BYU football: Cougars enter second half of preseason training camp with plenty left to accomplish
BYU football coach Kalani Sitake says he would like to have a depth chart in place at this time next week
Saturday’s first scrimmage of preseason training camp basically confirmed what seventh-year BYU coach Kalani Sitake already knew about his 2022 football team.
“This is a highly competitive team right now,” Sitake said after watching 84 plays from scrimmage and another 20 or so plays from special teams at LaVell Edwards Stadium. “I think we have an idea (about) who our major players are.”
Still, there are a few position battles going on, from starters to key backups and who will make the travel squad when the Cougars hit the road in less than three weeks for the opener on Sept. 3 at USF.
“A week from now, I would like to see our depth chart set.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake.
“Yeah, I want to see some separation in the competition,” Sitake said, when asked what he would like to accomplish the second half of fall camp.
“Basically, who are we going to go with in terms of our (substitution) packages, our personnel groups? Who are going to have major roles? Who is going to be in the rotation? What will the depth look like?”
Sitake said he would like to see those questions answered, a depth chart “pretty much knocked down” at the end of this week. Like last week, this week’s practices will conclude with another scrimmage at the stadium.
“A week from now, I would like to see our depth chart set,” Sitake said Saturday afternoon.
Neither Sitake nor offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick would specifically divulge which positions are still up for grabs, but there are some obvious ones for those who have been watching closely.
Perhaps the most heated one is at strong safety, where three or four guys are in the running to be senior free safety Malik Moore’s running mate.
Sophomore Ammon Hannemann, converted cornerback Micah Harper, freshman Talan Alfrey and junior Hayden Livington (listed on the most recent depth chart as Moore’s backup at free safety) are the likely candidates.
Some of the defensive line spots are still in question, but since defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki has said he plans to rotate six to nine guys along the line in every game, being named a starter there is not as important.
Sitake said Saturday that Gabe Summers, Earl Tuioti-Mariner, Tyler Batty and Lorenzo Fauatea performed well at the scrimmage.
Others in the fold include Blake Mangelson, John Nelson, Alden Tofa, Fisher Jackson, Josh Larsen and freshman Aisea Moa. Junior Atunaisa Mahe has yet to rejoin the team and is not currently on the roster, due to injury issues.
“Yeah, they are doing great,” Sitake said of his defensive line. “They are going to be just fine. A guy like Josh Larsen, he doesn’t even look like the same kid compared to last year, and he’s young.
“You got (Tyler) Batty who was disruptive today. He was hard to block. Gabe Summers did some really good things up front. Earl Tuioti-Mariner, too. It was good to see Zo (Fauatea) on the field. There are a lot of big bodies who are capable and have a lot of experience.”
On offense, the question is which of eight experienced, talented offensive linemen will win the five starting spots.
“I would say probably another week from now until we start to settle in on who our starting five are, or who our starting eight might be, or starting seven,” Roderick said. “I don’t know what shape that is going to take yet. There are some good players in that group.”
Roderick has said Jacob Conover is the backup quarterback for months now, but he’s hinted that Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan and dual-threat ace Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters have been in a tight battle to be QB3.
Fennegan got more reps than Maiava-Peters on Saturday, and more reps with the players in the two-deep, for what that’s worth.
“I thought Jacob looked poised. We put him in some tough positions. Had a penalty that kinda ruined a drive that he was a part of,” Sitake said.
“But from what I saw, Jacob has made a huge improvement from even the spring until now, and then Fennegan played really well. He just looks the part. I thought he commanded the offense really well and communicated well.”
Receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney didn’t play Saturday; Sitake said coaches already know what those guys can do.
Sitake said Brayden Cosper and Chase Roberts are also in the two deep. Presumably, sophomore Kody Epps is there, too, although he didn’t see action Saturday.
Roderick said walk-on receiver Tanner Wall is having an outstanding camp.
“I would not be surprised at all if (Wall) turns out to be a good player for us,” Roderick said. “He’s doing a lot of good things in practice. I am very confident he will be a good special teams player.
“He gives great effort all the time and he loves to hit. He could probably go play defense if he had to. You can’t have too many of those type of guys on your team.”