On an unseasonably cool Friday morning in Provo, courtesy of the thunderstorms that drastically lowered temperatures the past few days, the BYU Cougars held their fourth practice of preseason training camp and had no clue that seismic shifts to the college football landscape were going on far beyond the boundaries of their picturesque campus below Y Mountain.

Indeed, it has been business as usual for the Cougars all week, even as it is becoming more and more apparent than they quite likely will be reunited in a conference soon with their rivals 50 miles to the north, the University of Utah.

“I really don’t know much about any of that,” said transfer linebacker AJ Vongphachanh, who spent his last four seasons playing for Utah State. “I just know that we will be ready, whoever we play.”

“I am just happy that we are in the Big 12 going into this year and I am glad that Brett Yormark has done a great job as the commissioner. I mentioned at the media days that I like his leadership and I am willing to follow it.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake

Even offensive lineman Paul Maile, who played in 29 games for those rival Utes the past few years, said Tuesday that things were happening so fast that it was tough to keep track of all it.

“Us players just play,” Maile said, “and leave the rest of all that to the athletics directors and presidents and those kinds of people.”

Pac-12 schools Oregon and Washington were literally accepting invitations to the Big Ten while BYU’s practice was going on. A few hours after it ended, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that Utah and another Pac-12 program, Arizona State, had already applied for membership in BYU’s new conference, the Big 12.

Then Brett McMurphy of the Action Network reported that Utah, Arizona and Arizona State will be joining the Big 12 in 2024 “pending Big 12 formal approval” in the next 24 hours.

University of Utah officially joins the Big 12 Conference

What do BYU coaches and players think about all this?

Hard to tell.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake spoke to media members after Tuesday’s practice and was not made available to reporters on Friday.

But when he was asked by the Deseret News on Tuesday about the prospects of coaching against Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders down the road when the Pac-12 school that arguably started the collapse of the Pac-12, Colorado, joins the Big 12 in 2024, Sitake used the query to heap more praise on commissioner Brett Yormark, who clearly prevailed over Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff in this summer of survival, or lack thereof.

“I am just happy that we are in the Big 12 going into this year and I am glad that Brett Yormark has done a great job as the commissioner. I mentioned at the media days that I like his leadership and I am willing to follow it,” Sitake said. “I am having fun in being part of the conference. I can’t really say much other than that.”

Sitake said when he was a fan, he liked Sanders when he played for the San Francisco 49ers and didn’t like him when he didn’t play for the Bay Area team.

“I am a big college football fan, so I really appreciate what all the coaches do,” Sitake concluded.

Like Sitake, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick is another Cougars alum who spent time coaching at Utah, but for the man they call “A Rod,” it was all about BYU football on Friday.

Things have moved so quickly this week, which has coincided with the opening of training camps throughout the country, said BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake, that coaches can’t really be blamed for not staying abreast of the latest news.

“I have been happy with the focus of all our guys,” Fesi Sitake said. “That’s the (message) we are trying to send — stay focused on us.”

Red zone work moves forward

In the media viewing portion of Friday’s practice, the Cougars worked extensively on red zone situations, and the offense seemed to get the upper hand, particularly transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis.

“It looks like he has been in our offense a lot longer than he has,” Roderick said. “He’s doing a really good job.”

Another transfer that has shown well is running back Aidan Robbins, the former Louisville/UNLV ball carrier who sat out most of spring ball recovering from wrist surgery. With players in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, Robbins trucked a backup linebacker en route to the end zone on one particular run.

“After four days he already looks like he belongs,” Roderick said of the 6-foot-3, 240-pound power back. “He looks like he is going to be a good player for us.”

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Colorado transfer Deion Smith caught a touchdown pass from Jake Retzlaff, who took reps with the second string offense. Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan, who is battling Retzlaff to be QB2, made a nice touchdown throw to Talmage Gunther, beating reserve cornerback Evan Johnson.

The defense had its moments, too, such as the time Weber State transfer Eddie Heckard broke up a Slovis pass intended for Chase Roberts, and the time Southern Utah transfer Dylan Flowers knocked away a Ryder Burton pass intended for Hobbs Nyberg.

A couple of true freshmen who could see playing time right away, tight end Jackson Bowers and running back LJ Martin, made their debuts with the third- or fourth-string offense.

“It looks like we have some young tight ends that were really green in the spring and now they are starting to take shape and look like they can play for us,” Roderick said. “And then on the O-line, we are deep.”

Offensive line’s depth impresses

Maile, the Utah transfer, and returning starting center Connor Pay rotated between playing guard and center with the ones, and after the practice Pay acknowledged that he is not yet sure which starter will play which position when the season begins.

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Other starters Friday in the media viewing portion were Oklahoma State transfer Caleb Etienne at right tackle, All-America candidate Kingsley Suamataia at left tackle, and Brayden Keim or Weylin Lapuaho at guard.

“That is probably the biggest question of this camp, is, who are those five, six, seven guys (on offensive line) going to be? Maybe eight guys? I don’t know,” Roderick said. “I think we have eight guys who have started Power Five level games. Then we have Weylin, who started every game last year for Utah State. So we have got a good group.”

Roderick said it will be a challenge to identify five starters from such a deep group.

“But it is also a long season, so there is probably zero chance that five guys are going to play all 12, 13 games,” he said. “So you have to have versatility there and have some lineup options.”

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