PROVO — Before the start of spring practices last March, BYU's Terence Brown had never snapped a football.
He started all 13 games in 2009 at right guard, but in the spring, with the graduation of R.J. Willing, Brown was asked to learn a new position — center.
There were some rough moments along the way, in the form of errant snaps.
"Spring was really tough as far as snapping and everything," said the 6-foot-4, 330-pound junior. "But I'm feeling a lot more comfortable."
How comfortable is Brown at his new job a couple of weeks into fall camp?
"He's been flawless. Not a single bad snap, not a single bobble," said quarterback Riley Nelson. "It's a non-issue now. It's in the past and we're ready to go as far as the center-quarterback exchange goes. Before spring, he had never played center before in his life. It was a brand new thing for him. And at the college level, the nose guards are so good. But it was only a matter of time. We had faith in Terence. He's been flawless in fall camp and he'll continue to be throughout the season."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall called Brown's snapping "one of the brightest spots (of fall camp)."
Added Mendenhall: "We were questionable at center coming in. We weren't sure Terence's conditioning would hold up. But we knew his presence and leadership would. Right now, it's both. That's been a huge plus. I'm not sure there's been a snap on the ground with the (first-team) or with Terence all of camp, which is awesome."
The trouble in the spring can be traced to the complexity of the center position. Not only does the center touch the ball on every offensive possession, but there are other responsibilities as well.
"In our offense, the center makes all of our protection calls, identifies who we're blocking," Brown said. "That wasn't difficult because I had been in the system a couple of years. That part of the game I really enjoy. I love watching film and learning all of the defense fronts. The problem was being able to do that, snap, and block all at the same time. But it's coming along. Now, we're all on the same page and it's going well. I've got great people around me, so it probably makes me look better than I really am."
Aside from his steady stream of consistently accurate snaps, Brown has become one of the leaders of the offense — and the entire team.
"He's got a very even-keeled, level-headed approach to the game," Nelson said. "That's very good, when you have guys who play with a lot of emotion. He can calm them down and snap them back to reality. When you have young guys, they tend to get nervous. He has a calming effect on them. He's been a great asset to us on the offense and the whole team. Terence is the leader out there. His word is the authority on the offensive line."
A year ago, the Cougars were faced with the challenge of having to replace four starting offensive linemen. This year, four starters return. It's been a different mindset for the O-line, Brown said.
"We feel like we have to set the tempo up front, whereas last year, we felt confident coming in, but there were guys in place like (quarterback) Max (Hall) and we had some seasoned receivers and running backs. Now, we're leading the best we can. We just feel like we're solid up front."
Though he's been snapping to two different quarterbacks — Nelson and Jake Heaps — Brown said he doesn't pay much attention to who's on the receiving end of those snaps, except when the QB is under center. When Nelson, who is a left-hander, is under center, Brown holds the laces of the ball in a different spot than he does when Heaps, a right-hander, is under center.
"I think our offense is jelling even though we're playing two quarterbacks," Brown said. "It will keep coming along. We're excited to block for whoever is quarterback. We know the coaches will make a good decision."