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BYU will open fall football camp Aug. 1 with pressure to come out of the chute firing on all cylinders. Expectations are high with a deep veteran offensive line, returning quarterback Jaren Hall and a talented group of receivers. This is the final campaign of independence and head coach Kalani Sitake and his staff have the steep challenge of elevating the program to prepare for the Big 12.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: What are your top two storylines for fall camp, which begins next week?

Jay Drew: It has been a fairly quiet summer for the BYU football program, which is just how head coach Sitake likes it — knock on wood. That also means there aren’t an awful lot of pressing issues for the Cougars as fall camp starts next week.

Perhaps the top storyline, in my mind, is the health of stars such as Keenan Pili, Payton Wilgar, Isaac Rex and Chaz Ah You. Those guys missed games last year due to injury, and their status for the opener Sept. 3 at South Florida looks promising, but one never knows.

At BYU’s football media day last month, those first three players I mentioned all said they would be ready for fall camp, while Ah You was not present that day.

Another intriguing storyline is the running back situation, where Cal transfer Chris Brooks is the odds-on favorite to replace Tyler Allgeier as the Cougars’ bell cow in the backfield. Beyond Brooks, guys like Jackson McChesney, Lopini Katoa, Miles Davis and Hinckley Ropati are in line for carries. Running backs coach Harvey Unga will have to make some difficult decisions regarding playing time. But that’s a good thing. 

Dick Harmon: Injury rehab and recovery certainly are at the top of the list as camp opens because so many key players had surgery late last season and during the winter. During spring and media day, we heard optimistic quotes from Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili that they would return for fall camp and we heard that tight end Isaac Rex would absolutely be back in time for August drills.

Tight end coach Steve Clark said Rex was going full speed and doing all kinds of drills during June training, which could be witnessed and supervised by coaches for the first time via an NCAA rule. 

I think one of the more intriguing storylines will be seeing what twists and tweaks offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has made to the offense, taking advantage of the talent at hand. Because of limited availability during practice, much of this will be revealed during the opener at South Florida. 

Another angle is how Sitake will use additional staff for strength training, nutrition and recruiting as he gears up for the Big 12 with added resources. These areas have been targets of criticism and quite frankly, they have been a fair target.

Cougar tales

From the archives

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Comments from Deseret News readers

Each coaching position provides an opportunity for development of personal strengths that fit some people better than others.

A HC position may require different skill sets than an assistant coach.

Sitake has found a home where he is thriving.

I’m happy for Sitake, his coaches, players, BYU, and for us.

— Crazy in California

Lila is the real deal. She absolutely smashes it.

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— Gretschman

Coach Sitake is relatively new to the head coach position, still learning of course, but he is the best man for the job at BYU right now. Just tune out the Utes critics and naysayers who don’t know the man at all, have never been coached by him, have never been in his locker room or even met him. Would you expect anything different from them except hate and ridicule? BYU is headed for greatness and the jealousy will continue as the Cougars keep winning. They forget they’re bashing a former Utah coach ... but then that’s their small man complex.

— Dazzle

Up next

Aug. 13 | 5 p.m. | Soccer | vs. North Carolina | @Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Aug. 18 | 8 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Cal State Fullerton | @Fullerton, California

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