Aaron Roderick wore a big smile during most of his media time after BYU finished its first practice of fall football camp on Thursday.

Is that a sign?

At this stage of camp, you look for anything. It may mean nothing, but the way Roderick answered questions was the antithesis of being defensive, thick-skinned or uncertain.  

This was Roderick’s first practice session as BYU’s offensive coordinator after Jeff Grimes left for Baylor, and he appeared as comfortable as a cowboy in a well-worn saddle. 

Point him to the rodeo.

In the short team session the media got to see at the end of Thursday’s practice, his offense showed flashes of prowess sans Zach Wilson. It also showed some outstanding press coverage by BYU’s corners, disrupting passes that were thrown right on target by Roderick’s QBs.

“Good, not great,” is how Roderick described the performance of the QBs. “We haven’t completed our installation of the offense with some of our best plays, so we were kind of limited. But we have a really good defense.”

Roderick said he would completely install BYU’s offense by Wednesday or Thursday of next week, but for the time being he is demanding players come to practice with a chip on their shoulders, like they have something to prove. Just like a year ago when the team didn’t know if they’d have a season or who they would play, they need to approach every play and day with gratitude for the privilege of being out on the field.

Roderick had plenty of praise for the roster Kalani Sitake has assembled after losing Wilson as the No. 2 player taken in the NFL draft, and big left tackle Brady Christensen.

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“We have six offensive linemen who have played, and I have confidence in all of them that they can play. We have 18 offensive linemen and this is the best depth we’ve had since I’ve been here. We just need to find out who the seventh and eighth players are.”

That wasn’t the only time he used that kind of optimism for a position group. He loves the running back situation led by Tyler Allgeier and needs to find RB3 and 4. He called the receiver group the best since he’s been at BYU and said the tight end group is very talented with playmakers. “Dallin Holker looks like he never left (for a mission).”

The addition of Sampson Nacua (Utah) and his younger brother Puka Nacua (Washington) is an immediate injection of talent and big-play ability to the receiver room. Roderick said both made plays on the first day of practice.

“Both of them really had good moments today. They bring toughness and experience to our team,” said Roderick.

He praised the play of senior receiver Neil Pau’u, who came ready to perform in camp.  “He picked up right where he left off last year, he’s a really good player,” said the coach.

A year ago, when COVID-19, rocked the world and threw wrenches into sports of all kinds, BYU had no idea if it would even have a season after Mountain West, Pac 12 and Big 12 opponents canceled games.

In those strange August practices, both coaches and players came to work with no visible emotional reward established as a target in September. Before athletic director Tom Holmoe scrambled to get a road game at Navy, the challenge was to keep an edge to the agenda on the field, really press.

“We want to keep that edge in camp, to play with that edge every day we’re out there.”

“That’s kind of our theme this year, to pick up where we left off and play for the love of the game, to get better and try to stack together a bunch of good days and see what happens.”

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The QB derby is full-on. It’s always a BYU camp theme.

“We’ll keep it going until mid-camp and then name a starter to give him 10 days knowing he is the guy,” said Roderick.

In the session viewed by the media, freshman Jacob Conover had an impressive completion under pressure when he got flushed, stepped up and fired an across-the-body completion to a well-covered Cade Moore to move the chains.

What those candidates have to do is show consistency and one of them has to clearly separate himself from the others.

Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Conover have their challenge.

So far, Roderick isn’t frustrated. 

 Or, if he is, it didn’t show on day 1.