Hope Springs (and Falls) Eternal in Camp -- And I Like That

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE | Sep 23, 2011; Provo, UT, USA; General view of LaVell Edwards Stadium during the NCAA football game between the UCF Knights and the BYU Cougars.

"Player [X] is looking much quicker and stronger. He will make a big impact this year."

"The offensive linemen look more lean and powerful."

"[Quarterback] looks sharp and is making very good reads."

That's the report out of almost any fall camp around college football. Players look better, coaches have added improved practice and training methods, and the wins are about to pile up come September. Some fans guard against this. "Last year's heartbreaking loss to [Team Y] was too much, I'm not getting my hopes up this year based on spring and fall camp."

I say embrace it. What's the point of being a fan if you don't?

That's VTF writer Geoff Johnston. Is this a case of blue-colored glasses? I don't think so. At least in BYU's case, the program is at a high-enough state that one can reasonably expect BYU to compete in every game on the schedule. So why not hope?

I realize that at least some portion of fanhood brings -- I might even say "requires," to be healthy -- a certain degree of self-flagellation. But I'd say to have hope now and mock yourself later. Most of us have a #1 rooting interest for a reason -- we want our team to win.

Only once recently have I thought "BYU absolutely isn't winning this game" -- the 2009 game against Oklahoma. Luckily by halftime my attitude had changed and I was enjoying my fanhood. But I may have ruined a portion the first half for myself before I came around to my usual positive attitude.

High expectations for the season as a whole are buoyed by praise of individual players. The analysis below was tweeted by Dick Harmon, but similar tweets from almost every writer covering the camp said something similar as soon as the first practice was over.

If that's true, Jordan Johnson will pair with Preston Hadley and make quite a solid duo at corner. BYU's best defenses in the Mendenhall era were always great on the front seven. If solid secondary play can be added to that, it might start to feel like 1996.

In the Cougar backfield, freshman Jamaal Williams has received notice for speed that "BYU fans haven't seen for a while." (If he's that fast, I'll interpret "for a while" as "since Luke Staley or even Ronnie Jenkins.") Michael Alisa and Iona Pritchard were said to have a "clear presence" in the backfield. Alisa reminds us all a bit of Harvey Unga's running style, and the prospect of an athletic fullback in Pritchard is exciting. Meanwhile, converted rugby-man Paul Lasike keeps getting by-name mentions from Bronco Mendenhall. When you are continuously named by Mendenhall, you know you're doing well. All of this could make a fan very excited.

Does this mean I expect the running game to be a powerhouse? No. But I do hope, and perhaps that is the healthy balance -- to hope for a juggernaut while simply expecting marked improvement.

I think it's okay to get excited based on camp reports. A semi-knowledgeable Cougar fan knows the areas in which the team could use the most improvement are at defensive secondary and running back. So when reports pile up of players performing well in those areas, the mind starts racing. You know what it would mean to have last year's run defense with a more solid secondary behind it.

Yes, it's exciting. It's football! Not only is it football, but you are a fan of a program that has won 10+ games in five of the last six seasons. It is okay to have high aspirations, just maybe not to the point where anything less than perfection gets you angry.

So expect improvement, and hope for something amazing. Football is upon us.

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