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Provo • Bring on Nebraska.
At least, bring on preparation for Nebraska.
That was the message from BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall on Wednesday as the Cougars wrapped up preseason training camp with two final practices.
One of those workouts was going to feature a scrimmage for younger players so coaches could solidify the two-deep chart and decide who will make the flight for the Sept. 5 game in Lincoln, but Mendenhall canceled it, saying he has seen enough and doesn't want to risk injury.
And he likes what he saw.
"Favorite practice of fall camp today," Mendenhall said after the morning session. "Man, we looked really good, offensively and defensively. It was really competitive, the ball swinging back and forth super competitive. Healthy players, looking fast, with a sense of optimism going into Nebraska."
Although linebacker Colby Jorgensen and tight end Steven Richards suffered season-ending injuries in camp, Mendenhall said overall the team is healthier coming out of camp than he can ever recall. He attributes that to the work of the athletic department's strength and conditioning staff, led by newcomer Frank Wintrich.
"I don't have any of the numbers right now to say these are the comparisons, but I think it is overwhelmingly so," Mendenhall said.
Asked to compare this camp to previous ones, Mendenhall said the team was "more prepared" due to the work of Wintrich and his staff.
"We could go faster, harder, longer," he said. "So we got more done in less time."
The coach said nothing is keeping him awake at night, not even the shaky punting situation that surfaced at the start of camp when rugby star Jonny Linehan and freshman Rhett Almond engaged in the battle to replace Scott Arellano. That's just one of the many position battles that Mendenhall said are ongoing, although it is likely that both Linehan and Almond will be used, depending on the situation. The coach said there are also battles at receiver, running back, linebacker, defensive line and in the secondary.
"It is [still a battle] in almost every position now except quarterback, which is a good thing," he said.
Mendenhall said he won't release the official depth chart for the opener until Monday.
With rain falling in Provo, the Cougars went inside the Indoor Practice Facility on Wednesday morning and got their first look at backup quarterback McCoy Hill in an 11-on-11 situation. Hill, no relation to starting quarterback Taysom Hill, was added to the 105-man roster in the place of Richards, who tore his ACL in a non-contact drill last week in practice.
It is not clear where McCoy Hill sits on the quarterback depth chart, but it is behind the No. 2 QB, freshman returned missionary Tanner Mangum. Although it would have been nice for McCoy Hill to get some reps in a simulated game, Taysom Hill said scrimmages don't help the veterans that much.
"I think there is certainly a lot of value to it, but for the guys who have been here a number of years, the grind and the work has taken place on the practice field," Taysom Hill said. "And I would say that is where we are taking the biggest strides."
Taysom Hill said it was the best preseason camp in which he's been involved.
"Maybe I am a little biased because I am a senior, and stuff, but I love our team," he said. "I think we are extremely unified. We have battled hard, but instead of allowing those battles on the field to carry over off the field, we have [made them] unify us and there is mutual respect from everybody, and I think everybody is looking forward to the next week and playing Nebraska."
Mendenhall said he will probably announce the team captains on Thursday night.
Season opener BYU at Nebraska
P Saturday, Sept. 5, 1:30 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4