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BYU working hard, playing hard in Boise; Sawyer Powell granted another year of eligibility

Wide receiver Spencer Romney is tackled by defensive back Sawyer Powell during the BYU football spring practice and scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, March 25, 2017.
Wide receiver Spencer Romney is tackled by defensive back Sawyer Powell during the BYU football spring practice and scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, March 25, 2017.

BOISE — It’s been a busy week for BYU football, what with the early signing day falling on Wednesday, players finishing up final exams and the team holding daily practices ahead of Friday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Western Michigan.

And, of course, they've had time for some fun.

The Cougars traveled by bus here Monday and the first team activity soon after arriving was the Albertsons Tackle Hunger Project.

Players from BYU and Western Michigan worked together with Feeding Children Everywhere to put together packaged meals that will be distributed to the needy throughout Idaho during the holidays. The inaugural event provided more than 40,000 meals for the Idaho Food Bank.

The Cougars spent Tuesday afternoon tubing at Bogus Basin Ski Resort at 800-foot Goldrush Tubing Hill during the bowl’s Winter Sports Day.

“We’re having a lot of fun. We’ve connected with the community. We started off with a service project we did with Western Michigan," said coach Kalani Sitake. "That was a really cool way to start the week. We got to know a lot of their guys and their coaching staff. We had a good time tubing. Any time you can tube and not have to walk up the hill, that’s a huge plus for me. With all the fun that’s going on, we’re still practicing and finding ways to get better on the field.”

Sitake has liked the energy he’s seen from his players this week.

“We gave them a little bit of time off and then balancing the practices and finals and all that. When we got out here it was like a change of scenery. It’s been fun for them,” he said. “We have to use all the practice time we can. We need to get better as a team and it allows our younger guys to get tons of work. We’re utilizing our 15 practices really well … I wish we would have been out here earlier. The guys have more energy out here in Boise. Maybe it’s because it’s game week and we’re getting closer to the game.”

POWELL GETS ANOTHER YEAR: BYU senior safety Sawyer Powell learned Wednesday that he’s been granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA due to a hardship waiver. Powell missed last season due to an injury and now he'll be back for the 2019 campaign.

“It was awesome,” Powell said of learning the news. “Last year I had to sit out because I had back surgery. It was super hard to sit out like that. I was thinking this was my last year, just playing every game as hard as I could. To get an extra year is like a dream, I guess.”

INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi is not expected to play Friday, according to Sitake, due to an injury he suffered in the regular-season finale at Utah.

Riggs Powell, Tanner Jacobson and Adam Pulsipher are among those expected to see playing time at linebacker in Kaufusi’s absence.

Running back Lopini Katoa, who is also battling an injury, is “day-to-day,” Sitake said.

ALL-INDEPENDENT TEAM: Seven BYU players were named to the 2018 Phil Steele All-Independent Team.

Defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi, linebacker Sione Takitaki, offensive tackle Austin Hoyt and tight end Matt Bushman earned first-team honors while linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi, punter Rhett Almond and long snapper Mitch Harris received second-team recognition.

Corbin Kaufusi led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss, including 8.5 sacks. He ranks No. 5 all-time at BYU for total career sacks with 17. He finished the season with 56 total tackles including 38 solo stops. Takitaki leads the team in total tackles at 99 with 65 solo stops. The linebacker has tallied 8.0 tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.

Bushman leads the team with 459 total receiving yards on 25 receptions, averaging 18.4 yards per catch. He has two touchdowns this season and caught a career-long 39-yard reception at No. 11 Washington. Hoyt has started and played in all 12 games this season, totaling 30 starts over his career.