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As expected, the first week of BYU’s football camp focused on the quarterback derby where Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover shared reps on an equal basis. All had their moments, both good and bad. 

Hall is a tremendous athlete with a Major League Baseball arm and impressive footspeed. Romney has the quickest release and is smooth and calm. Conover has the rawest talent to play the position and was the highest recruited out of high school when then offensive coordinator Ty Detmer offered him a scholarship. Romney and Conover both looked productive in a short team drill on Monday as Hall threw an interception to Malik Moore attempting a TD pass to Issac Rex.

But early impressions out of camp also centered on the depth of the receiving corps where senior Neil Pau’u has become a mainstay weapon with his consistency. Also, the offensive line, under new coach Darrell Funk, has been impressive because of the size of the athletes who returned and how they are meshing with less experienced players. Observers have also been impressed with BYU’s secondary which has made plenty of plays to keep the QBs honest and humble. Cornerback Malik Moore has been very impressive in the secondary.

Here is a list of a few of our Week 1 camp stories:

  • Baylor Romney: ‘I want it, they want it’ (Jay Drew)
  • Empey expects O-line to be ready (Dick Harmon)
  • QB won’t be tackled until first game (Jay Drew)
  • A close look at the roster comings and goings (Jay Drew)
  • Offensive coordinator Roderick smiling on Day 1 (Dick Harmon)
  • Kalani Sitake pushes players to get vaccinated (Jay Drew)

Cougar Insider predictions

Here is the question of the week: With a pair of 6-foot-8, 300 pound, very slim and athletic tackles manning the edge and an All-American senior center, what are your projections for one of the most important elements of the football team/BYU’s offensive line?

Jay Drew: The pieces are in place for BYU to have another outstanding offensive line, but I am not totally convinced yet that this group will be as good as last year’s group. Tristen Hoge, Kieffer Longson, Chandon Herring and Brady Christensen, especially, will be tough to replace.

It appears that the Cougars have six solid offensive linemen, but not a lot of depth. Barring injuries, it will be above average, led of course by center James Empey and the towering tackles, Harris LaChance and Blake Freeland.

There will be quite a bit of pressure on this group to perform because the Cougars are loaded with offensive weapons that won’t be able to do their thing if the blocking isn’t there. In my opinion, the jury is still out with this group — the first three games should tell the tale.

Dick Harmon: Jeff Grimes returned to Provo and built the foundation. He literally took what was there and elevated it on BYU’s offensive line. It was phenomenal to see him do it for the second time. I think Darrell Funk will be a home run for Kalani Sitake as a replacement. He’s got three decades of coaching under his belt, 10 of it as a coordinator. I like that Blake Freeland is a freak athlete and will be replacing the talented Brady Christensen. Like Freeland, Harris LaChance is huge at 6-foot-8, 300 pounds. If they can move and protect, that’s a great foundation to have with James Empey at center.

This unit appears confident, hungry, and united, a good start for Funk to keep going. Thing is, we will find out fast just how good this unit is because September’s schedule is a refiner’s fire. The O-line will need to be operating at a midseason level to give whoever is the QB the chance to use the weapons assembled — and there are many.

Cougar tales

Elijah Bryant was lucky enough to earn an NBA championship ring with the Milwaukee Bucks and Jeff Call got the reactions from the former Cougars guard in this interview. Jeff also highlights the upcoming WCC basketball schedule in his piece about the league’s key games between BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. 

A former BYU runner goes viral on TikTok after delivering a baby and breaking a record.

From the archives

Meet BYU’s latest version of legendary O-line coach Roger French
‘BYU should approach this cautiously’: Former Cougar athletic directors opine on shifting college sports landscape

From the Twitterverse

Fan takes on Pac-12 sportswriter who trolls BYU (@joewheat27)

Dax Milne photos in NFL camp (@gregwrubell)

Derwin meets Clemson’s Dabo (@DerwinLGray)

Former BYU coach wins gold (@jaromjordan)

Chris Hoke’s daughter to join gymnast team (@hokiebro76)

Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers

I’m becoming progressively more optimistic about our OL and our offense in general. I had forgotten how huge our offensive line players are. Reportedly, their footwork and overall technique improved significantly last year. Although we lost a couple of OL starters, we played essentially a full schedule last season and all those expected to start this year had quite a number of in-game reps. Our OL, rather than being a relative weakness, actually should be a strength again this year. Along with great talent at RB, WR and TE, if our QB play is even adequate we should be good on the offensive side. [Defense, as many have pointed out, remains a worry.] 

— Cougar Forever

If you ever wonder why there are so many more BYU articles than Ute articles, you need not look past the posts below. So many clicks and comments from Utah fans ... about the team they no longer care about.

I am hoping it was just a bad day for Hall. If he can be an accurate passer, then his legs will mean one more runner the opposing D has to game plan for. I wish nothing but the best for Romney, but he just strikes me as a game manager in the mold of so, so many Ute QBs over the years.

Whoever wins the starting job, I hope we continue with the downfield production we saw last year. As Steve Young has said many times about Kalani’s offenses, BYU needs to win or lose playing BYU football. Throw the rock!

— The Trooper

Up next

Aug. 14 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. Weber State | @Provo

Aug. 19 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. Ohio State | @Provo

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Aug. 21 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. Auburn | @Provo

Aug. 26 | 7 p.m. | Women’s soccer | vs. USC | @Provo

Sept. 4 | 9:30 p.m. | Football | vs. Arizona | @Las Vegas

Sept. 11 | 8:15 p.m. | Football | vs. Utah | @Provo

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