With two-thirds of spring practice completed, BYU football coach LaVell Edwards is pleased.

Of course, Edwards nearly always claims to be pleased, but that's beside the point. There was actually some evidence Friday afternoon at Cougar Stadium that BYU may be putting together a defense.It was hard to get an accurate picture, since many players - especially offensive mainstays such as halfback Jamal Willis, fullback Hema Heimuli, and tight end Chad Lewis - were out with various injuries deemed not serious, but some of the Cougar newcomers were impressive.

Among them: Stan Raass, a 255-pound middle linebacker candidate who put some vicious hits on running backs; and defensive lineman Mike Ulufale, who also pounded some people.

"We've improved on speed and strength in the defensive line," Edwards said.

At linebacker, there is heavy competition for the vacant outside spots. Dennis Simmons and Ed Lamb are vying for the weakside position, while Ed Freeland and Stan Albrecht are the current leading contenders at strongside 'backer. At middle, Raass is pressing incumbent Shay Muirbrook, who Edwards says has also had a fine spring.

BYU's defense even - are you seated? - made an interception. In this case, it was cornerback candidate Greg Steele, a redshirt freshman who sat out most of last season after a car accident, making a nice pick of a Steve Clements pass.

Edwards said he likes where the secondary is now, but is a little worried about depth.

"The starting secondary is going to be all right, if we just keep them healthy," he said.

Offensively, the big news this spring is that there's no news. In other words, not even a hint of a quarterback controversy. Junior John Walsh is No. 1, and judging by Friday's performances, he continues to deserve it. By unofficial count, Walsh completed 11 of 18 passes for 174 yards and two TDS, with no interceptions.

"He's had a good spring," Edwards said of Walsh. "All three quarterbacks have had a good spring."

Both TDs - a 54-yarder and 34-yarder - were to Tim Nowatzke, who was easily the most impressive receiver out there, followed by third-string tight end Tom Baldwin.

BYU's primary concern right now is that it is running short of running backs. The most-used backs Friday were halfback Tony Hicks and fullback Chad Knowles, not exactly well-known names in most Cougar households. And Hicks injured a knee late in the scrimmage and was carted off the field on a gurney.

Kicking-wise, the highlight was a 51-yard field goal by David Lauder, back from a one-year hiatus from football.

The Cougars will conclude practice next week, with the spring game - reinstituted after an absence of a couple of years - scheduled for Saturday at noon.