BYU football: Cougars take it outside to wrap up second week of spring camp
Coach Kalani Sitake says BYU is playing more live football, with tackling, this spring as program prepares for Big 12
Kingsley Suamataia got a text message from BYU football coaches early Friday morning and had to check his phone twice to make sure he was reading it right.
After the first five spring camp practices were held in the Indoor Practice Facility, the Cougars were scheduled to take it outside to wrap up the second week of spring workouts.
“We were all shocked,” said Suamataia, who is moving from right tackle to left tackle on BYU’s offensive line this season.
“We all looked at our phones and it was 20 degrees outside. We were like, ‘Oh man, it will be cold,’ but who cares, because we have been looking forward to practicing outside for a while, and it was fun.”
“For the first six practices, I am really happy with where we are headed. There are some really good things that I am seeing from our players right now, and then even the progress I have seen from Day 1 to Day 6 in practices and meetings. I have been really pleased.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake.
The temperature in Provo was closer to 30 degrees when the practice began, and almost reached 40 by the time it ended.
In the sunshine, it wasn’t that bad, said graduate transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis, who toiled his first few years at USC before transferring to Pitt.
“Yeah, it was nice. We were really worried about the weather. … It was like 29 degrees when we started, but it was nice to get outside. Nice and sunny.
“It is really not that bad once you get going, so yeah, I thought it was nice to get out here. Shoot, right now it is pretty perfect.”
Coach Kalani Sitake said the Cougars are far from perfect two weeks into camp, but overall he’s pleased with the progress he’s seen from the offense, defense and special teams — the latter of which got off to a rocky start with a place-kicking display on Day 1 that more closely resembled one of those halftime contests with fans.
“For the first six practices, I am really happy with where we are headed,” said Sitake, who braved the cold temps in shorts, like a lot of his assistants. There are “some really good things that I am seeing from our players right now, and then even the progress I have seen from Day 1 to Day 6 in practices and meetings. I have been really pleased.”
Sitake said guys are staying healthy for the most part, although toward the end of practice Friday, when the media was allowed to view some situational work, quarterback-turned-running back Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters pulled up lame after a carry, grabbing at his hamstring.
“Some guys are banged up, and that is gong to happen,” Sitake said.
Although all three projected starting linebackers — Max Tooley, Ben Bywater and Chaz Ah You — are not participating in the contact portions of camp due to recent injuries and/or surgeries, the defense looked particularly strong Friday when ones went against ones in some four-minute and short-yardage situational work.
“We got them in the short-yardage stuff, but they got us in in the four-minute situations, I felt like,” said Suamataia. “It probably should be flipped around, but honestly everybody is competing and trying to be their best. After all, at the end of the day we are still one team.”
Slovis said there was a heavy emphasis on the running game, which is critical for an offense in goal-line situations and also when it is trying to run out the clock in four-minutes remaining situations.
“Today I thought was a good day,” Slovis said. “… I thought the offense converted really well, especially the ones, so proud of the guys.”
Defensive lineman Caden Haws stood up for the defense.
“I thought the defense looked great in the four-minute drill. We got a bunch of stops. Everybody is just doing their job and looking really good, so we are excited,” Haws said.
It is obvious that Slovis is the clear-cut starter — as offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick told the Deseret News before camp began — but the transfer is still asked where he stands on the depth chart.
“That is probably a question for (Sitake and Roderick),” he said. “… But yeah, I have a good idea where I stand. … I always see myself that way, but I don’t want to say anything before they want to say anything. I would ask them. Sorry.”
Junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff, returning backup Cade Fennegan, freshman Ryder Burton and walk-on Nick Billoups are in the running to be QB2. Sitake said coaches “have an idea” of what the depth chart looks like at QB, but will know more after next week.
“We feel good about the talent there,” Sitake said. “Again, it is, ‘Who are going to step up and be the guys who are going to get the twos and threes reps?’ That is going to be the key.”
Next week, BYU will host a high school coaches clinic on Thursday in conjunction with a practice, and have its pro day on Friday. It remains to be seen whether the physicality in camp will continue in Week 3.
“We have been really, really physical. Did a lot of tackling on Monday and then a lot of tackling today, so quite a bit of live work, even with the ones, probably more than what we have done in the past,” Sitake said.
“But I think it is a good look for our guys to get used to this style of defense, and then also for what we want to accomplish in the run game.”
Getting used to the cold weather might have to continue as well.