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Why this year’s spring camp is so critical for Cougars

Kalani Sitake and the BYU football team usher in spring drills Feb. 28, their last spring sessions prior to joining the Big 12 in 2023

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BYU players prepare for a play during spring camp in Provo on March 4, 2021. The Cougars open 2022 spring drill Feb. 28. 2022.

BYU players prepare for a play during spring camp in Provo on March 4, 2021. The Cougars open 2022 spring drills Monday, Feb. 28. 2022.

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Kalani Sitake welcomes back his team for spring practice next week and during this session he will take a 2021 team that was in a rebuilding year, yet won 10 games, and try to prepare for the future in the Big 12.

Luckily, the offense returns leader Jaren Hall at quarterback and a bevy of receivers and tight ends, but the glaring absence of star running back Tyler Allgeier looms big for the offense.

In coming weeks we will be breaking down the position competition and featuring newcomers who can contribute. This is a critical session for the Cougars with another challenging schedule ahead in 2022.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Here is the question of the week: What do you project as the three top priorities for Kalani in spring practice, which begins the last day in February?

Jay Drew: Kalani Sitake enters 2022 spring football practices with the same coaching staff he had when the season ended in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Dec. 18. That’s good news for the Cougars, because several of Sitake’s assistants were courted by other programs the past few months, but chose to stay in Provo. Sitake’s “unprecedented” contract in which BYU administrators made promises to increase assistants’ pay and lighten their workload with more support staff is one of the reasons why.

So what are three of Sitake’s top priorities for camp, which begins Monday?

First, he needs to identify a capable backup quarterback and begin giving that QB the bulk of the reps. Jaren Hall is a known commodity and doesn’t need many reps in the spring.

Second, Sitake needs to figure out the running back situation. Who is going to replace Tyler Allgeier? Will it be Cal transfer Christopher Brooks, or running back by committee this year?

Third, BYU needs to find more playmakers on defense — at all three levels: defensive line, linebacker and secondary. Candidates include Micah Harper and Keenan Pili, but injuries either cut short their seasons last year, or ended them before they got started.

There are fewer question marks surrounding this team than in recent memory. Look for the Cougars to build on a solid foundation, and perhaps find a couple more impact players out of the transfer portal to take them to a higher level, as Puka Nacua did last year.

Dick Harmon: I agree with Jay on the priorities of pushing the competition for a backup quarterback, replacing Tyler Allgeier and shoring up the defense on all three levels, but I’d add a few more. With the departure of Samson Nacua and Neil Pau’u, Aaron Roderick needs to push hard to prepare deep-threat playmakers, which sets up his offense. Puka Nacua is a prime leader, as is Gunner Romney. He needs to find new playmakers from among Chase Roberts, Keanu Hill, Kody Epps and new faces like Cody Hagen

The other areas imperative for Kalani Sitake to continue to build is depth, strength and skill among both sides of the line. It is in the trenches BYU needs to prepare for Big 12 play. It is on the line that the Cougars defeated five Pac 12 schools last year. It’s a physical game and the Cougar offensive line is ahead of the D-line heading into spring. Look for newcomers like Kingsley Suamataia and Snow College transfer Lisala Tai. BYU really needs players like DE Aisea Moa and LB Michael Daley to come in and make an impact early.

The biggest step BYU can take in spring and summer is to become more physical where it counts, and find depth so injuries don’t set it all back like at the end of last season.

Cougar tales

Mark Pope watched his team make a valiant effort against Saint Mary’s on the road, falling short in the final minute. The Cougars now finish the season at home against LMU and Pepperdine before heading off to the WCC Tournament far short of the No. 2 seed they once thought they had. Meanwhile, BYU’s women under Jeff Judkins set a new home attendance single-game record in beating Gonzaga on Senior Day.

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Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers

I think BYU will now have a better recruiting pool from the state of Texas (and perhaps Florida) than Utah has with the PAC-12. We will see how the pans out in four or five years.

— OneTruth

As a passionate U of U fan, Judkins was always among my favorite players. He was everything that Utah basketball stood for. It’s nice to see him have the success that he has, coaching the right way. Truthfully, at 23-2 his BYU girls should be ranked higher, maybe in the Top Ten.

— GoRed

Up next

Feb. 24 | 11:30 a.m. | Softball | vs. Bethune-Cookman | @Cathedral City, California

Feb. 24 | 2 p.m. | Softball | vs. Tennessee | @Cathedral City, California

Feb. 24 | 6:30 p.m. | Baseball | vs. ASU | @Tempe, Arizona

Feb. 24 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Santa Clara | @Santa Clara, California

Feb. 24 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. LMU | @Provo

Feb. 25 | TBA | Men’s tennis | vs. Nevada | @Davis, California

Feb. 25 | TBA | Track & field | BYU Invitational

Feb. 25 | 11 a.m | Softball | vs. Cal Baptist | @Cathedral City, California

Feb. 26 | TBA | Men’s tennis | vs. UC Davis | @Davis, California

Feb. 25 | 5 p.m. | Women’s tennis | vs. Utah | @Salt Lake City

Feb. 26 | 6 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Pepperdine | @Provo

Feb. 27 | 2 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Pacific | @Stockton, California