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The secret to No. 10 BYU’s success? It comes down to these 2 things

Former BYU QB says the Cougars have also increased physicality in the trenches, and that too is paying dividends

BYU running back Tyler Allgeier celebrates after a big play against Utah State \in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.
BYU running back Tyler Allgeier celebrates after a big play against Utah State \in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Tyler Allgeier stood outside the locker room Friday after BYU defeated Utah State to fulfill a postgame media commitment. He was excited. He was at ease. He was humble, kept it simple and he was exhausted.

Allgeier has become the poster boy for BYU football, his antics fast becoming video vault fodder. At a school where a quarterback normally takes on this mantle, all those guys have been banged up and are shifting playing time for the No. 10-ranked and 5-0 Cougars.

Allgeier referenced a BYU mantra of the past several seasons, a kind of code used by head coach Kalani Sitake and his staff about what is asked of players in the program.

He used the words reliable and relentless.

We have heard those words time and again when interviewing coaches and players.

Reliable?

You never trail in any of your first five games, you are consistently reliable. The same could be said for playing defense or offense and consistently having the back of the other unit.

Relentless?

You beat the Pac-12’s No. 1-ranked offense and defense (Arizona State) and that league’s No. 2-rated defense (Utah), and you may be relentless in the trenches and other areas.

Reliable?

If you watch a team filled with players who routinely show sound fundamentals, win on hustle plays, have only two turnovers in five games (second nationally), and win with a balanced offense and aggressive play calls on both sides of the line, that’s pretty reliable. So far in 2020 and 2021 BYU has thrown for 46 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions.

Reliable?

You take out starting quarterback Jaren Hall, offensive linemen Harris LaChance and James Empey, leading tackler Keenan Pili and starting cornerback Keenan Ellis, and their backups play at a high level. That could be being reliable.

Where did all this change in BYU’s football culture come from?

It started with Sitake putting an emphasis on physicality, recruiting to that physicality in developmental players, having his conditioning program pinpoint gains in weightlifting numbers, and then watching it hatch out. BYU is kicking butt in the trenches and that is filtering out to every aspect of the program.

Former BYU quarterback turned radio analyst Riley Nelson picked up on this immediately with this team, now 16-1 over the past two seasons. “The biggest shift, in my opinion, is their culture of recruiting line players,” said Nelson.

“Not just the top-end talent but the depth. The defensive line rotates 10 dudes consistently, who all have made plays.”

In the radio booth, Nelson says play-by-play voice Greg Wrubell has a spotting board, which he uses to determine who is on the field at what position at any time of the game. “Half that board is defensive linemen,” said Nelson.

Nelson points out the Cougars were missing two offensive linemen against Utah State last Friday night in Logan. One of them was Empey, a freshman All-American and team captain.

“It was a nonstory because two more guys stepped in and paved the way for a 200-yard rusher. In years past, I don’t think there’s any way that you experience injuries to key guys or rotate guys so heavily to keep them fresh, and not experience a noticeable drop-off in production,” he said. “I think there has continued to be a culture of physicality, but that culture needs to be backed up by dudes who can deliver that culture on the field.

“In football, that means big, strong maulers who set the tone for the rest of the team and allow all the skill guys (who get all the attention) to succeed,” said Nelson.

Allgeier ranks No. 8 in the country in rushing and No. 9 in rushing yards per game (113.8). Punter Ryan Rehkow is fourth nationally with 21 punts for 1,063 yards. BYU is fifth in turnover margin at 1.80. “I credit my offensive line,” Allgeier said.

The one with two missing starters.