It wasn’t a late fourth-quarter touchdown at a sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium, but it was late in the day at the indoor practice facility when quarterback Kedon Slovis rolled to his right and threw a strike to Chase Roberts, who had All-American cornerback Eddie Heckard all over him.
“Just the way the team is, the culture, the way the teammates act. I feel like I have a bunch of friends out here. It’s a tribute to the coaches, the culture, and the program coach Kalani is building.” — BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis
Roberts made the catch and triggered a wild celebration by everyone not on the defense.
“Oh yeah, it was great,” Slovis said. “I told Chase, ‘One of many!’ and he did a great job. We are supposed to score when we are down there and we did and I’m super happy about it.”
The spirited back and forth between offense and defense in the red zone Wednesday was not lost on the transfer quarterback, who comes to BYU after stints at USC and Pittsburgh.
“Both sides are playing against each other a lot,” Slovis said. “You want to win the drill. Everyone wants to win the drill. They won the first one and we took a lot of pride in winning the second. If you want to be a good team, you have to score in the red zone.”
A few plays later, during the media availability period, Slovis scrambled for a second touchdown.
“I thought we ran the offense really well,” Slovis said. “All the quarterbacks got into the red zone and scored. I thought the offense did a great job today.”
New kid in town
BYU signed Slovis from the transfer portal in December when quarterback Jaren Hall decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Slovis had just finished his one and only season at Pittsburgh after playing three years at USC.
With a final season to play before pursuing his own NFL career, Slovis followed the advice of his off-season quarterback coach and former BYU star John Beck to consider the Cougars. For BYU, landing a quarterback with 34 games of P5 experience was a dream come true as head coach Kalani Sitake prepares the program for its debut in the Big 12.
“I think it helps,” Slovis said of his Division I pedigree. “I’ve seen a lot of things and have been in a lot of big-game situations and in a lot of different environments.”
For some, Provo can be a different environment, but Slovis feels like he has been at BYU forever.
“It just does. It’s hard to explain,” he said. “Just the way the team is, the culture, the way the teammates act. I feel like I have a bunch of friends out here. It’s a tribute to the coaches, the culture, and the program coach Kalani is building.”
Slovis played against BYU as USC’s quarterback in 2019 and never imagined a scenario where he would return to Provo as BYU’s quarterback in 2023 — and that’s not the only surprise.
“We have good players here. I kind of knew that, but you never really know until you get there,” he said. “I think the players have impressed me. The culture, I had heard all about it. Everyone talks about the culture and once you get in the building — that’s impressed me. And, the view! I’ve never seen these mountains with snow on them. I was kind of shocked by it.”
Slovis threw for 9,973 yards and 68 touchdowns during his stops at USC and Pittsburgh, but he knows that none of it matters at spring practice at BYU. It’s a new day with a new playbook and limited time.
“I’m just trying to get more familiar with the plays that I haven’t run before,” he said. “Coach A-Rod (offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick) and Matt (offensive analyst Matt Mitchell) make it real easy for the quarterbacks. We go over it a lot in our meetings so when we get out here, I feel pretty comfortable.”
The business approach from Sitake and Roderick resonates with the grad transfer.
“They are pretty cool and collected. It’s nice. I feel like it’s how I carry myself as well,” Slovis said. “We talk about it after practice. If I do something wrong they will let me know. I think there is a lot of trust in me, but coach Kalani came up to me the other day and said, ‘Just have fun today.’ You love hearing that from a head coach because football is a fun game and you play better when you are having fun.”
The fun will become real on Sept. 2 against Sam Houston when Slovis runs out of the BYU locker room and into a sold-out LaVell Edwards Stadium for the first time — something he thinks about every day.
“I feel like I think about the whole season,” he said, with a wide smile. “But that day on the calendar is certainly circled with a big mark on it.”
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.