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Not a lot of news came out of Monday's BYU football press briefing, as the focus turned squarely on the 26 seniors who will be honored on Senior Day this Saturday. With absolutely nothing to get excited about in terms of the opponent (Savannah State), the spotlight is on guys such as Michael Alisa, Craig Bills, Robertson Daniel, Skye PoVey and Alani Fua.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday the group has been resilient.
"I think they have been hard-working, and I think they have accomplished a lot. I really have liked their leadership, through really a lot of unique challenges this year. I think that is how I will probably think about them the most, is just their consistency and resiliency with a lot of unique challenges," Mendenhall said.
Here are the 26 seniors who will be honored Saturday:
Linebacker Michael Alisa
Receiver Ross Apo
Punter Scott Arellano
Safety Craig Bills
Lineman Josh Carter
Cornerback Robertson Daniel
Lineman Tim Duran
Linebacker Alani Fua
Lineman Edward Fusi
Defensive back Harvey Jackson
Cornerback Jordan Johnson
Lineman Marques Johnson
Lineman Solomone Kafu
Running back Paul Lasike
Lineman Quinn Lawlor
Receiver Jordan Leslie
Tight end Devin Mahina
Receiver Keanu Nelson
Deep snapper Kevin O'Mary
Defensive back Skye PoVey
Quarterback Christian Stewart
Linebacker Zac Stout
Lineman Brock Stringham
Receiver Brett Thompson
Lineman De'Ondre Wesley
Lineman Michael Yeck
The Cougars are 6-4, and will assure a winning record with a victory Saturday, which is inevitable. One of the seniors, Skye PoVey, said it has been a roller-coaster season.
'It has had its ups and downs," PoVey said. "We went from really exciting to having a really rough patch. But I think we all want to end it well, for the program, for us, for the team we know we are. We just want to end it on a high note, and win out."
Mendenhall said there's more diversity among the graduating seniors than in previous classes.
"A lot of folks when they think about BYU, they think [lack of] diversity, or that it is very homogenous or the same," he said. "As you mentioned, the senior class represents quite a few stories, and different types of individuals. So it is fun to have Harvey Jackson here. It is fun to have Keanu [Nelson] here, it is fun to have Jordan Leslie.
Jordan Leslie has never been on a winning football team, from Little League on. That's gonna happen. He is running around like it is Christmas-time very appreciative to be here."
The Cougars lost receiver Colby Pearson (broken collar bone) for the season last Saturday, but it appears that linebacker Fred Warner's injury is not too serious. Warner left the game in the first half and didn't return.
"He has a sore back. So they are working him through it right now. I am not sure where he stands," Mendenhall said Monday.
Here's more from the coach on Monday:
"In regards to our UNLV game, great to get another win. I think Christian had another strong game. I was impressed with the way he managed the game, and also that he threw the ball. I thought we attacked downfield at a higher level than we have, which I was encouraged to see. And I think our defense played more consistently. So, overall an improved performance, and looking forward to Senior Day for our 26 guys that will graduate."
On Bronson Kaufusi's role and play:
"So we have a different personnel that basically puts Bronson at defensive end. There are still some possibilities for him to stand up, or be down. But about three weeks ago it became clearer where he might fit within this particular defense and this personnel, and his production just keeps climbing and climbing. That was probably his strongest game of the season."
On whether his improved health helps:
"No question. The number of games that he missed with his ankle, or the number of practices he missed, had a similar effect on Alani Fua, missing five weeks. So, there's a game back, there's a second game after that that you feel better. Each game, he feels better."
On what it is like to get to this point in the year with seniors eying their final home games:
"It starts becoming a little bit more, I am not going to say reminiscing, but looking for more opportunities to communicate and share experiences. So there is more of an effort just on both of our parts just to provide everything possible for them to have a great experience."
On what safety Harvey Jackson has brought:
"Optimism and gratitude. He is thankful for the way he is coached here. He is thankful for the opportunity the program has given him. He is thankful for the environment. He wishes he had more time here, so it is really nice to coach someone that is thankful and expresses gratitude frequently."
On not changing the approach and whether there is some temptation to look ahead:
"Sure, there's temptation I think for every game, wondering who is next, and then 'who do they have?' And then playing out those scenarios. Certainly the world outside our team, there will be a tendency to do that. I am anxious to see and help how much we can improve our team this week, in preparation for the other games that we have, not only this week. So if we don't, it will be a waste of time, and we will need it."
On whether a shutout is the expectation for defense this week:
"I would just like to see us play really hard, really fast, and not quantify it other than to just play as hard and fast as we can as a team."
On how they characterize the Savannah State game:
'It is a difficult time for the game, and they are struggling. So, it is a long ways for Savannah State to come play football. Man, the way scheduling works now, and the ability for people to set games, and not keep games, and then it is just a really unique circumstance. Being an independent adds kind of a perfect storm mix to this particular one."
On whether having to play this team at this time is unfortunate:
"It is similar to maybe Idaho State from whenever that was last year or the year before. We will make the best of it."
On the experiences of Harvey Jackson and Jordan Leslie and whether they can use that in recruiting:
"I think what has been great about both those young men is that they fit here, meaning they are both academically strong, they have strong character and are good football players, and they have required zero maintenance or special attention. They have come in and been grateful to be a part of the team, grateful for the rules, grateful for the wins, grateful and just be happy to be a part of the team, which is really refreshing. I think their life experience and maturity has been responsible for that."
On whether other QBs could play Saturday:
"We will see. Probably won't declare yet at this point. But hopefully that opportunity presents itself."
On where the offensive line is now through 10 games:
'"I think with the running game, there is almost two different measures, Taysom and then Christian. One has been with the chance of quarterback runs, the other has been with little or no chance of quarterback runs. So, I think our running game has taken a hit because of our lack of quarterback threat, that we are allowing to happen. Because we obviously have one quarterback left that has experience, and we have to protect him as much as possible. So while our run game has taken a slight hit because of options, our pass game is improved. Our protection is better."
On whether they could request no night games in November from ESPN:
"That's a great idea. That's as cold as I've ever been. As much as it hurts to not see the stadium full, the thought of being at home, with HD, and maybe a cup of hot cocoa sounds pretty good."
On how they got Harvey Jackson:
"They make themselves available. In Harvey Jackson's case, the athletic director at Nebraska knew our athletic director, Tom Holmoe. He made himself available. He said he was going to transfer. The AD asked Tom if he had any interest, and Tom came and asked me. He provided the film, and he had a release at this point, and I thought he could help us.
The same with Jordan Leslie. The players have to choose to transfer, and then get a release, and then eventually I can show interest."