PROVO — A week off couldn't have come at a better time for BYU's football team.
With offensive linemen banged up, a receiver with surgery and a promising corner back Kayle Buchanan days away from recovery from a nagging hamstring pull, coach Bronco Mendenhall will "change the model" of practice sessions Monday through Thursday before giving his team the weekend off.
"Monday was the best Monday practice session we've had all year," quarterback John Beck said. "I don't think we had a dropped pass, it was spirited and like coach (Robert) Anae said, now is the time we work for each other, support each other and we felt it out there today."
"We're just solidifying our foundation and putting together building blocks," receiver Todd Watkins said. "We're just going over everything with a fine-toothed comb to be sure we're all on the right page."
Progress? "Definitely," Watkins said. "Day in and day out we're getting better and better and this next game it should show. Some things come slower than others, but I think we're on a good pace right now."
Mendenhall reported Monday as many as five offensive linemen need the time off from contact to prepare for Texas Christian on Sept. 24 in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Guard Ray Feinga has a grade-three tear in his MCL, while tackle Eddie Keele has a second-degree MCL sprain.
"There is a very good chance Ray will be back for TCU," Mendenhall said. "Other than that, our offensive line has the regular bumps and bruises you'd expect. Because of that I'm going to step back from the model I'd planned on (physical contact), but we won't back down from the intensity expected out of our players."
Center Lance Reynolds and guard Dallas Reynolds are both nursing sprained ankles, tackle Jake Kuresa and guard Terrence Brown both have sore shoulders, with Kuresa five months out of surgery. Buchannan, slated to start at cornerback, said he expects to be preparing for TCU by Monday of next week.
"You won't see as much contact work, as I'd planned," he said.
Junior receiver Joe Griffin has meniscus tears in both his knees and will undergo arthroscopic surgery today to determine treatment."Right now, I don't know if he'll have both knees done or just one. He could be back in 10 days or out for as long as four weeks," Mendenhall said.
Safety Dustin Gabriel had what Mendenhall termed a "bell ringer" in the win over Eastern Illinois. "I don't know if that's concussion or just taking a hit in the head, but I don't think it is serious," the coach said.
Mendenhall said he was pleased with changes made in the press box last week. He sent quarterback coach Brandon Doman up in the box and brought down special teams and receiver coach Patrick Higgins. "It was a lot better," Mendenhall said. "The exchange of information in a timely manner was much better. It was clearer and cleaner as a coaching staff."
TCU FILM: Mendenhall expects SMU-TCU game film today but plans on watching film of Thursday's Utah-TCU game later.
"Thursday night is date night and I plan on taking my wife out," he said.
Tapes of the Ute game with the Sooner killers will be shipped to Mendenhall's staff on Friday. Mendenhall said the Cougars will begin work on TCU this week but will have a heavy focus on cleaning up what the Cougars need to fix after two games. "Our goal isn't to have a successful bye week or make it TCU week," he said. "There are so many components we need to work on to get the end result we desire as a team."
WATKINS' TAKE: Cougar senior receiver Todd Watkins said EIU might have been a Division IAA opponent but their corners were as athletic if not more athletic than Boston College.
"They were very good, closed fast and I was impressed," Watkins said. "What they didn't do is stay oriented with what they had to do. Boston College was very disciplined and focused in what they did, so as a team, they did a better job overall."
"It isn't unusual for a Division IAA team to have corners and backs just as good as Division I. Where they get in trouble is with linemen with size and depth."
COUGAR HEADS: Mendenhall's staff handed out Cougar head honor stickers to the squad on Monday following the win over Eastern Illinois. "It's a team thing," Mendenhall. After a loss, no stickers are handed out but the offense shared blue sticker honor with the prep defense for scoring 40 points. The defense shared blue sticker honors for holding the Panthers to 10 points. Gold stickers, exclusively for the left side of the helmet are handed out for character and academics (4.0 and 3.0 GPA's) and Ultimate Warrior criteria for 10 hours of community service. No blue stickers were given for special teams or turnover margin in the EIU game.