Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Camp Week 2: QB Battle Update

With seven spring practices now in the books, the second week of spring camp ended on Friday. As mentioned before, it is hard to read too much into stats from practice, but here are the composite stat lines for the three practices this week from the three primary contenders for the starting quarterback spot:

Week 2 Stat Lines
Riley Nelson, Jr (3/7, 18 yds, 0 TDs, 1 int)
James Lark, So (6/8, 54 yds, 0 TDs, 0 int)
Jake Heaps, Fr (14/20, 176 yds, 2 TDs, 0 int)

All reports seem to indicate that each has been given similar opportunities and similar situations while rotating with the 1s, 2s, and 3s. The discrepancy in attempts is primarily a factor of the QB being able to keep a drive alive, creating more passing opportunities. Here are the combined stat lines from weeks 1 and 2:

Week 1 & 2 Cumulative Stat Lines
Nelson: 12/22 (55%), 84 yds, 1 TD, 1 int
Lark: 16/26 (62%), 128 yds, 0 TDs, 2 int*
Heaps: 26/39 (67%), 380 yds, 5 TDs, 0 int

*I inadvertently left off one of Lark’s interceptions from last week and have added it here

Without being able to attend practices in person, I will refrain from picking a front runner or commenting on the probability of each of these talented QBs starting in September, but it is hard not to notice the success that Jake Heaps has had through his first two weeks in the program.

Other notes of interest from week 2:
• Offensive lineman Famika Anae went down on Monday with a torn ACL. He already underwent surgery and will redshirt this year

• WR Marcus Matthews has been moved to tight end, increasing the depth at a position that might already be most intense competition for minutes

• BYU announced it will be playing Oregon State in a home and home in 2011-12

• Friday was the annual high school coaches clinic with roughly 300 coaches from high school programs across the west

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Camp Week 1: Quarterback Battle Update

In the background of the NCAA tournament this week, BYU kicked off spring camp by holding four practices (Wednesday was off). It is hard to read too much from practices or personnel at this point, given that there will be a number of players joining the team this fall, and that much depends upon which team a given player was playing with and against (first, second, third, etc). But with that said, all eyes are on the quarterbacks anyway, and their stats—even those from practice are being reported here and there--and are fully followed by the faithful in an effort to discover who, if any, will be named the primary signal caller going into the summer. Here are the summarized stat lines from the first week:

Week 1 Stat Lines
Riley Nelson, Jr (9/15, 66 yds, 1 TD, 0 int)
James Lark, So (10/18, 74 yds, 0 TDs, 1 int)
Jake Heaps, Fr (12/19, 204 yds, 3 TDs, 0 int)

Nelson has a year in the system, Lark has two years in the system but is just a few months removed from a mission, and Heaps is only a few months removed from high school (and only 4 days into official BYU practices). It is early, and to be fair, the stats are not necessarily comparable, but it looks like Heaps is off to a good start and will only get better as he becomes more familiar with the playbook and his teammates.

Other notes:
• Other new faces that have merited positive mentions in various reports include running back Josh Quezada, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Uona Kaveinga (who will have to sit out this year after transferring from USC), and tight ends Richard Wilson and Mike Muehlmann (both redshirt freshmen) and Devin Mahina (back from a mission).

• O’Neil Chambers missed at least one practice this week in order to catch up on his academics

• Mendenhall noted that this year’s spring camp is already quite a bit ahead of where they were last year at this time, even with the task of finding a new quarterback, and that the new players have impressed on the learning curve

Friday, March 12, 2010

Video of BYU Pro Day

Here is a link showing players doing drills for scouts at BYU's pro day. It includes most of the players' 40's, several of the shuttle runs, passing routes/catches (and drops), and some TE blocking. Hall, Pitta, George, and Tonga occupy most of the footage, but Jorgensen and others are shown as well.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

BYU Pro Day and NFL Draft Projections

Seven players from BYU’s 2009 team and two from previous teams, worked out in front of 20 NFL scouts on Wednseday as part of BYU’s pro day on campus. You can read the official BYU press release and check out photos here.

Dennis Pitta, Manase Tonga, and Max Hall were among 300 or so players invited to work out for scouts at last month’s invite only NFL combine, and took the chance at the Pro Day to build on what they had already accomplished. Jan Jorgensen, Shawn Doman, Andrew George, and Tevita Hola were the other players from the 2009 team to get a shot at impressing someone enough to get picked up either through the draft or as a free agent. A couple of semi-surprises from those that didn’t participate—Matt Bauman (who was just named recipient of an NCAA graduate scholarship), Coleby Clausen, Brett Denney, and RJ Willing—although perhaps they have already assessed their chances and decided to move on.

Jonny Harline and Curtis Brown represented the 2006 team at the workout, both of them determined to give it one last best shot before moving on. Good for them. Both have been busy of late, as Harline’s rock band membership has been well-publicized and Brown has been working as a pharmaceutical sales rep.

So how did everyone do and what is the current draft forecast? Let’s look at them in order likely draft status. There are numerous draft services, but I tried to use a mix of selective and comprehensive (see links at end of article for sources and commentary):

Dennis Pitta
Pitta had a fantastic combine performance already and so he used the Pro day to show off his skills blocking and catching. At the combine he ran a 4.63 in the 40 (third among TE’s), did 27 reps of 225 lbs (second), 6.72 seconds in the 3 cone drill (first), 4.17 seconds in the 20 yd shuttle (first), and 11.53 seconds in the 60 yard shuttle (first), 9.5’ broad jump (tied for fifth), and 34” vertical jump (tied for seventh). Here is where various services project him:

ESPN: position rank 6, overall 80 (mid third round)
Scouts, Inc : grade 77 position rank 7, draft round 3-4 position rank 4, overall 76, draft round 2-3

Max Hall
Hall had a rather so-so combine performance and was looking to improve his 40 time in particular. He clocked 4.84 at the combine, but turned in a 4.72 at BYU’s pro day (same as Tim Tebow), a significant improvement. His other combine scores: 32” vertical jump (seventh among QB’s), 7.07 seconds on the 3 cone drill (tied for sixth), 4.35 seconds on the 20 yard shuttle (sixth) and did not rank in the other drills. He demonstrated his accuracy today as he showed the scouts that he can make all the throws, and is trying to overcome his size (at 6’1”, 209 he is smaller than most NFL teams would like) and get a shot at an NFL roster. Max is likely to be a late rounder or a free agent pick up.

ESPN: position rank 19, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: grade 30 position rank 15, draft round 6-7 position rank 15, overall 277, draft round 7-FA

Manase Tonga
Not many NFL teams use a true fullback anymore (or colleges for that matter), but with that in mind, Tonga has elite skills at a position that is not necessarily in high demand, although teams that use a fullback are paying close attention. At the combine, Tonga’s performance with thrown in with all of the running backs, so only his bench of 19 reps at 225 (tied for eighth) ranked among the top scores, but he also turned in a 4.85 second 40. He tried to improve on those measurements again at Pro Day, but he has not yet talked about his performance.

ESPN: position rank 3, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: grade 41 position rank 3, draft round 6-7 position rank 7, overall 300, draft round 7-FA

Jan Jorgensen
Jorgensen had really only one shot to impress the scouts and wasn’t satisfied with his performance. He ran a 4.9 second 40 and put up 29 reps on of 225. He is hoping to get a shot at a roster via free agency, where his football skills will come through.

ESPN: position rank 33, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: 30 not ranked position rank 34, overall 409

Andrew George
George played in the shadow of Pitta for most of his time at BYU, and also used pro day as his only shot to show scouts what he can do. He ran a 4.7 second 40, and spent time showing off his hands on the other end of Hall’s arm. He is likely hoping for a shot via free agency.

ESPN: not rated
Scouts Inc: not rated not rated position rank 31, overall 590

Shawn Doman
Doman had a solid career at BYU and no doubt used the pro day to put his best foot forward on a childhood dream of playing in the NFL. He will likely be a long shot via free agency.

ESPN: not rated
Scouts Inc: not rated not rated position rank 182, overall 999

Tevita Hola
Tevita is in a similar situation as Shawn Doman and his NFL dreams will hinge on a long shot at free agency.

ESPN: not rated
Scouts Inc: not rated not rated not rated

A few other BYU seniors have shown up on scout boards, despite not working out, and although are unlikely to get picked up, could get a shot via free agency.

Coleby Clausen
ESPN: position rank 38, overall n/a
Scouts Inc: grade 30

Brett Denney position rank 55, overall 618

Matt Bauman position rank 35, overall 999

Terrence Hooks position rank 156, overall 999

So, with the NFL draft coming up on April 22-24, it looks like Pitta is a lock to get drafted. Hall and Tonga are hopeful on the draft and locks on free agency. Jorgensen and George have the best possibilities of a free agency pick up.

1. ESPN-- ESPN Draft Tracker
2. Official NFL Scouting Combine-- NFL Combine Top Performers
3. CBS/ CBS Sports / NFL Draft Tracker