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Load management or injuries? BYU practices without some stars, but Aaron Roderick says it is by design

Cougars practiced without receiver Gunner Romney and tight end Dallin Holker on Monday as they got back to work in Provo in preparation for the 2022 season

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BYU players trot onto the field for practice Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, in Provo.

BYU players trot onto the field for practice Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, in Provo. On Monday, a few players — notably Dallin Holker and Gunner Romney — did not practice, but according to offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, it was by design and not due to injury.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

BYU’s fourth practice of preseason training camp came and went Monday morning without appearances on the field by two key offensive players, tight end Dallin Holker and receiver Gunner Romney.

Is it time to panic? Are they injured?

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick gave this explanation after practice when asked about Romney’s status:

“There are a number of offensive players that we are going to give a day off to here and there. So that could be a regular thing. Like, (tight end) Isaac Rex is going to have some days off. Puka (Nacua), Dallin Holker (are) getting some days off … it doesn’t necessarily mean they are hurt. It is a calculated move by us to get to the first game with all of our best players.” — BYU OC Aaron Roderick

“There are a number of offensive players that we are going to give a day off to here and there. So that could be a regular thing,” Roderick said. “Like, (tight end) Isaac Rex is going to have some days off. Puka (Nacua), Dallin Holker (are) getting some days off … it doesn’t necessarily mean they are hurt. It is a calculated move by us to get to the first game with all of our best players.”

Later in the interview, when asked about Holker’s status by a late-arriving reporter, Roderick referred to his previous answer.

“We are trying to space them out so we don’t have a bunch of guys out at once,” Roderick said. “And (Holker) is one of those guys who will get some rest here and there. … I can’t name them all right now. But there is a pattern and a plan for that.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake did not address the media Monday, after having spent considerable time last Thursday with reporters after the first practice of 2022 fall camp.

In the media-viewing portion of Monday’s practice, backup receivers Chase Roberts, Brayden Cosper and Kody Epps saw a lot of action, as did starters Nacua and Keanu Hill. Freshman receiver Parker Kingston, the speedster from Roy High, was in on some plays.

The highlight was a deep touchdown throw from starting QB Jaren Hall to Roberts, who had beat a backup nickel back on the play. Another backup receiver, Terence Fall, also made a nice catch.

Roderick said giving the younger players more reps Monday is by design.

“We thought it would be better to challenge the vets than go slowly for the young guys,” he said. “So the young guys are drinking through a firehose, and there are guys that are doing pretty well. But it is a work in progress.”

Roderick said things will slow down for the younger guys in a week or two.

“We just want to be smart, especially with the guys who have played a lot of football for us,” he said.

Roderick has said since spring camp ended last March that Jacob Conover is Hall’s backup, with Cade Fennegan and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters battling for the QB3 role — which is important if the Cougars only travel with three quarterbacks.

“The last two practices for (Conover) have probably been the best two practices he’s had since he’s been here,” Roderick said. “And Cade Fennegan, I thought, did some really good things today. … But right now, Conover is clearly the No. 2.”

Fennegan’s highlight was a deep throw intended for Talmage Gunther that fell incomplete. 

Offensive line coach Darrell Funk also spoke to a group of reporters Monday, and said he hasn’t settled on a starting five yet and probably won’t for a few more weeks. He said the only offensive lineman who isn’t in a position battle right now is left guard Clark Barrington, the preseason All-American candidate.

Funk had nice things to say about Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia, presumed starting left tackle Blake Freeland and right guard Campbell Barrington.

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BYU players can be seen in the reflection of head coach Kalani Sitake’s sunglasses during practice Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, in Provo.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo