BYU football: Spring camp left some unanswered questions

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Their recently completed spring football camp was supposed to be an opportunity for the BYU Cougars to answer questions regarding coach Bronco Mendenhall's fifth team.

It will have to be graded as an incomplete.

Some questions were answered; others won't be resolved until fall camp, or even later, Mendenhall acknowledged as the camp drew to a close last week.

"Not all the questions are answered in terms of how many games we will win," Mendenhall said. "But we will have a good team. And we have a lot better idea of what we need to accomplish in relation to that, so I think it is the most productive and the most progressive spring we have had."

Among the questions that were answered: Will the offensive line, with four new faces, be adequate? Is the team still hungry after losing its last two games of 2008? How is star running back Harvey Unga's health, after he struggled through 2008 with an assortment of bumps and bruises?

"This is a team that is very competitive and very hungry," Mendenhall said. "They like to play and they like to compete. We have enough talent to contend for a conference championship. Whether that happens or not will come down to execution ... in those critical times. I am optimistic from what I have seen this spring."

Perhaps senior quarterback Max Hall -- himself the target of speculation regarding how he will bounce back after two subpar performances in late-season losses to Utah and Arizona -- answered the offensive line question best, saying he's not concerned at all after benefiting from its protection to shine in most 11-on-11 scrimmages.

"I haven't noticed a drop-off at all," he said.

The other offensive weapon the Cougars can least afford to do without, Unga, answered questions about his health by saying he's as fit and strong as he's ever been.

He showed that despite getting limited reps at camp; knowing what Unga can do, coaches took long looks at freshman Malosi Te'o, sophomore J.J. Di Luigi and tight end-turned fullback Braden Brown in the event that Manase Tonga doesn't return from taking 2008 off due to academic difficulties.

"We have prepared like he will not make it -- and then we are hopeful that he does," Mendenhall said.

Among the remaining mysteries as the Cougars turn their attention to the Sept. 5 opener against Oklahoma: Will sophomore receiver McKay Jacobson regain his pre-mission form and fill the void left by the departure of Austin Collie to the NFL?

Can safety-turned-linebacker Jordan Pendleton, or anyone else, handle the strongside linebacker spot vacated by the graduated David Nixon? Who is going to play cornerback, now that Scott Johnson has been moved to safety and Brandon Howard's future in the program is uncertain?

Jacobson pulled a hamstring a few weeks before camp and didn't participate in contact drills until last Wednesday, and then only briefly.

"We don't really have any questions that he will be able to help us, and he will play a significant role," Mendenhall said. "If I hadn't seen him play before [in 2006], I would be worried."

How Pendleton adjusts probably won't be known until he tries to cover an Oklahoma running back in open space.

As for the cornerback spots, 2008 backup Brandon Bradley will handle one side. Howard left school and skipped spring camp for undisclosed personal reasons, and Mendenhall said it is not known yet whether he will rejoin the team in the fall.

"We didn't have a chance to practice with our junior college corners who will be coming in, so that question [as well] remains as to what role they will play as they come in," Mendenhall said.

BYU spring camp developments

» Safety Jordan Pendleton moves to strongside linebacker.

» Offensive lineman Nick Alletto tears MCL, misses half of spring camp.

» Cornerback Brandon Bradley misses half of camp with a sprained ankle.

» Cornerback Scott Johnson moves to safety.

» Receiver McKay Jacobson sees limited action due to a hamstring pull.

» Traditional spring game canceled due to construction at LaVell Edwards Stadium


BYU 2009 Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 5 vs. Oklahoma at Arlington, Texas TBD

Sept. 12 at Tulane 1:30 p.m.

Sept. 19 Florida State 5 p.m.

Sept. 26 Colorado State 4 p.m.

Oct. 2 Utah State 7 p.m.

Oct. 10 at UNLV 8 p.m.

Oct. 17 at San Diego State 4 p.m.

Oct. 24 TCU 5:30 p.m.

Nov. 7 at Wyoming Noon

Nov. 14 at New Mexico Noon

Nov. 21 Air Force 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 28 Utah 3 p.m.