BYU football: The fast and the curious

BYU opens fall practices with a rarity: the workout was speedy and fun
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Two words not normally associated with BYU football -- especially at the end of last season -- were on the tips of tongues Saturday as the Cougars completed their first practice session of fall camp.

Fun and fast.

Even coach Bronco Mendenhall noticed the climate change, of sorts, in a practice that felt more fall-like than usual, thanks to temperatures in the 70s.

"This particular team and this particular staff, I was just looking for their eagerness to come out and play football again," Mendenhall said. "And that was there. And as long as that is in place, and [we] maintain it, then I think we can get all the position mastery and execution things ready to go."

That wasn't the case last year, the coach acknowledged.

"At the end of last season, I don't think we were eager to play," he said. "And it was an endurance test. This was a lot more fun."

Quarterback Max Hall, more vocal than he was in any one practice last year, said the first practice was just a step in getting the "bad taste" out of their mouths after losing to Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl. He said the practice had a "different feel" and was more enjoyable that he remembered it being last year.

"It felt really good to get back out here," he said. "I think we have a lot of momentum coming into fall camp. I think the intensity was there. Guys were flying around and trying to make plays...For the first day, I am very excited about this football team. I think we will win a lot of games."

Defensive end Jan Jorgensen said the mood was much different than the end of last year.

"It was fun today. Guys were making a lot of noise and ... it seemed like everybody was having fun."

An offseason emphasis was finding and developing more speed -- efforts that were noticeable Saturday in more ways than one.

In team situations (11-on-11 noncontact scrimmages), the pace was faster than perhaps ever before.

Offensive coaches such as Brandon Doman and Patrick Higgins wore headsets, presumably getting plays called in from offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who watched from the second-floor balcony.

It is possible that Anae will work in the booth during games this season, Mendenhall said.

"We are pushing the tempo as quickly as we can," he said. "You probably saw the headsets out. There are a lot more things going in terms of making it more game-like, faster, and pushing the schemes as quickly as possible. And I think it will be effective."

At the very least, the Cougars looked like a faster team.

Eight hours after winning the annual race to the Y on the mountain that marks the first morning of camp, receiver McKay Jacobson showed more speed on the field, as did sophomore O'Neill Chambers. The tall receiver took a short screen pass and almost went the distance during one of the 11-on-11 drills.

"It is nice to have fast receivers all over the field and guys who can make plays," Hall said. "When he took off, I was pretty impressed."

Asked if this is a faster team than Cougar fans are accustomed to seeing, Hall said, "It felt like it. It felt fast. I don't know if it was because it was the first day, or if we are actually faster. I hope it is because we are actually faster."

That hoped-for improved speed was also evident in the secondary, as returned missionary Robbie Buckner emerged slightly in the battle for the open field corner position.

BYU Fall Camp

» Practice resumes at 3:30 p.m. Monday, with Thursday marking the first day in full pads.

» Scrimmages are Saturday, Aug. 22 and Aug. 26, possibly at LaVell Edwards Stadium

Season Opener » Sept. 5 vs. Oklahoma in Arlington, Texas

Saturday's surprise

Speedy » Receiver McKay Jacobson, who was on a church mission in Japan less than a year ago, was the first to make it to the Y on the mountain in the team's annual trek to the top.