Will they stay or will they go? Puka Nacua, Jaren Hall discuss their future plans
The star quarterback and receiver are among 37 Cougars who will go through Senior Day ceremonies Saturday, but neither is ready to declare for the NFL draft just yet
Immediately after Saturday’s final home game of the 2022 football season against Utah Tech, some 37 BYU football players will lock arms and walk from the north end zone of Lavell Edwards Stadium to the south end zone as the last rite of the Cougars’ Senior Day.
Hall and star receiver Puka Nacua confirmed Wednesday that they will be among the players receiving blankets before the 1:30 p.m. contest pitting the 5-5 Cougars and 4-6 Trailblazers, but stopped short of saying it will definitely be the last time they will play at LES. Both stars have a year of eligibility remaining, if they want to take it.
“I don’t know what I am doing yet. There are a lot of games left, a lot of weeks left. I don’t even want to think about that yet. Just enjoy the time with the boys, with Puka (Nacua) over here, and it is a fun time. A lot of good things going for us now, so just trying to be in the moment.” — BYU quarterback Jaren Hall
“We still got two games left, so I haven’t made a decision yet,” said Nacua, who had a career-high 14 catches for 157 yards in the 31-28 win over Boise State. “But I am honored to be on that list (of Senior Day honorees).”
Nacua said he will make the decision “hopefully” sometime after the Stanford game on Nov. 26.
“We are just trying to focus up and make sure we win our last game at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and I am going to be a part of that list, so that is an important thing for me,” Nacua said. “That’s going to be circled on my calendar for the rest of my life.”
Hall, who served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Roseville, California, before enrolling at BYU in 2018, is widely viewed as a near-lock to declare for the NFL draft shortly after the season ends.
Still, he declined to acknowledge anything of that sort Wednesday after the outside practice in 40-degree weather in Provo.
“I don’t know what I am doing yet. There are a lot of games left, a lot of weeks left. I don’t even want to think about that yet,” Hall said. “(I am going to) just enjoy the time with the boys, with Puka over here, and it is a fun time. A lot of good things going for us now, so just trying to be in the moment.”
Asked if he has a timeline or a deadline for making the decision, Hall mostly repeated what Nacua said.
“Not yet. I will make that decision when the season is over,” he said. “It is just cruise control for now, just keep doing what we are doing and have a good time.”
Hall and his wife, former Utah Valley soccer player Breanna McCarter Hall, have a 1-year-old baby daughter (Jayda). He said at BYU football media day last June that being able to profit off his name, image and likeness (NIL) has made his last few seasons at BYU easier on his young family.
“We are all getting old, man, we are all getting old. It is fun, though, it is a good time,” Hall said, when asked about the high number of players moving on. “There have been a lot of experiences over the last five years for me, and three or four years for the other guys. It is just a blessing to be here with these guys. That’s what makes the game. I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”
A former four-star recruit out of nearby Orem High, Nacua played at Washington in 2019 and 2020, appearing in 11 games and making 16 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Nacua missed the Baylor, Oregon and Utah State games due to a lower leg injury but still has 40 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns this season.
He said although he will enjoy Senior Day festivities on Saturday, the priority is getting that sixth win so the Cougars become bowl eligible.
“That’s the first and foremost thing,” Nacua said. “It is Senior Night, and we are playing for possibly 37 of those guys if it is their last time playing in LaVell Edwards Stadium, and to get bowl eligible and all those things that come up at the end of the season. But most importantly, (we need) to win that game on Saturday.”
Hall, who missed last year’s bowl game with an injury, said getting bowl eligible is a “huge” motivator for this group.
“Any time you feel like you haven’t exceeded expectations, you want every opportunity you can to kind of make up for that and do some good things and put it on tape,” Hall said. “So, (this is) just a chance to play another game and hopefully build momentum for (two) more games, if that is the case.”
Fifth-year senior receiver Gunner Romney, who has only played in two games this season due to a lacerated kidney, could also return in 2023 if he desires. However, Romney did not practice Wednesday and therefore was not available for interviews.
His future plans have not been announced, but sources close to the Chandler, Arizona, product believe he is leaning toward calling 2022 a redshirt year and returning in 2023.
Meanwhile, a couple of offensive players who also have more eligibility remaining, lineman Harris LaChance and receiver Brayden Cosper, have said they are moving on after the 2022 season.
Cougars on the air
Utah Tech (4-6)
at BYU (5-5)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM