We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.
Opening camp: BYU
Schedule: Practice starts Saturday.
What’s new: Many of the skill players on offense. Gone are Max Hall, Dennis Pitta and Harvey Unga. The defense must replace six starters as well.
Key battle: Quarterbacks. There is a four-man race for the job to replace Max Hall. The competition is between freshman Jake Heaps, Riley Nelson, Jason Munns and James Lark. Though coach Bronco Mendenhall won’t concede any front-runners, many believe the job could come down to Heaps vs. Nelson. And even, then there might not be a decision. BYU could go into the season playing two quarterbacks.
New on the scene: Lots of freshmen tight ends. Six in fact. This is another huge position battle to replace Dennis Pitta, who led the team in receiving last season. Among the candidates: Devin Mahina, Mike Muehlmann, Richard Wilson and Austin Holt. Holt is expected to be in the mix now that he has returned from his mission.
Breaking out: Running back Bryan Kariya. Somebody will have to carry the load now that last year’s leading rusher, Harvey Unga, is no longer with the team. Kariya ran for 221 yards and 2 TDs last season. He and J.J. DiLuigi should be handling the rushing duties.
Sidelined: Junior defensive end Matt Putnam and senior linebacker Jordan Atkinson will miss the first few practices for academic and personal reasons.
Don’t forget about: Defensive end Eathyn Manumaleuna, who started 13 games in 2007 as a true freshman, has returned from his mission. Remember, he blocked UCLA's 28-yard field goal attempt with 3 seconds left in the Las Vegas Bowl to seal the win for the Cougars. He should provide good depth behind Vic So’oto at left end.
All eyes on: The quarterbacks. This is BYU after all, known for developing stellar signal callers. BYU is an extremely young team this season, so there is much uncertainty in Provo. Who emerges as the starter will help determine how the season goes.
Quoting: “We’ll still demand a lot with this team but our intent is to build the confidence, build team chemistry. Not that we’re conceding a championship or a top 20 year, but we’ll have to be different in the way we handle them because of our inexperience.” -- Coach Bronco Mendenhall.