Facebook Twitter

BYU has stayed healthy in a relatively hard-hitting spring football camp

With three practices remaining, Cougars have lost only one player, defensive end Logan Fano, to a serious injury

SHARE BYU has stayed healthy in a relatively hard-hitting spring football camp
BYU running back Lopini Katoa catches a pass during spring camp in Provo last week.

BYU running back Lopini Katoa catches a pass during spring camp in Provo last week. As spring ball winds down, the Cougars have managed to keep injuries to a minimum.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Kalani Sitake made no bones about it.

BYU’s football coach said a month ago that the Cougars’ primary goalduring spring camp would be to hit and play football just enough to identify which players can help the team this fall, yet remain healthy in the process.

How did that work out?

With only two practices remaining — Tuesday and Thursday — before coaches put a bow on spring camp 2022, Sitake says the goal has been accomplished.

Almost.

Returned missionary Logan Fano, a composite three-star recruit from Timpview High, sustained a serious knee injury two weeks into camp. Fano announced on Twitter last week that he injured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and would be “getting surgery soon.”

“Other than (Logan Fano’s injury), yeah, injury-wise I think we have been pretty good. We have got some guys banged up. That’s football. We will assess everything next week.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake

Fano had tweeted on March 15 that he had suffered a “minor setback” during a spring camp practice.

“Other than (Fano’s injury), yeah, injury-wise I think we have been pretty good,” Sitake said last Thursday after Week 4 was in the books. “We have got some guys banged up. That’s football. We will assess everything next week.”

A handful of players were injured and/or coming off surgeries before camp even started, and have been held out for various reasons. Among the notables in that group are linebackers Keenan Piliand Payton Wilgar, hybrid LB/safety Chaz Ah You and defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea.

Offensive lineman Clark Barrington was in an arm sling Friday while observing pro day activities at the indoor practice facility.

Offensive lineman Tysen Lewis and defensive back Shamon Willis took medical retirements.

“The Logan Fano injury, that one was tough,” Sitake said. “The game of football, it is violent and physical and even when you are trying to (avoid them), those injuries happen.”

BYU’s pass rush was often found lacking in 2021, which is why the loss of Fano — who had offers from Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Washington, Michigan and others out of high school — is troublesome. One coach told the Deseret News he was one of the most productive edge rushers in camp before the injury, behind only returning starter Tyler Batty.

“We are looking forward to him making a full recovery and being back,” Sitake said. “He’s in great spirits and I think he will be ready (sooner than expected). I wouldn’t count him out for the fall, either.”

Sitake said calling Fano out for the entire season is premature.

“Right now I think there is a good chance he could still come back and participate and we might be able to get his four games in and still redshirt him this fall,” Sitake said. “But until then we will just keep pushing him to get better.”

Receiver Gunner Romney said Thursday that staying healthy is not just a team-wide goal, but a “No. 1 priority” for him and other skill position players. One of the reasons Romney returned this year for his final season of eligibility is because he was never really able to show what he could do in 2021, due to several injuries.

“The coaches have really helped me out on limiting some of my reps, letting a lot of the other guys get some good reps,” Romney said. “But this is the best I have felt in, I would say, two or three years. I feel completely healthy. I feel fast. I feel fluid.”

That desire to enter the 2022 season as healthy as possible is why Romney and fellow receiver Brayden Cosper — also finally healthy after suffering a fractured wrist in fall camp last August — aren’t disappointed that the Cougars aren’t having a spring game or scrimmage this month.

merlin_2885709.jpg

BYU receiver Gunner Romney stretches out for a long pass reception during game against South Florida at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Romney says not having a spring game “is not a huge thing.”

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“You know, it feels like we have a spring game every day in practice,” Romney said. “The only difference is it is not open for people to come see. You know, we are scrimmaging — not live every single day, but pretty much thud (contact) — and then there are a couple days in spring where we are going full tackle with it.

“And so really it is not a huge thing. We get to compete and go through game situations anyway. It doesn’t make a huge difference for us.”

Speaking of those scrimmages, Romney said one positive development has been the progress of the backup quarterbacks. Jacob Conover, Cade Fennegan and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters are the main candidates.

Thursday, Utah transfer Nick Billoups got to perform during the media-viewing portion of practice and showed a lively arm and some decent pocket presence.

“I think Jacob, he is coming into his own right now. I think he is getting a lot more confident with the offense and with himself and the speed of college football. I think the last few practices he has really performed well,” Romney said. “Also, Cade Fennegan is playing well. He is a guy that a lot of people have talked about recently. He has taken to the offense and is handling it really well.”

Sitake said last week the plan is to hold Thursday’s final practice of camp at the outdoor practice facility behind the Student Athlete Building (or inside, in case of inclement weather) and then allow the players to head over to LaVell Edwards Stadium for the alumni game.

“Still trying to figure our what we are going to do Thursday for our practice,” he said. “I think we will be a little bit more live with some young guys tackling a little bit, and get some film (on them), and then we will send them over to (the stadium) to support the flag football extravaganza (alumni game) that is going to happen that night.”

Asked why the final practice won’t be held at LES, as it has in past years when there is no spring game, Sitake said he would have to be “convinced” by Monday or Tuesday to move it.

“We will save the stadium for the stars that are going to be performing that night,” he said, jokingly. “But I am always open for change.”

According to a BYU news release, more than 40 former football alums will play in the game featuring former BYU quarterbacks Max Hall and Kevin Feterik. Hall (2006–09) will lead “Team Navy,” while Feterik (1996-99) will lead “Team Royal.”

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the “touch football game” is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Members of the 2022 BYU football team will mingle with fans and sign autographs after the alumni game at the stadium. Don’t expect the current players to take sides during the game, however.

Asked if he is for “Team Max Hall” or “Team Kevin Feterik,” Romney replied: “I am Team Whoever Wins.”