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BYU wraps up spring practices; coaches like competition among players, especially at quarterback position

PROVO — BYU wrapped up spring practices Thursday night and coach Kalani Sitake is happy about the progress his team’s made over the past month.

“I was really pleased with (spring practices). It was a really physical camp although we didn’t go as live as last year,” he said. “Overall, I thought we took a huge step forward in getting where we need to be for the fall. I’ve been really happy with all 15 practices. We’re way further ahead than we’ve been.”

The Cougars will reconvene in late July for fall camp and the season-opener is against Utah on Aug. 29 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Between now and then, the Cougars will conduct player-run practices.

“We’re going to ask our players to do a lot and sacrifice a lot of their time in order to get ready and do the player-run practices,” Sitake said. “I feel good about the knowledge our guys have with the scheme in all three phases to take the next step and run their own practices.”

During the spring BYU went without a lot of starters who are recovering from injuries, including quarterback Zach Wilson, who has undergone shoulder surgery. With Wilson sidelined, Jaren Hall, Joe Critchlow and Baylor Romney took plenty of snaps and gained valuable experience.

“We were able to create a lot of competition with a lot of guys stepping up,” Sitake said.

As well as the quarterbacks have performed this spring, quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said Wilson will get the starter’s reps in fall camp.

“Zach played well enough last year to start out as our No. 1 guy. Right now, Jaren’s No. 2. But everybody in this whole program knows that every day you’ve got to perform to keep your job," Roderick said. "There’s always competition at every position. We’re always going to allow for competition.

"That’s how Zach got the job last year. He kept getting better every day. Tanner (Mangum) didn’t do anything bad. Tanner was actually playing pretty well. Zach kept getting better and eventually we felt like it was time to give him a chance," Roderick continued. "He should know from the experience of earning that job that he’ll have people nipping at his heels as well. It’s great for everybody. It makes us better. It’s hard to go a whole season with just one quarterback. All these guys have a great attitude about that and they know it. They work well together to make each other better. It’s a good chance we’ll need guys to step up at some point.”

Roderick likes the way the offense executed during the spring.

“We look more like the offense that we want to be. We’re going in the right direction. We want to be an attacking, down-the-field offense,” he said. “We want to throw the ball down the field and be in attack mode all the time. This year, we’re not interested in just trying to keep the game close and protect our defense and hang around and hope to win a close game. We want to put the pedal down and be a great offense. We’re challenging our guys to do that. We’re not there yet but that’s the goal.”

Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki has overseen a top 25 defense in two of the last three seasons and he's optimistic about this fall.

What’s been the Cougars’ key to success on defense?

“It’s the players for sure. They’ve done a really good job. This defense seems to go the way the offense is playing,” Tuiaki said. “It’s a lot easier to play when you’re ahead and it’s a lot easier to play when your offense is doing a good job and holding on to the ball. It’s a lot easier to play when you’re not playing as many snaps. It’s attributed to those things, for sure.”

CONNER TRANSFERRING: Sitake confirmed Thursday that 6-foot-6, 190-pound redshirt freshman Stacy Conner is planning to transfer.

“He’s in the (transfer) portal and we wish him the best in wherever he’s looking at,” Sitake said of Conner, who hails from Wylie, Texas. “He wants playing time and it’s a loaded quarterback room. He’s a great athlete.”