BYU honored 14 players before Saturday’s final home game of the season, against Idaho State, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all 14 will move on with their lives.
As the Deseret News reported last Monday, the three seniors honored — defensive tackle Uriah Leiataua, receiver Samson Nacua and safety Jared Kapisi — for sure played for the last time in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
But 11 of the players honored are listed as juniors on BYU’s roster, but were feted “just in case” any of the guys who would normally be listed as seniors decide to return next year and take advantage of the NCAA-allowed blanket waiver for eligibility due to COVID-19 disrupting last year’s season.
Here are the 11 “juniors” who were greeted by head coach Kalani Sitake outside the tunnel and at midfield by athletic director Tom Holmoe and their families:
- RB Tyler Allgeier
- DB Matthew Criddle
- OL JT Gentry
- OL James Empey
- LB Drew Jensen
- RB Lopini Katoa
- DB Jason Money
- WR Neil Pau’u
- WR Gunner Romney
- DL Earl Tuioti-Mariner
- OL Joe Tukuafu
The question now becomes: Which of the 11 will return?
Allgeier almost certainly will turn pro after entering the game as the country’s leader in touchdown rushes with 16 this season. He then scored BYU’s first touchdown Saturday, going 11 yards for a score on the Cougars’ first possession.
Fellow running back Katoa scored on BYU’s second possession, after a 46-yard catch-and-run by Allgeier on a screen pass. Katoa said Wednesday he still hasn’t decided if he will come back or not.
Receivers Romney and Pau’u said in fall camp that this would probably be their final season. However, that was before Romney suffered through an injury-plagued season. He sat out again Saturday, but Sitake said he could have played if it were the final game of the season.
Sitake said Romney should be 100% when the Cougars play again — on Nov. 20 — at Georgia Southern.
Empey also missed the game and was introduced to the crowd as he rolled out on a leg-scooter, his right foot in a boot or cast.
Criddle got the start at safety and made an early pass breakup.
Leiataua, who graduated in the spring of 2020 as the first in his family to get a college degree, said he doesn’t regret returning for an additional season in 2021.
“Yeah, I don’t regret coming back,” he said. “I have loved it. It is another opportunity to play. I met some cool people. I met a lot of new faces and stuff like that. It has been amazing for me. I love that I came back. I am going to miss it, for sure. It is going to be dope.”
It was the earliest Senior Day for BYU since 1988, when the Cougars honored their outgoing players on Oct. 29.
Kingsley Suamataia’s signing announced
Before the game, BYU announced that offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia, a former 5-star recruit from Orem High, has signed with the Cougars after transferring from Oregon.
Suamataia’s commitment was reported by the Deseret News on Friday. The 6-foot-6, 317-pound tackle was a member of Oregon’s 2021 signing class.
“Kingsley is a very talented football player from a great family,” Sitake said in a school news release. “We are excited to welcome him back home as a member of our family.”
Suamataia made 52 career starts at Orem, helping the Tigers win four consecutive state championships (2017-20) while achieving a 42-10 record, including a 16-0 record in the playoffs. He will be a redshirt freshman in 2022 with four years of eligibility remaining.
BYU coaches dressed in camouflage colors to honor the military as Senior Day shared billing with Military Appreciation Day. … BYU won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. It was the 38th time in Sitake’s tenure that BYU has deferred after winning the coin toss. … Kick returner Caleb Christensen played for the first time since suffering an injury against South Florida. … The Cougars scored touchdowns on their first five drives for the first time since scoring five straight against Western Kentucky last season. On BYU’s sixth possession, a fumbled exchange between Jaren Hall and Katoa led to a turnover.