PROVO — One of the main storylines entering fall camp was the battle for the starting safety spot opposite veteran Craig Bills. Throughout practice sessions, coaches have refused to name a leader in the competition until coach Bronco Mendenhall mentioned a bit of a surprising name as having the edge: Kai Nacua.
Nacua, a 6-foot-1, 207-pound sophomore, has done well with the reps he’s been allotted but isn’t taking time to rest and consider Mendenhall’s recent statements.
“I don’t even pay attention. I can’t afford to,” Nacua said. “Nothing matters at this point, and you have to keep your head down and keep working. So yeah, I guess it’s good coaches said I’ve shown well, but that can change tomorrow.”
Indeed, Nacua has a lot of competition for the other starting spot from such players as Nebraska transfer Harvey Jackson, fellow sophomore Dallin Leavitt, senior Skye PoVey and Notre Dame transfer Chris Badger, among others.
"There's a lot of depth after last season, and now we have Harvey Jackson, who is also an amazing player," Nacua observed. "I remember hearing about Harvey coming in and thinking we didn't need him, but now I'm just thankful he's here because it's another challenge — another guy to prove myself against. Harvey is great, and he's only going to make us better no matter who plays."
Nacua has been cross-trained at both free and Kat (strong) safety, but feels best acclimated for Kat.
"It's where I've played most, but my mentality is to play wherever they want whenever they want," Nacua said. "There's a lot of good competition, so we're all just trying to influence coach (Nick) Howell and convince him he can trust us."
Mutant offensive backfield
The team took practice off Wednesday to go view the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. True to his fun-loving form, running back Jamaal Williams quipped that several characters in the film resembled teammates Adam Hine and Paul Lasike, among others, after Thursday's practice.
"They're in the movie," Williams told the media. "Adam Hine is in the movie — he's the one with the nunchucks. Paul (Lasike) is the mean one — he's Rafael. Then Algie (Brown) — we're going to make him Donatello and I can be Leonardo."
As for the Turtles' mentor 'Splinter,' that role would naturally go to running backs coach Mark Atuaia, according to Williams.