BYU football coach Kalani Sitake was quite clear on one aspect of Saturday’s live scrimmage, which more or less marked the midway point of the Cougars’ 2024 spring football camp.

On another, not so much.

After 76 plays of live work, plays that were not viewed by media members, Sitake reported that the offense outplayed the defense after the units have “gone back and forth” in the first seven practices since camp opened on Feb. 29. That’s not really a surprise, considering the offense has more veteran, experienced players, and not as many players who are missing spring practices with injuries and ailments.

“Really happy with practice today,” Sitake said. “… I thought the offense did a pretty good job today, scored a lot of points, made a lot of plays. And then defense had their moments, but overall I thought the offense had the upper hand today. … Guys ran the ball really nicely and protected the ball.”

While six quarterbacks got reps, only the two who are battling to be the opening-day starters — Jake Retzlaff and Gerry Bohanon — donned the green jerseys and were off limits to contact.

Who has taken the lead in the starting quarterback derby, returner Retzlaff or transfer portal addition Bohanon?

Sitake wouldn’t go there, pretty much saying that it remains a tie.

“Those two have been doing a great job. They keep getting better. One gets better and the other one catches up. The other one gets better and the other one catches up. It has been (back and forth),” Sitake said. “It is what we want the competition to be and so as long as they keep getting better that’s all we care about. We are not in a position where right now we want to separate one from the other to be the starter.

But they are definitely the two capable of getting it done.”

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Sitake said Feb. 29 that they would like to identify the starter as quickly as possible, but most close observers believe a starter won’t be named until preseason training camp in August, at the soonest. Naming a starter, or even a QB3, at this juncture of the offseason could cause a quarterback or two on the outside looking in to hit the transfer portal.

Already, the Cougars have lost one of the 10 QBs in the room; KSLSports.com reported Tuesday that walk-on Nick Billoups will enter the transfer portal when it opens in May.

Sitake said that along with Retzlaff and Bohanon, fourth other guys got reps Saturday: Cade Fennegan, Ryder Burton, Western Michigan transfer Treyson Bourguet and freshman Noah Lugo, an early enrollee.

“There is a race and a competition for the third (quarterback) spot and good quality there, too,” Sitake said. “We were able to get some reps with the young guys. … Ryder Burton did some really good things, and Cade Fennegan, too. So there is competition all over the place. There is strong competition for that third spot, still. … So it is four guys for the third spot and two guys for the starting spot.”

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As far as Sitake saying the offense prevailed Saturday, junior safety Talan Alfrey argued for the defense, saying he felt like it was “pretty balanced” after the offense started fast.

“We started a little slow, and then we kinda ramped it up and made plays,” Alfrey said. “Overall the defense did well. Lots to improve on still. … We just gotta trust each other and do our job to the best of our ability and our defense (will be) really good.”

Sitake did mention that safety Tommy Prassas, an early enrollee out of Chandler, Arizona, has turned some heads in what is an extremely loaded safeties room with the likes of Micah Harper, Alfrey, Ethan Slade, Crew Wakley, Raider Damuni and others returning with experience.

“I can tell you that Tommy Prassas is going to be a really good player. He is a true freshman that graduated early to be here,” Sitake said. “From what I am seeing, in the stuff that he did today, he has got all the qualities of being a great free safety. So not to put a lot of pressure on him right now, but he’s also learning quite a bit from all those guys. Chika (Ebunoha) has done a great job there, too.”

It is no secret that BYU needs to run the ball better in 2024 than it did in 2023 to compete favorably in the Big 12. Sitake said it is early, but he’s liked what he’s seen through seven practices and the scrimmage.

“We were able to play some really physical football — smashmouth football,” Sitake said. “When the other quarterbacks went live, full go, they were able to extend drives and make plays and convert first downs. That’s what we need.”

Center Connor Pay, one of four experienced offensive linemen who are back and now under the direction of new OL coach TJ Woods, said the focus on improving the running game has already paid off.

“This was the first scrimmage-type day of spring camp, and I am happy with how we played,” Pay said. “I thought we played physical and we were able to establish our run game and obviously we made a good amount of mistakes, too, that we are going to have to correct. But overall I thought it was a pretty solid day.”