Who’s back? Who’s gone? Observations from release of BYU’s spring roster
More than 25 new names that weren’t on the Cougars’ 2021 roster are on the spring roster, including prized transfers.
No fewer than 132 names are on the 2022 BYU football spring roster that was distributed to the media on Monday as the Cougars completed the first of 15 scheduled practices before the month of March ends.
As usual, the release of the roster (which will have to be trimmed to the NCAA-allowed 123 players before the season begins this fall) brought a few surprises, both in terms of who is back, and who is no longer in the program.
“Josh Larsen has changed his body. He is over 300 pounds now. Yeah, that’s big. He was 260 not long ago.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake on one of the changes to the 2022 spring roster, bigger players
Here’s your yearly reminder that nothing is as fluid as a spring roster, for what that’s worth. A lot will change between now and when the Cougars get together for preseason training camp in early August in preparation for the opener Sept. 3 at South Florida.
Still, there are a bunch of things worth noting. Here are a few takeaways and observations from the first roster of 2022:
• Offensive lineman Keanu Saleapaga, who began his BYU career way back in 2017 as a defensive lineman, is back after playing just one game in 2020 due to injury and no games in 2021 to work on his academics. Saleapaga is listed at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, which was roughly his weight when he was an OL starter for many of the games in 2018 and 2019.
“He is a guy who has played a lot of games for us, and started (a lot),” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “Adding him to a deep line is really good for us, and we will see how much we can use him.”
• Nearly a dozen BYU players from the 2021 roster with eligibility remaining either medically retired (cornerback Keenan Ellis), moved on to full-time employment (quarterback Baylor Romney), moved on for more schooling (linebacker Drew Jensen), declared for April’s NFL draft (running back Tyler Allgeier) or entered the transfer portal (see list below).
• One name that isn’t on the spring roster is Tysen Lewis, the 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman from Weber High who chose BYU over offers from several Power Five programs. Lewis, a scholarship player who served a church mission to Peru and was on the roster last year, did not respond to inquiries regarding his situation.
• Defensive back and kick returner Caleb Christensen is on the roster and participating in camp. Sources have told the Deseret News the Sky View High product had been considering a move.
• Other members of the 2021 team who have moved on include receiver Chris Jackson, defensive backs Jaylon Vickers, Jacques Wilson and Mitchell Price, reserve quarterback Rhett Reilly, offensive linemen Cade Parrish and Hunter Hill, and defensive lineman Jacob Palu.
Tight end Bentley Hanshaw entered the transfer portal and signed with Liberty.
• Count defensive lineman Josh Larsen and linebacker Ben Bywater among the players who got visibly bigger and stronger during the offseason. Larsen is listed at 6-4, 255, but is much heavier; Bywater also bulked up considerably, and appears stouter than in 2021. The Olympus High product is wearing his old high school number, No. 2, after sporting No. 33 last year.
“Josh Larsen has changed his body,” Sitake said. “He is over 300 pounds now. Yeah, that’s big. He was 260 not long ago.”
• Speaking of number changes, tight end Dallin Holker went from 32 to 5, linebacker Jackson Kaufusi from 38 to 13, receiver Brayden Cosper from 85 to 20, defensive back Ethan Slade from 35 to 26, tight end Ben Tuipulotu from 35 to 24, tight end Ben Ward from 86 to 79 and Burke Parker from 50 to 59.
Prized running back transfer Christopher Brooks wore No. 34 at Cal, but will wear No. 2 at BYU. Why the change?
“No particular reason,” Brooks said. “I didn’t choose the number 34 at Cal, it was just given to me. I just thought it was time for something new.”
Linebacker Josh Wilson wears 34 for the Cougars, but the brother of New York Jets QB Zach Wilson plays defense. Duplicate numbers are common throughout college football rosters now.
• All told, there are more than 25 names on the spring roster that weren’t on last fall’s roster. That list includes the aforementioned Brooks, Saleapaga, Stanford transfer fullback Houston Heimuli and perhaps Sitake’s biggest offseason get, Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia, the former five-star offensive lineman.
Returned missionaries Logan Fano (No. 56), Isaiah Glasker (No. 16), Brooks Maile (No. 90), Michael Daley (No. and Bruce Mitchell (No. 96) are also back in the fold and participating in spring ball.
Weber High’s Aisea Moa (No. 58) graduated from high school early and is in camp.
• Naturally, there are some intriguing walk-ons, most notably Austin Bell, the former all-state running back from Corner Canyon High who was ticketed to be a top recruit after rushing for 1,148 yards his junior season in Draper. Season-ending knee injuries took Bell off a lot of schools’ recruiting radars.
Bell’s former Corner Canyon teammate, defensive back Conner Ebeling, is another walk-on in camp, along with Idaho State transfer Sam Dawe (cousin of former Cougars Parker and Zac Dawe), former Timpview OL Sonny Makasini and DL Isaiah Perez of Othello High in central Washington, the nephew of former BYU star Eddie Keele.
Provo, UT 📍Thursday-Saturday. Excited to see what @BYUfootball has to offer! #GoCougs— Gabe Jeudy (@GabeJeudy) March 2, 2022
• Wednesday, a couple of prospects noted via social media that they will be taking official visits to BYU this upcoming weekend: Diablo Valley (California) College defensive back Roman Rashada and Vanderbilt transfer DB Gabe Jeudy-Lally.
I Will Be Taking My Official Visit To BYU This Upcoming Weekend! 🔵⚪️ #GoCougs @adamgorney @BrandonHuffman— 3⭐️DB Roman Rashada (@romanrashada_) March 2, 2022