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BYU football coaches making specific changes to help remedy injury woes

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake speaks with media during the first day of BYU spring football.
Brandon Judd, Deseret News

PROVO — Injuries were a big reason for the BYU football team's several woes last season, but Cougar coach Kalani Sitake believes at least one change can help provide a remedy.

The specific change involves when practices will take place, with a switch from mornings to the afternoon, beginning with this fall's practice session in August.

“I just don’t think that college kids go to bed before midnight, and they wake up and don’t have anything in their stomach. They’re not hydrated, and I think that’s where you can eliminate a lot of the issues with injuries in practice," Sitake explained.

BYU made the switch to mornings late during Bronco Mendenhall's tenure as head coach, with Sitake following Mendenhall's lead his first two seasons as head coach. The impetus for the switch involved academics, with more class options being available for the players, along with the notion of early practice sessions bringing about more focus and energy.

But the more than 37 significant injuries sustained through the first half of last year's football season took a toll, and are the cause of a lot of introspection. Several have blamed the team's strength and conditioning program, headed by Nu'u Tafisi, with Sitake adamently defending Tafisi's program.

As mentioned, the switch to afternoons won't take place until the fall session, with spring practices held most mornings throughout March and into the first part of April.

Other changes made to remedy the rash of injuries last season are sure to come up as spring practices unfold.

SLIMMER PAU'U: Linebacker Butch Pau'u was one of many who incurred injury issues last season, among other issues. The senior linebacker is focusing on some of the things made made him excel at the middle linebacker position as a sophomore, opposed to the difficulties he had playing the spot as a junior.

Pau'u took the field as a sophomore as an undersized middle linebacker at around 225 pounds, but without that size seemingly affecting his play. He worked to improve his size into his junior season, but was beset by injury, and overall never truly felt back to speed throughout the 2017 season.

"I was a bit out of shape last year," Pau'u said. "So coaches put me with the (defensive backs) and the receivers, and that wasn't very fun the first two weeks, because they're really fast … but now we're doing well."

MORE THAN ONE LEADER: Pau'u has always been considered a leader with his play, and Sitake is looking for him to be as much this season, along with several other players.

“I’m looking for everyone to be leaders and for the young guys to follow,” Sitake said. “For guys to be great leaders, you have to be humble and follow. I’m not just looking for one guy to be a leader, but for a lot of guys to do it together, and be a collective group.”