BYU football: Depth key concern for Cougs

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With nine of 11 starters back on offense and plenty of experienced players returning on defense, BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall has a pretty good idea what his top players can do as the Cougars head into their second week of fall camp today.

But what about the other guys? And what if one of the starters goes down?

Learning more about their depth - especially as it relates to who is going to make the traveling squad - and developing contingency plans in case a frontline player goes down are on the agenda, Mendenhall said after Saturday's scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"There is some ability [among the second- and third-string players]," Mendenhall said. "But clearly there is a lot of execution work that needs to happen with our younger players to provide the depth we are doing to need. . . . So I think that's going to be our focus through the early part of next week is trying to get our younger players caught up [who] we are going to need to play a role in our depth."

That was evident in the scrimmage, as coaches held out stars such as Harvey Unga, Fui Vakapuna, Dennis Pitta and Jan Jorgensen, and got good looks at running backs J.J. Di Luigi, Wayne Latu and Bryan Kariya and defenders Brock Richardson, Brett Denney and Coleby Clawson among others.

"We got some young running backs [some] touches, in case Harvey or Fui [aren't] able to perform or get hurt," Mendenhall said. "We saw a lot of young linebackers and secondary players and so there is going to be some pretty critical decisions made as you watch maybe Monday or Tuesday's practice as to players that might have moved up or down the depth chart."

Through the first week and in Saturday's scrimmage, Cougar coaches seemed really concerned with developing a linebacker who could step in at the strongside position (sam linebacker), in case all-conference performer David Nixon gets hurt.

They have "cross-trained" the other projected starting OLB, Vic So'oto, at the spot and have given Clawson a lot of work with the ones at So'oto's spot. They've also cross-trained defensive end Matt Putnam at weakside linebacker.

Similarly, junior linebacker Matt Ah You has seen a lot of work at both inside linebacker spots so he can be interchanged with projected starters Shawn Doman and Matt Bauman, who will likely return to action today after missing the first seven days with a bruised foot suffered in a scooter accident.

Freshmen Michael Alisa and Spencer Hadley and juniors Jeff Bell and Dan Van Sweden are other linebackers who will be scrutinized early this week.

"Our focus now is trying to look at contingencies, based on injury, et cetera, and [Saturday] was a great chance to do that and I am not as comfortable as I was with, possibly, some of our depth," Mendenhall said.


BYU coaches have been charting every kick in fall camp to determine who will be the primary field-goal kicker, freshman Justin Sorensen or incumbent Mitch Payne, a sophomore. "Literally, the numbers will decide," Mendenhall said. . . . Snow College transfer Andrew Rich has emerged at camp and will probably be the first safety in to replace free safety Kellen Fowler or kat safety David Tafuna if either can't perform, Mendenhall said.

Questions going into Week 2

* Who will emerge as the third receiver, Luke Ashworth, Spencer Hafoka, Landon Jaussi or freshman O'Neill Chambers?

* Can high school All-American kicker Justin Sorensen supplant Mitch Payne in all field-goal situations, or just long ones?

* If Fui Vakapuna can't go, who will be the starting fullback?