Weber State football hopes PRP means BRB in Big Sky title chase
OGDEN — One hot phrase on Day 1 of Weber State football fall camp was “PRPs.”
Junior cornerback Eddie Heckard likes what he sees when he looks across the line of scrimmage at Weber State’s offense, from an experienced running backs group to a crop of young receivers led by veteran Ty MacPherson.
“The biggest thing is they want it. They’re cleaning up the little things and this year we’re doing things different,” he said Wednesday. “They probably had more PRPs this year, they’re getting after it.”
PRP — that’s not platelet-rich plasma, the top internet search result for the acronym. It stands for player-run practices. Heckard, sophomore quarterback Bronson Barron and head coach Jay Hill brought up the idea organically and separately from each other, without prompting.
It’s a player-led effort that had Hill assuming the summer sessions he’d been told about were plenty productive, based on what he saw to open fall camp. Once spring camp breaks, there’s a long stretch where players can’t be on the field or in the film room with coaches.
“You want to see a little progression from where you ended spring ball, at least as far as knowledge of assignments from the offensive guys,” Hill said. “They’ve had a lot of player-run practices through the summer and a lot of opportunities to get to know the playbook better. So just to come out, pick up where we left off, maybe execute a little better because they’ve had more time to learn … it looks like we hit the ground running today. I think the progression is good.”
Weber State finished the 2021 season by absolutely crushing Southern Utah and Northern Colorado by a combined score of 110-17, but by then it was too late. One too many losses meant those wins salvaged a 6-5 record, which was WSU’s seventh straight winning season, but also meant missing the playoffs after five straight appearances and snapping a streak of four consecutive Big Sky Conference championships.
That experience was new to most players on the roster.
“Since we got back into school in January after last fall, I thought the players had a new resolve, a new passion for getting back to doing things the way we had done them in the past, and understanding that you might win four straight conference championships but if you don’t show up and compete every day, you’re not going to win it again,” Hills aid. “There’s a process you have to abide by to win championships, especially in this league. There’s too many good teams.
“So I saw these guys show up in January, bust their butts through winter conditioning, I thought we had a good spring ball, I thought we had an excellent summer. And it looks like this is a close, tight-knit group that’s bonded tighter than I think we were.”
It was particularly key for the offense, which is still trying to fully grasp and command the new system from offensive coordinator Mickey Mental. Hill said PRPs do routinely happen but that this summer seemed to be noticeably different for the offense because of the urgency of last year’s performance combined with this year’s new offense, and because the quarterbacks are now much more seasoned.
In the summer of 2021, Barron was rehabbing a broken hand, Kylan Weisser had only played in various spot-duty type snaps, and Creyton Cooper had yet to play a down in college football.
“Those are three quarterbacks who now have quality reps who can now take charge and run the show, and they did,” Hill said. “Then you add a veteran running back group, veteran tight ends and three returning starters on the offensive line. So when veterans are out there running the show, you can have some productive practices, which it sounds like they did.”
Part of Mental’s offense is a new scheme, X’s and O’s wise, that also relies on a fast tempo. Like most things in football, that requires reps.
“We installed a whole new offense, so it was just putting it together, trying to get familiar with it. I feel like this summer, we did things differently. We had a lot of PRPs and that was huge,” Barron said. “It kept us fresh with the offense, the guys who went through spring ball, but it also got those young freshmen used to it. They got that base. So those PRPs were big for us … now just moving forward and really grasping an understanding of the offense.”
Barron noticed the difference to open fall camp as well.
“Getting these young guys up to par will be big for us and I think today was good. We were going fast, those young guys grasped it really well in the summer and the vets were able to really put it all together,” he said.
Hill said he got a similar feeling from the defense based on time spent pushing each other to work in the summer.
“You’ve got leaders like Eddie Heckard, Winston Reid, Sione Lapuaho, Kalisi Moli, guys who have played a lot of football who can run that group,” Hill said. “Every year you’ll lose great players because it’s college football. It’s really up to that next group to step up and be the leaders, and it sounds like this group did. Today, one practice in, it looks exactly like that’s what happened.”