It wasn’t exactly the ringing endorsement regarding his team’s overall health that BYU fans wanted to hear from head football coach Kalani Sitake on Monday afternoon.
But it wasn’t entirely bad, either.
Asked in his weekly Monday press briefing if star receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney will play on Saturday against South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa (2 p.m. MDT, ESPNU), Sitake stopped short of giving a definitive yes.
“On Wednesday, we will probably have a better idea for everyone. But yeah, we are planning on guys playing. Nobody is lost for the season right now. We still have some work to do the next couple of days. But we feel good about those guys.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake on the status of receivers Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua
“On Wednesday, we will probably have a better idea for everyone,” Sitake said. “But yeah, we are planning on guys playing. Nobody is lost for the season right now. We still have some work to do the next couple of days. But we feel good about those guys.”
Romney and Nacua participated very little, if at all, in BYU’s three scrimmages during the recently completed preseason training camp, prompting reporters to ask Sitake, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and receivers coach Fesi Sitake if they are healthy, or not.
On his “Coordinators’ Corner” program held the same hour as Sitake’s press briefing, Roderick said tight end Isaac Rex will play against the Bulls. Rex sustained a devastating ankle and foot injury last November against USC and said a few weeks ago in the middle of camp that he couldn’t jump off his surgically repaired right foot, but was otherwise close to 100%.
Another player who had (shoulder) surgery last November, linebacker Payton Wilgar, appeared via Zoom in the press briefing and said both of his shoulders have never felt better.
As of 3 p.m. Monday, BYU hadn’t released its depth chart for the opener. A BYU football spokesperson said they were waiting on information regarding team captains and other details.
Sitake said team captains, co-captains and alternate captains would be announced later Monday.
The coach confirmed that BYU will travel to Tampa on Thursday.
“We are heading out a couple days early, like we normally do when we are heading out east,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to practice a couple times out there in that environment and we are looking forward to the matchup.”
Sitake said there might be “a few surprises” on the depth chart, but nothing drastic. Then again, the two-deep could include a lot of “ors,” which means there are co-starters in that particular position.
As was reported by the Deseret News Sunday, the weather in Tampa on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. EDT kickoff) might not be as hot and humid as BYU has been preparing for. Instead, it could be rainy.
Sitake said they will be ready for it.
“Well, we have had some practices already where it has been kinda wet, and had a scrimmage that was kind of wet. I don’t know if we really need to flood the field or put the ball in a bucket of water. We just show up and play. They have to play in the same weather that we play in, too. So if it is raining, then great. If there is snow, we can deal with all that stuff,” Sitake said.
BYU starting quarterback Jaren Hall said the weather — rain or hot and humid — is not a big concern for the Cougars. South Florida’s defense is.
“We will do our wet-ball drills, we will throw in practice. Kinda similar. We will make sure we are prepared for all that stuff,” Hall said. “When game time comes, you can’t control any of that. You just gotta go and play ball, make plays.”
BYU announced it will wear all-white jerseys, with navy blue trim, in the opener.