BYU football coach Kalani Sitake had two pieces of good news for reporters after the Cougars wrapped up his seventh fall camp with a 100-play scrimmage — that didn’t include live tackling — at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Tuesday.

First, his team played a lot of real, physical, 11-on-11 football over the course of 14 practices, perhaps more than in any other preseason or spring training camp in Sitake’s time in Provo.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Cougars went through it without sustaining any season-ending injuries. 

“We haven’t lost anybody for the season. And that’s crazy when you are talking about how much 11-on-11 football we have done, and we are going to continue to do. We will just keep working.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake

“We did good. We haven’t lost anybody for the season,” Sitake said via Zoom. “And that’s crazy when you are talking about how much 11-on-11 football we have done, and we are going to continue to do. We will just keep working.”

That doesn’t mean the Cougars expect to have every player on the current roster available when they travel to South Florida next week to face the Bulls on Sept. 3 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. As camp broke Tuesday, Sitake said preparations focused on the opener will begin Thursday.

“I will probably have more of an idea on who is going to be ready for the game next week — on Monday,” Sitake said, referring to the next time he is scheduled to speak to the media. “Right now, everybody is all in — of those that are in camp.”

Of course, the Cougars aren’t out of the woods yet. Remember the devastating news two years ago, when star tight end Matt Bushman ruptured his Achilles tendon a couple days before the opener at Navy? But so far, so good. 

Receiver Gunner Romney and tight end Dallin Holker were limited in camp by minor issues, but both have said they will be ready to play by game time. 

“We feel like we have the right pieces (for a successful season),” Sitake said. “We feel like we are playing some chess with how we are working (in) the program, and we will see how much of a payoff there is on Sept. 3. I feel really good about where we are headed.

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“Obviously we did some things in the offseason and did some things through fall camp to adjust our schedule and allow our players to be physical and get better in the game of football, but also find ourselves in the best position to be healthy,” Sitake continued. “And that is hard when you are playing violent football like we do.”

Sitake said the Cougars are “sick of playing each other” and ready to play somebody else, but praised the chemistry and camaraderie that was developed in camp among all players. Tuesday’s scrimmage, he said, was as much of a test of his players’ wills as anything else.

“I can see that these guys really love each other and care for each other. They honestly love being on the field,” he said. “Today, they didn’t know what to expect. And we made it harder than even some of the coaches were expecting. There were no complaints. The guys responded the right way. I just wanted to test them, to see if we got some complaints. The guys wanted to keep playing; it is a good group.”

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake looks on during practice Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, in Provo. | Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Not a lot of news came out of the scrimmage. Sitake said that unlike the scrimmage last Saturday at the stadium, they did some situational stuff such as red zone and two-minute drive work. He said the offense and defense “went back and forth” and didn’t declare a winner.

Neither did starting quarterback Jaren Hall in a telephone interview with the Deseret News.

“It was kind of like a scrimmage format, but at obviously a practice tempo — no hitting, no taking to the ground,” Hall said. “I would just say it was an even day overall. The offense did a lot of good things, the defense did a lot of good things, so I think we are almost game ready.”

Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki confirmed what the Deseret News reported Monday — that sophomore Ammon Hannemann has earned the starting strong safety spot. That was one of the few position battles in fall camp.

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Hannemann said he hadn’t seen anything official yet but was pleased with how he performed throughout camp and again on Tuesday.

“The offense will say they looked better, but the defense will say we looked better,” Hannemann said of Tuesday’s scrimmage. “We both have a lot of pride, which is good. But as a defensive player, I gotta say the defense looked better.”

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Another battle is at backup running back. Who will be RB2 behind Cal transfer Chris Brooks?

Sixth-year senior Lopini Katoa appeared in the post-scrimmage news conference via Zoom and said he’s happy with how camp went for him. Katoa finished last season as BYU’s third-leading rusher with 61 carries for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

Miles Davis, who shined in last Saturday’s scrimmage, Jackson McChesney and Hinckley Ropati are also in the running for the backup running back spot.

Sitake said the depth chart for the South Florida game will be released Monday.

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