PROVO — Pitt and USC transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis got his first chance to operate the BYU offense he was brought in to keep purring along, and he liked what he saw Monday afternoon at the Indoor Practice Facility as the Cougars held their first spring practice as a Big 12 football team.
“I thought it was good,” Slovis said. “It was a first day, so it wasn’t perfect by any means. There were some learning curves for everyone, some timing stuff. But I thought for the most part for a first day it was good. I am pretty proud of the way guys competed.”
“I thought (Slovis) looked great. I thought all the quarterbacks looked good, so no complaints there with quarterbacks. There is a lot of talent in that room.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
As was reported by the Deseret News Sunday, the Cougars are far from full strength on offense after the first of of 15 spring camp practices. Receiver Kody Epps (shoulder surgery) and running back Aidan Robbins, the UNLV transfer, are not participating in contact drills due to injuries, and tight end Isaac Rex is being held out of a lot of stuff as he continues to come back from a major compound leg fracture that limited what he could do in 2022.
That meant guys such as Parker Kingston, Ethan Erickson and Hobbs Nyberg saw a lot of reps Monday.
“I think those guys are really going to impress a lot of people,” Slovis said. “… The receivers here probably know the offense better than any receiving corps I have ever been around.”
That’s saying something, considering the graduate transfer was at USC and Pitt, a pair of Power Five programs.
So how did Slovis look?
That’s the question BYU fans want to know, and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and head coach Kalani Sitake were happy to share the good news.
“He looked good, yeah,” said Roderick. “We made a couple of big plays, and had a couple long foul balls that were close. He made good decisions, took really good care of the ball, and he looks like he has been in our system for awhile.”
Added Sitake: “I thought he looked great. I thought all the quarterbacks looked good, so no complaints there with quarterbacks. There is a lot of talent in that room.”
In the media viewing portion of practice — the last 20 minutes or so — Slovis, Ryder Burton, Nick Billoups and Cade Fennegan got reps. Roderick said junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff recently had his tonsils taken out and was not available, but will be fine. The sixth quarterback on the spring roster distributed by BYU Monday is Cole Hagen, the former Corner Canyon standout.
“The quarterbacks are a lot further ahead than I expected,” Sitake said. “I mean, there were obviously some mistakes out there, but not by them, really.”
Sitake said the offense is ahead of the defense, as expected, after the defensive staff was shuffled over the offseason and former Weber State coach Jay Hill was brought in to be defensive coordinator.
“He is doing it exactly how I would to it if I was running the defense,” Sitake said of Hill. “So, high energy, discipline and we are focused on playing our base defense first and seeing what else we can mix into it. But I think he is utilizing the talent and the personnel the right way.”
Hill also liked what he saw Monday, saying the speed is outstanding on defense and now it is a matter of getting guys familiar with the scheme.
Hill has been commuting back and forth from Ogden and keeping his house in Weber County for awhile so his kids can finish up the school year there.
“That’s been kinda rough,” he acknowledged.
He’s also searching for some backup linebackers, because starters Max Tooley and Ben Bywater are missing spring camp after having had surgeries during or after the season. Those two are the only defenders on the two-deep chart who won’t see live action between now and April 14 when camp ends.
In all, there are 37 newcomers on the roster, which is a fairly significant number, Sitake acknowledged.
The coach’s goal for the remaining 14 practices, which includes a scrimmage on March 31 at LaVell Edwards Stadium that will be open to the public, is for them to “compete” at a Power Five level.
“Just competing for positions and maybe solidifying spots,” Sitake said of the objectives. “That is at every position right now. Obviously, with the kickers we need to figure that one out, too.”
Mostly, the quarterback spot has long been figured out, especially if Slovis remains healthy. Roderick confirmed that last week.
“Kedon has been a great worker since he’s been here. He’s done a great job of showing no entitlement,” Roderick said. “He is just here to work and he’s just one of the guys, like everybody else. … He is a good player and we are all excited to have him.”