices and into two days of fall practices.
-Much was made of Tujague mentioning he may rotate centers consistently during the course of a game, but I doubt that rotation will be as frequent as it will be at guard and tackle. Anae puts a premium on ball security and if that center exchange is spotty, or may be affected adversely by a constant rotation at center, he simply won’t do it. Yes, the center spot must dictate the pace of the offensive line, but ball security will likely, and should, take precedence over other factors.
-Coaches have been riding center Manaaki Vaitai as hard as anyone. Vaitai is battling Terrance Alletto for the starting center spot and while Vaitai can be argued to be better suited for the role, his performance has been spotty and inconsistent and it’s entirely due to conditioning.
Meanwhile Alletto has proven the more consistent of the two and unless Vaitai can prove to be consistent and effective in long stretches, as opposed to just in ‘spots’, the job will be Alletto’s.
-It’s hard to identify how effective offensive linemen will prove to be until they start going full-contact, but two who have stood out to me are Brayden Kearsley and De’Ondre Wesley.
Kearsley looks to be in relatively good shape for a incoming player and capable of Anae’s breakneck pace. Wesley has shown a lot of ability and good footwork, but still needs work on his overall conditioning. Kearsley has seen time playing left guard with the second-string offense and center with the third-string. Wesley has seen almost all his reps at right tackle with the second-string.
-Two guys who are seeing a lot of first-team reps are Brad Wilcox (mostly at either tackle position) and Brock Stringham (mostly at guard.) Both seem to be fully recovered from their respective injuries and should play roles in the regular offensive line rotation.
-Ross Apo is the guy to watch at wide receiver. He ended the first day of practice by dropping an easy would-be touchdown pass, but responded spectacularly the very next day with a practice-ending forty yard touchdown pass. The 6-foot-3 receiver laid out for a pass that was slightly overthrown and hauled it in.
Apo simply needs to prove consistent and capable of executing every route required and the starting nod will likely be his.
-Meanwhile Skyler Ridley has shown why he’s ahead of Apo on the depth chart currently. He runs solid routes and simply catches the ball when it’s thrown anywhere near him. While Apo has made strides, Ridley will prove hard to beat out simply due to his consistency at the position.
-Mitch Mathews was easily identified as a potential breakout player prior to fall practices and he’s done nothing to dispel that notion through two days. Mathews has unique ability that could play huge this season.
-The tight ends haven’t been involved much from what we’ve been able to observe, but this will likely change as practice wear on.
-There’s not much new here save for Michael Alisa being held out of practices due to complications with his arm injury sustained last season. Jamaal Williams looks bigger, faster and even quicker than last season. This was expected given his relatively young age and after spending a full year within the program.
-The H-back position has been manned primarily by Iona Pritchard, Richard Wilson and Kaneakua Friel. The use of an H-back is a new thing at BYU, but looks to be used extensively this season per coach’s comments and through practice observations.
I’ll post my observations on the defense tomorrow (Aug. 7.)