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With early start to season, BYU set to open fall camp

Though it’s still July, BYU players will begin practicing Thursday in preparation for the 2017 season-opener on Aug. 26 against FCS opponent Portland State — a week earlier than most college football teams.
Though it’s still July, BYU players will begin practicing Thursday in preparation for the 2017 season-opener on Aug. 26 against FCS opponent Portland State — a week earlier than most college football teams.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — An early start to the season requires an early start to fall camp.

That’s why, though it’s still July, BYU players reported to camp Wednesday and will begin practicing Thursday in preparation for the 2017 season opener on Aug. 26 against FCS opponent Portland State. It will start the season a week earlier than most teams as part of what’s known as “Week Zero.”

In fact, the Cougars and Vikings will play one of the first college football games of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. (MDT) at LaVell Edwards Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

Because BYU plays at Hawaii in November, the NCAA allowed the Cougars to add a 13th game. Last December, BYU announced the addition of Portland State to the schedule.

“When I saw that they added the Portland State game, I was happy,” said junior quarterback Tanner Mangum. “The sooner the better, in my opinion.”

Since the Cougars went independent in 2011, this marks only the second time they will open a season at home (the other one was when BYU hosted Washington State in 2012).

“I like it,” Mangum said. “To be able to start at home, in front of the fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it’s a great way to start off.”

Typically, the Cougars have played Power 5 opponents on the road to open the season (at Ole Miss in 2011; at Virginia in 2013; at Nebraska in 2015; vs. Arizona in 2016). This time, BYU will have a tune-up game before marching into a gauntlet of games against Louisiana State, Utah, Wisconsin, Utah State, Boise State and Mississippi State in September and October.

“I love the idea that we get an extra game to play football,” said senior linebacker Fred Warner. “I love game day, regardless of the opponent. All three years I’ve been here, we’ve played away in our first game, so it will be different to open the season at home. It will be fun. Getting acclimated to playing on game day is always hard coming off an offseason. Having that first game before we play a powerhouse team will be great. But we can’t slouch on Portland State because they’re a good team. When the time comes, we’ll be ready to play them.”

“Portland State is always one of the best teams in the Big Sky Conference,” Mangum said. “We can’t overlook them at all. We’ve got a big game Sept. 2 in Houston against LSU … It will be good for us to get out there and just play. In college football, there’s no preseason. Every game counts.”

After the Cougars go through the grind of fall camp, they'll open the season against an FCS opponent. “It’s a great opportunity to get out of the gates early,” said offensive coordinator Ty Detmer.

Detmer hopes the team isn’t lulled into believing that Portland State will be a pushover.

“That’s the worry, that people feel that way and it keeps you up at night. You’ve got to fight that,” Detmer said. “They play good football at Portland State. You see it every year where a lower level team beats a Power 5 team the first week of the season because it’s the first week and there are a lot of unknowns. It’s not the NFL or high school where you get to see kids in a game situation. You go from a practice to a game … (Portland State is) hungry. If they win this one, it puts them on the map. On paper you’re supposed to win but it’s still the first game of the year and crazy things happen.”

What do the players think about reporting for camp in July?

“Obviously guys are champing at the bit to get pads back on,” Warner said. “Honestly, I love the offseason, working in the weight room and being on the field working on my craft and getting better. That’s something I look forward to.”