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BYU basketball coach Mark Pope beat out Florida for the services of 6-foot-11 center Aly Khalifa, a portal transfer who can shoot and pass and was one of his biggest offseason priorities. You can read our stories about Khalifa here. Along with Khalifa, there are five other targets mentioned in this piece.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: What signs have you witnessed during spring football that signal Jay Hill has changed the culture on that side of the ball?

Jay Drew: There were all kinds of signs this spring that new defensive coordinator Jay Hill is starting to make cultural changes within BYU’s defense. Players were far more energetic, lively and spirited during the media-viewing portions of the 15 practices that wrapped up last week.

To a man, players credited Hill with bringing a different energy and zeal to the program. Look for the Cougars to be more aggressive, take more chances, and put an emphasis on speed and playmaking ability for their defenders as they move into the Big 12.

One of the more vocal defenders has been safety Malik Moore, and not just because Hill oversees the safeties. Moore said Hill has rolled his sleeves up and done a lot of the conditioning and weightlifting work right along with the players. There’s clearly a new sheriff in town, and his deputies are falling in lockstep.

Dick Harmon: If one compares what Jay Hill is trying to implement this spring with past seasons, the thing that stands out is the amount of pressure BYU’s offensive line and QBs are feeling daily. The defensive sets look different in that the offense doesn’t know where the pressure is coming from; Hill keeps the offense guessing. The fronts are multiple and the coverage is tight. The emphasis on physicality during practice is completely different. For instance, tackling live during 11-on-11, including the QBs. Where before there were a lot of “thud” practices, where nobody was taken down, Aaron Roderick said this past spring was the most physical he’d been through at BYU and ranks up there with any he had at Utah.

I remember seeing a red-zone drill and JC transfer corner Jayden Dunlap blanketed the receiver through the route and knocked down the pass as it approached the target. Nobody’s talking about Dunlap because Jakob Robinson and Weber State All-American Eddie Heckard are the likely starters at corner, but I was impressed with his speed, size and coverage. I think time will reveal what the culture has become but the mindset of more aggression is there. I’ve been impressed with Hill’s move to improve talent and depth with recent recruits.

Cougar tales

Just days after the NCAA transfer portal recruiting began April 15, BYU football got a commitment from a left offensive tackle at Oklahoma State, Caleb Etienne, who had started 13 games for Mike Gundy last season. The transfer brought a little sour grapes from Gundy, as highlighted in this piece.

Find out how Conner Mantz and other former Cougars performed in the Boston Marathon here.

Men’s volleyball defeated Stanford and continued a winning streak this past week. 

From the archives

Related
Jay Hill: The mission to change BYU’s defense
‘We just didn’t believe in ourselves’: Players share how Oregon loss, October meltdown marred season

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

DB Mory Bomba commits to Ramadan (Daily Universe)

Who will have more NFL draftees, BYU or Utah? (Deseret News)

Why Kyle Whittingham’s nephew is at BYU (Deseret News)

BYU signs one of USU’s top defenders (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers:

Good article but it doesn’t state the real reason this kid decided to leave the Utah State football program after, what appears to be, a stellar career as an Aggie. He was a starter who racked up impressive numbers and, more than likely, was headed for the NFL like a number of other Aggie linebacker standouts. Why would you risk playing for another program having to prove yourself to a new coaching staff, a head coach and other players with possible loyalties to other players and recruits in and out of the transfer portal. Seems like a big roll of the dice for just one year left in your collegiate career. Vongphachanh joints a long list of 13 other players who’s made the decision to leave the Aggies football program including key coaching staff members such as offensive coordinator Anthony Tucker, defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda and offensive line coach Micah James. Seems like a mass mutiny that reeks of something very wrong with coach Blake Anderson’s program despite having won a MWC championship a couple seasons ago. All this doesn’t bode well for the near future of Aggies football. While I am bloviating, there’s also the sudden resignations of John Hartwell and, of course, Ryan Odom. Something’s amiss with Aggie athletics that screams for some answers. 

— BlueAlum

In the past decade (2013-2023):

BYU is 9 wins and 10 losses against Pac-12 teams, for about 47% winning rate.

In the past two decades (2033-2023):

BYU is 18 wins and 21 losses against the Pac-12, for about 46% winning rate.

Two points I would like to make:

1. As many of you Ute fans like to tell us BYU fans, “Stop living in the past”!

What is happening currently is more important than what happened in the past.

2. That is why the “all time” record against the Pac-12 is irrelevant. You have to see what is going on currently and BYU is winning about half its games against the Pac-12 on average. For two decades, BYU has held its own against the Pac-12.

To say they would be bottom feeders in that conference is an inaccurate comment.

3. Ute fans discount the fact that BYU went 5-0 against the Pac-12 last year. They beat ASU, Arizona, Washington State, USC and your beloved Utah.

But then you have Utes fans who post “meaningless exhibition game are not meaningful conference games.”

Really, the teams that they played were meaningless? Not important? That the teams were not good?

Utah playing those exact teams won the Pac-12 championship.

To say they were exhibition games for BYU is also diminshing the value of Utah winning the conference championship.

— Confused

Up next

April 21-22 | TBA | Men’s golf | Cougar Classic | @Provo

Charlotte’s Aly Khalifa (15) defends (15) Arkansas forward Trey Wade during game Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. The Cougars beat out Florida among other schools for Khalifa’s services. | Michael Woods, Associated Press