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Kalani Sitake is preparing for a challenge this fall with Power 5 competition riding a plan to get more physical in the fourth spring practice session this past Monday. Eyes are on a lot of newcomers especially transfer running back Chris Brooks and veteran Lopini Katoa.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: How do you envision Cal transfer Chris Brooks and Stanford’s Houston Heimuli contributing to BYU’s offense after seeing them in spring football so far?

Jay Drew: From what I’ve seen in the three practices that were open to the media (the last 20 or so minutes of each one), Brooks looks like a man among boys out there. It appears that he will be the workhorse back, much like Tyler Allgeier was last year. Brooks has even shown a nice ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a plus. That wasn’t one of Allgeier’s strengths.

That said, Lopini Katoa has also looked really sharp this spring. He has seemingly gotten quicker and more explosive. Brooks and Katoa will form a nice one-two punch, but don’t count out Hinckley Ropati and Jackson McChesney. They’ve looked good as well.

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said the other day that Heimuli will be utilized in the offense, because BYU uses fullbacks in this offense. How much is anybody’s guess. BYU’s starting fullback, Masen Wake, isn’t participating in contact portions of spring camp, so having Heimuli enroll this early is already paying dividends.

As coach Kalani Sitake said Monday, the Cougars are as deep at the running back/fullback position as they’ve ever been.

Dick Harmon: It is tough to judge progress or impact when availability to witness workouts is limited. The real tell will be in full-contact drills, which will be limited in spring. Both Brooks and Heimuli meet the eye test. Brooks is built like a military tank but moves with fluidity and displays both speed and power. He carries himself with confidence and experience. Heimuli carries much of his weight in his core and legs. He looks like he’d be hard to knock off balance and would be an effective blocker. I have yet to see what kind of speed he has.

The biggest thing to project about BYU’s run game is it will be built around a very good and experienced offensive line that has just added more bodies. I think Katoa is due to have a breakout season with his added burst and ability to catch the ball. It is time we see more of McChesney and RopatiMiles Davis garnered a ton of hype last summer before an injury. I think coach Harvey Unga will have a challenge to keep everyone engaged and happy because there are plenty of choices to turn to for playing time and reps. The bottom line is BYU needs Brooks to stay healthy and be productive.

Cougar tales

BYU’s women dispatched Portland to make it to Tuesday’s finals of the WCC Championships where they lost to Gonzaga. Coach Jeff Judkins now has the Cougar women ready to challenge the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to make the right call — even after losing to Gonzaga, a team they’d soundly defeated two times before Tuesday. The women’s record should get them a No. 4 seed regardless of that loss. Traditionally, BYU’s women and men have been given seeds out of whack with their rankings, perhaps because of their refusal to play on Sunday. 

Mark Pope’s team beat LMU and then ran out of gas against San Francisco in the quarterfinals last Saturday. It looks like the Cougar men are bound for the NIT with a slim chance of an NCAA bid. As BYU’s season winds down, freshman Fousseyni Traore has become a real factor, especially on the boards.

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From the Twitterverse

Extra points

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers:

“I’m as big a BYU fan as anyone but we don’t belong in the tournament this year. We should use the NIT as prep for next year rotating in some of the younger guards. And putting Lohner in positions where he can use his skills. He has had quickness on almost every guy guarding him this year but where is he? Roaming around the perimeter handing the ball off to the guards. Why don’t we use him and Gideon in high-powered positions like we did with previous teams? We didn’t have a lot of size but we made it work. Seems like he and Fouss could really abuse lots of teams with that scheme. And while we did stumble against UVU I don’t recall the U playing them or Utah State.”

— C.A. Reader

“This team is built to surpass Judkins’s other really good teams of 2002 and 2014. But you have to play the game! Potential isn’t the same as accomplishment. They have to prove it and in order to do so they have to stay healthy. Judkins is a steady hand and his assistants do a really good job. The NCAA tourney is usually all about guard play and that fits right in the wheelhouse of this cougar team. I am excited to watch them attempt to break through into an elite 8 or more! Looking forward to track and field on both the women’s and men’s side this spring to see what they can do nationally. Some really good things going on at BYU sports these days.”

— CoHawk

Up next

March 10 | 6 p.m. | Softball | Arizona State | @Tempe, Arizona

March 10 | 6:30 p.m. | Baseball | Oklahoma State | @Arlington, Texas 

March 11-12 | TBA | Track & Field | NCAA Indoor Track Championships | @Birmingham