PROVO, Utah – BYU hosted its 11th National Football Media Day on Wednesday, June 22, at the BYU Broadcasting Building in advance of the 2022 season.
Scroll below to read quotes from players and coaches to learn more about the BYU football program, the 2022 team, upcoming season and current events. Quotes addressing the following topics are included below:
- Independence, Fan Base, Big 12
- BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, coaching staff, team culture & recruiting
- 2022 Schedule
- NIL & Built4Life program
- BYU Alumni Game
- Offensive Line
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Running Backs
- Defensive Line
- Defensive Backs
INDEPENDENCE, FAN BASE, BIG 12
Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe on the move to the Big 12
“It's something that we worked for for a long time. We went independent 12 years ago and made that decision, and that was a couple of years in the making. It's nice to see that it came to fruition, that those dreams and those goals way back when are now just a few months away."
Head coach Kalani Sitake on their meetings with the Big 12 this spring
"It's fantastic. I thought it was all class in the way that the Big 12 officials presented themselves. We learned a lot about how things work in the conference and got to talk to a lot of the other coaches, too. It's just really an honor to be part of that whole process."
Holmoe on BYU's initial qualifications to go independent
“I think it was exciting for the fan base to be able to see us. There's two pillars that we had to go independent. One was exposure for the university and for the athletic department for this case. We were able to get that through our great relationship with ESPN. The other pillar was access for our fans. And I think that was one of my favorite things about independence, was going to places that we hadn't been before and being able to see tailgate parties, special events and to see our fans be able to just rub shoulders with the team. I loved after the game seeing players going up into the stands and talking with Cougar nation around the country. That was super special.”
Sitake on gratitude for the fan base
“There's one thing that no one questions about being big time and that's our fan base. We know that it doesn't matter the sport or the activity, if BYU is involved anywhere in the world that we will have support, that Cougar nation is going to show you. That gives a lot of comfort when you're going into hostile environments. You can see that blue out there and you know they're ready to support. It's always fun to perform in front of them, but more important is after the game to be able to embrace them and let them know that we appreciate them.”
Sitake on mentality when interacting with future recruits
“In everything that we deal with, whether it's NCAA regulations or anything that happens, like Covid, we're going to have this mindset that we're committed to adapting and making sure that we keep in mind that the most important part of our program is the young men in our program, and that our athletic department is focusing on these student athletes. So everything that we do, whether it's NIL or the transfer portal, or whatever it is that comes up, we want to make sure that it's aligned with the mission of our Church and the mission of our school. The key for us is to make sure that our young men understand what they represent and who they represent. So we're going to keep the focus in line with that and I think that we'll get the right guys.”
Holmoe on his favorite moment of independence
“If you asked me right now, I would say that looking back my favorite moments were the struggles, and there were definitely struggles. We had a lot of ups and downs. I think that if we didn't have those struggles, we wouldn't be here where we are today. I think it's a gospel principle, and we lived it. We felt it. Kalani and I, the team, the staff and administration, we had to go through a lot to do that. There were a lot of highs and I couldn't even pick one out.”
Passing game coordinator/receivers coach Fesi Sitake on BYU’s move to the Big 12 and its effect on recruiting
"There’s now nothing you can put against us in terms of our affiliation with any given conference and the level of football that we play at. It’s been really nice to be able to put everything together with the recruits, let them know they can play for a conference championship and play at the highest level of football. And then we add in all the stuff that were already our strengths before with playing at a school like BYU -- the academic standards, the honor code, amazing culture, teammates, athletic support, fanbase, all those things."
Defensive ends coach Preston Hadley on watching BYU’s transformation as an Independent
"I was a player here when we first started out as an Independent. We have better players right now than we’ve ever had because of both recruiting and development. You see the results on the field. Director of Athletics, Tom Holmoe, has done a great job of putting together a competitive schedule each year."
Defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner on BYU fans at road games
"BYU road fans are the best in the country by far. At the Baylor game last season, it seemed like we filled half that stadium with BYU fans. At the Tennessee game in 2019, it seemed like the stands were full of BYU fans. I absolutely love the BYU fans, especially at our away games."
HEAD COACH KALANI SITAKE, COACHING STAFF, PROGRAM CULTURE, RECRUITING
BYU Assistant head coach Ed Lamb on seeing both LaVell Edwards and Kalani Sitake coach
"Coach Edwards and Kalani are similar in that they're people first. They are much more likely to ask about your family, academics and well-being before offering up a coaching point or a correction. I think that was the secret to Coach Edward’s success, and I think that's the secret to Kalani’s success, and we've got a very motivated team as a result. Guys feel valued. Whether they're playing as much as they want is always up for debate, but they feel valued, and a big part of that is the way Kalani communicates."
Lamb on Kalani Sitake’s impact on players
"Kalani is people first in every way. I don't think he spends the majority of his hours concerned about whether we're going to win or lose. That is still very important to him, but he really wants to elevate each person."
"The example that happens the most often is any given player will go and visit with him about anything on or off the field. Kalani is able to initiate change in their behavior, confidence level, and role on the team."
Running backs coach Harvey Unga on Kalani Sitake as a player’s coach
"His door is never closed for one. I've seen numerous times where the players have gone to him and said, 'Hey, coach, our legs are dead, or we've got some injuries here and there and we're wondering if we could change up practice to help guys out.' Immediately after the coaches will get a text from Kalani with the changes. It's been cool to see that he actually listens to the kids and understands what they're going through and then actually does something about it."
"When you talk about trying to better the program, everything he does is always for the players. He mentions that a lot in our staff meetings. 'You guys better make sure you make this thing about the players. Everything you do, make it about the players and let them know how much you love them, how much you care about them, and then do whatever it takes to help them succeed.'"
"Our guys play their butts off and a lot of it is because they feel the love from Kalani and they understand that he really does care."
Linebackers coach Kevin Clune on why BYU and working with Kalani Sitake
"First of all, we've been friends for 20 years and we joked about this with Arod [Aaron Roderick] when we all worked at Southern Utah. We would joke about how we're all going to work at BYU one day. I was always of the opinion that I was never going to work at BYU. So, we would laugh about that, and ultimately it's about working with good friends and a great staff."
"Working at BYU just kind of happened but I've fallen in love with it. I really enjoy working here with the staff, these kids are great kids and there's a whole lot of peace that comes from working with great people, working with great kids and a great organization like this. When I drive down every day, it's a joy, this is my family and I never thought I'd love it here so much."
Defensive ends/Hybrids coach Preston Hadley on Kalani Sitake’s work-life balance leadership
"Kalani’s a big advocate of work-life balance, of spending time with your family. He knows each of us, he knows our families, he knows what’s going on in our lives. His promotion of our game-life balance has been a game changer. He wants us to stay fresh, stay right, both mentally and physically. He tells us that we need to be working out, spending time with our families, and being good husbands and fathers. That doesn’t get talked about, but down the stretch of a season you see coaches and players start to burnout, and having that balance allows us to stay at our best throughout the season."
Hadley on learning from Bronco Mendenhall and Kalani Sitake
"I draw from what Bronco taught me all the time. I also draw from being around Kalani and how loving he is, how relatable he is to the players. Bronco taught me how to work. He taught me what toughness was. Kalani has also taught me how to work and what toughness is in different ways. It’s been a unique experience being under two different styles of leadership. Both have been successful. They are both great leaders, both great coaches."
Passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on Kalani Sitake’s approach to recruiting
"Looking at the college football landscape right now, we have coaches bombarding high school kids with letters, FaceTime/phone calls. It’s the nature of the business. Kalani decides to focus on his family, his team, and oftentimes leaves it to assistant coaches to recruit these players. He steps in when he sees fit, but most of his time and energy goes to what he cares about the most. These recruits aren’t guaranteed and we have to be in it and try to get these guys as part of the business, but his time is devoted to his family and his guys on the team now, making them know he’s there for them every second. All you need to do is come to a practice in a locker room and anyone just sees how the guys talk about and act around him. They don’t change. There’s a lot of programs where players change when they’re in front of a coach because they feel they have to put on a front. Kalani has created a culture where we can all be ourselves as coaches and players. That’s powerful. All of that goes back to how he was raised, you know, the things he believes in and having fun, enjoying life, and not taking things for granted. He loves people around him and that’s trickled throughout this program and it’s flowing. It’s part of the culture and it’s been a really humbling experience for me to witness that."
Running backs coach Harvey Unga on how the team’s culture impacts recruiting
"The culture is different. It's very, very different. BYU is a unique school. Guys gravitate to the family-oriented culture that we have here... The culture that we have is something that you can't really explain a ton unless you're here, you experience it, and you can feel what we talk about. I think a lot of that has to do with why those guys come here, and they do well. They do great here and do awesome and I think a lot of that is because of the culture."
Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford on how Kalani Sitake’s prioritization of life balance has influenced his desire to stay with BYU long-term
"It’s been huge. I have a lot of friends in the business and they always tell me how lucky I am. They point out that I get to take my kids to school or go home early and they say that’s not normal. But at the same time, they see that it can be done and you can still win games."
Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford on his relationship with Kalani Sitake from teammate fellow coach
"As a teammate, he showed me the culture as an upperclassman. He took care of us. Throughout the years, we’ve definitely stayed in contact and nothing has changed. He’s still that loving, family guy. All of us are just like family. Nothing changed."
Wide receiver Puka Nacua on the Kalani Sitake and team cohesion:
"With the way coach Kalani runs the program and the way the team operates under him, there’s a great team dynamic."
Junior linebacker Payton Wilgar on the culture and momentum of the team:
"We have a culture of love and learning; love your brothers and help them out. I think that culture has been very beneficial to us. No matter what happened last year or the year before, we’re going to look to this year and carrying the momentum through this season and into the Big 12."
Wilgar on how the coaching staff is there for him off the field too
"These coaches are hard on you during football, but at the same time they’re like father figures off the field. They are there to help you no matter what the situation. Here at BYU, it really is a family. You feel comfortable to go to any of the coaches - offense, defense or special teams, for help when help is needed. It’s unlike any other place. It’s really a special environment."
Wilgar on the team’s “123 Strong” mantra
"We treat everyone the same. The majority of the time, I don’t know who is on scholarship and who is a walk-on. I’ve been there. I remember when I was a walk-on, Sione Takitaki took me under his wing and taught me a lot. I try to follow his example."
Cornerback D'Angelo Mandell on how the program has evolved since his arrival in 2018 until now
"I think it’s just taking care of the players. The emphasis on getting food, good proteins, hiring more coaches. I think it’s predicated on making sure the players are prioritized."
Passing game coordinator and receivers coach Fesi Sitake on a challenging schedule
"If you can produce while playing at the highest level of college football, it gives you the right type of confidence to know you can keep doing this even at the NFL level. As coaches, it’s our job to remind them that we have an opportunity every week to put on a show and perform at a high level."
Fullback Masen Wake on what game he is most looking forward to
“USF is our first, so I think that's the only valid answer, but Baylor is right up there. That's probably the one I'm looking forward to the most. It'll be special because our old coaches, Grimes and Mateos, went there. They taught me what it's like to be in college and a lot about football. The player I am today is because of them. It was kind of surreal seeing them on the other side of the field in Waco. I'll forever be grateful for Coach Grimes and it’ll be pretty fun to have him in Provo.”
All-American offensive guard Clark Barrington on the 2022 schedule
“There are a lot of great games that we will play this year, but right now our focus is on game one.”
Defensive end Tyler Batty on the game he is most looking forward to in 2022
“Baylor. We can’t overlook anything, but Baylor is going to be a very fun one. I’m personally looking to get some revenge on those guys. We came to their place. Welcome to our place.”
Tight ends coach Steve Clark on what he thinks would mark a successful 2022 season
“Wins. But I never look at the whole season. I know people in the media get tired hearing that. I know we play South Florida and then we play Baylor and then we play Oregon. I know the teams that we’re playing after that, but I don't know the order that we're playing. It's just you can't look at it that way. You have to look at the first big challenge. Getting off to a great start the first week.”
Tight end Dallin Holker on the 2022 season
“I like the fact that there's good competition. It's always fun to play good teams, and it's just fun playing football. But it's fun playing in cool environments and stuff like that.”
Cornerback Kaleb Hayes on games he's looking forward to this season
"It has to be the Oregon game since I used to be at Oregon State. I love the competition there and that’ll be a great team to play. I’m honestly excited for everybody. Honestly, this is a great schedule for us to play, probably one of BYU’s toughest schedules."
Cornerback D'Angelo Mandell on games he’s looking forward to this season
“I’m probably looking forward to Oregon most. I remember watching them in high school and in middle school, just watching their games and they’re always lit. The crowd was always crazy and the games were always big there.”
NIL & BUILT4LIFE PROGRAM
Assistant head coach Ed Lamb on BYU’s approach to NIL
“If an athlete has already been offered a lot of money to go to some place they really have to ask the question of BYU, or any other school, ‘Are you offering me any NIL money?’ Our answer is no. We're not involved in that. It's not what BYU wants to do and it's not the way we want to build the program. We think that football is still going to be a team game where the bottom third of the roster is just as important as the top third of the roster. We're trying to use NIL opportunities to elevate the whole team. We’re not holding anybody back, we’re super excited about our current players that have opportunities to go and make whatever money they can. But we feel that in the end we're going to win more games by elevating the whole roster with NIL opportunities.”
Passing game coordinator/receivers coach Fesi Sitake on NIL’s role on player focus
“It’s on an individual-by-individual basis, for some guys it might be a major distraction. Some can handle it and take it face on. I feel that our team relative to a lot out there has been able to handle it really well and it hasn’t become a distraction. It’s actually been more of a strength and a help to the game.”
Defensive end Tyler Batty on the nonprofit he’s started thanks to BYU's Built For Life program
“Things are going very well with Edward’s Hands. Obviously, I have a lot of other irons in the fire right now. Last summer we got the organization established but then we headed into the season. So from August to February, I wasn’t able to do much with it. We do a therapy ride or two per week. We are advertising by word of mouth while we still work on getting some hired help to establish a brand. My eyes have really been opened to the unmet needs here in Utah County. There’s so much need for equine therapy here locally.”
Batty on his experience with NIL
“NIL has been cool not only in making money, but in making connections. I’ve been able to get to know people and experience mini internships where I’ve learned more about business.”
Earl Tuioti-Mariner on Built For Life program
“Built For Life does more than just NIL. Gary Veron helped me get an internship. They do more than NIL, they try to help us prepare for life after football.”
Tight end Dallin Hoker on NIL and the transfer portal
“I feel like there's conversations about it, but at the end of the day, I feel like you don't need to worry about it. At the end of the day, I feel like you just have to be super selfless and help your teammates and be a team player, and if you do that, then in the end, everything will work out for you.”
Assistant head coach Ed Lamb on the spring alumni game
“Kalani and whoever else was part of that decision saw a vision, and I could feel it come together from the early moments of planning. To have fans there and to have our current players get excited about these old guys running around and playing the game they love was something that maybe you could only pull off at BYU. I thought it was very cool and I hope we'll continue to do it in the future.”
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick on offensive success the past several years
“What's made us successful the last couple seasons is playing with a chip on our shoulder. During the COVID year we all had something to prove and had a bad taste in our mouth from the way we ended the season the year before. Last year, we had the least amount of returning production in college football and so the chip on our shoulder last year was just a bunch of unknown guys, who had to go out and prove something. And so this year, people expect us to be good so we have to learn how to handle success. And so we're trying to prove now that we're not just a one year or two year good offense, that we're going to be a team that's good every year. And that we're not going to look past anybody. And so now the challenge this year is to live up to expectations. That's a different role than we've been in, but I embrace it and I expect this to be good too. So you've got to learn to handle it.”
All-American offensive lineman Clark Barrington on the offense
“It’s a great blessing to have a guy at quarterback as talented as Jaren Hall. We have great wide receivers and running backs as well. It’s great to know that if we handle our job, that they will handle theirs.”
Tight end Isaac Rex on the potential of the offense
“We have a lot of returning guys, everyone knows what they're doing. I feel like our offense can be one of the best offenses in the nation. As long as we play to our strengths and play to the best of our abilities, we can make it to the top. I have a lot of faith in all our guys. We all have a lot of faith in each other, and we feel like we're going to be really, really good this year.”
“We just need to stay healthy. We had a couple injuries last year that were tough. But if everyone's healthy, we're going to be unstoppable. We have a lot of pressure coming in I feel like because we did so well last year, and we have pretty much everyone returning. But we don't really feel it. We're just excited.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick on quarterback Jaren Hall being the clear-cut starter going into the season
"I never meant for there to be a derby every year. We just had the luxury of having good players that were all very close but it's good for Jaren to just be the leader of our team. He's really grown as a leader, our players respect him, the way he played last year, how he carries himself, how he gives credit to his teammates, how he's always quick to critique himself when he doesn't do something right, so that’s great from a leadership standpoint."
Quarterback Jaren Hall on motivation for this season
“We just keep a chip on our shoulder. It’s important for us to remember what it was like when we didn’t have great seasons and what it took to get to those good seasons. You keep that same focus and then add some on top of that.”
Hall on how he plans to stay healthy this season
“I think being more mentally in tune and knowing what's going on is the best equation for me to stay healthy. I'm an athletic quarterback and I'm always going to do what I have to do to make plays throughout the season, but if I can just limit some of those crunch time plays when you have to put yourself on the line and sacrifice your body, I think that will help.”
Hall on managing NFL aspirations and focusing on this season
“Playing in the NFL is any college football player's dream, but right now you just have to play the best you can in your system, follow your coach's advice and play well as a team and teams that win games end up getting guys drafted. It just comes down to focusing on game one against USF. If we can go play well as a team and then do that through every game on the schedule, that just kind of takes care of all those other details after the season.”
Hall on increased continuity with the receiving core
“Everyone's coming back, so now we get to take time to really get to know each other. Let’s go in smaller groups, let’s throw, talk through stuff, go out to eat and chill. It’s been great to get to know guys personally, let down my own walls and let them get to know me and it's been very humbling to see everybody's experiences, where they come from and I think that builds more trust on the field.”
“I think last year was a bit of a slow start offensively. I think part of that was trying to find out how we played together and then missing a lot of opportunities looking back. Hopefully the cohesiveness going into game one will help us start off a little quicker but still have to execute, we still need to do our assignments right, so that’s football.”
Quarterback Jaren Hall on becoming a father
“It’s been so fun. My daughter’s name is Jada and she is just the life of the party and she’s starting to get a personality. But seeing my wife become a mother, the way she has been able to love and enjoy it and for me to help out, become a dad and those experiences have been super fun. So I think it's helped football, made it a little easier to keep things in perspective having the two of them.”
Hall’s message to kids
“My message to kids is on the wristband that says, ‘Eyes up, do the work.’ So that's the main slogan, keep your eyes up. Whether you're a person of faith, keep your eyes up when you're at school in the hallway, stay off your phone, see opportunities to do good and help a kid out. Go sit with the kid at lunch who is by himself. See those opportunities in your sports, keep your eyes up, see what you need to focus on. Then the last part is to do the work. Go do something about it, don't just think about it, don't want to do it, just go do it.”
Wide receiver Gunner Romney on playing with Jaren Hall
"Jaren is an unreal natural leader. He commands the room whenever he’s there. He’s the type of person that everybody is going to listen to what he has to say. That has to be the most underrated part of his game. He’s taking the next jump to being confident in his game. He’s a lot more comfortable staying in the pocket but using his legs when he needs to, and I think the confidence that he has in himself and his team is going to be the number one difference here."
Running back Lopini Katoa on quarterback Jaren Hall
“With his skill set, he can do it all and he's intelligent. But I think the biggest thing is he's a competitor and wants to win. His confidence is the same thing that Zach had. Zach loved the game more than anybody on the team. Jaren has that same love for the game that Zach had, so it starts with him and flows to the whole offense, even into the defense some times when they need it.”
Left tackle Blake Freeland on quarterback Jaren Hall
“Jaren is a great guy. If you pay him a compliment, he shoots it right back at you. He’s always involved. He’s very selfless and a great leader.”
Offensive line coach Darrell Funk on the state of the offensive line after spring ball
"We had a very good spring and then went into the weight room. They’ve made pretty big gains since then. My group continues to make progress. They’ve been doing a very good job to start the summer. They’re almost all returning from a season ago, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. You still have to work. You still have to start from square one and build from there. No one cares what we did last year, it all starts fresh in the season-opener. It’s a special group. They’re very well-grounded, very mature."
Funk on the depth developed due to injuries in 2021
"We dealt with a lot of injuries last year. The silver lining there is that Connor Pay started a lot of games at center. When Harris (LaChance) went down, Campbell (Barrington) jumped in and started six or seven games, so he’s proven he can play. When Campbell went down, Brayden Keim filled in admirably at the end of the season."
Funk on the offensive line’s ability to tune-out the hype
"I don’t anticipate a problem with this group looking past anyone on the schedule or thinking they’re better than them. They’re going to grind and work. That’s how these kids are wired."
Funk on junior All-American offensive lineman Clark Barrington
"Clark is unselfish. He doesn’t care about the buzz around him. He cares about doing the right thing on a daily basis in his life. He cares about his family. He cares about doing a great job in school. He cares about being tough and being the best football player that he can be and he doesn’t get caught up in the noise. He’s special. He’s super focused. He’s the alpha male in the offensive line room."
Funk on junior offensive lineman Blake Freeland
"Blake is level-headed. He’s very humble. In the offensive line world, Blake is just a baby. He’s really in only his third full season of playing the position. He knows he has a lot to learn. I thought he made a nice jump last season. He has a bright future. His focus is laser-sharp on this season."
Funk on sophomore Freshman All-American offensive lineman Campbell Barrington
"Campbell can play anything, including center. He’s unique. He had an unbelievable summer a year ago. He went from being a guy that was ninth or tenth on the travel roster to being firmly in the starting rotation. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a freshman come in and not bat an eye at filling in for an injured starter. He’s the same as Clark in his preparation and maturity. He’s one to watch."
Funk on sophomore offensive lineman Connor Pay
"Connor filled in admirably for James Empey last season. From the first game of the season to the last game he showed a big increase in his production. Every time I turn around, he’s quicker, he’s learned a new skill. He’s very smart, he knows football."
Funk on senior offensive lineman Joe Tukuafu
"Joe is very athletic. He plays with energy and aggression and has a little mean streak to him. I’m glad he returned this season."
Funk on additions to the offensive line
"We add Kingsley (Suamataia) into the mix along with Sione Veikoso, the transfer from Arizona State. Sione was recruited here and really wanted to come here and the numbers didn’t work out at the time. He’s long, he’s athletic. He’s a great addition to our roster. We’re still working on developing Tyler Little, but he’s had a great summer and has quickly gotten up to weight."
Junior offensive lineman Clark Barrington on the state of the team, the returning experience
“It’s always nice to have people who you’ve played with right next to you. It’s nice to have the depth and experience we have.”
Clark Barrington on younger brother Campbell Barrington’s success as a freshman in 2021
“I loved watching Campbell last season. At the start of the season it seemed like he wasn’t going to get any playing time but that he would be a good backup. As the season went on and injuries occurred, we needed him to step-up big time and he did. I’m happy for him and the Freshman All-American award he received after last season.”
Clark Barrington on tuning out the attention (personally)
“I enjoy going out in public and nobody knows who I am. I don’t need that, I don’t want that. It’s nice to be noticed by the media, but it’s nice to know that it doesn’t matter who sees you working, as long as you’re working. That’s my mindset; put in the work and it will speak for itself.”
Clark Barrington on tuning out the hype (as a position group)
“We try to approach everyday like it’s the same. Just approach everyday as if we haven’t been recognized. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past. It matters what we do this year. We just need to grind away, become better, learn more and perfect our craft. If we do that, then we’ll be alright this season.”
Clark Barrington on freshman offensive lineman Tyler Little
“Tyler hasn’t had much football experience but he’s put in a lot of work, gained weight and gotten bigger and stronger. He continues to improve his skills as an offensive lineman.”
Clark Barrington on his goal for the season
“My goal is to do everything I can to help the team win.”
Clark Barrington on offensive line coach Darrell Funk
“Coach Funk has helped us see that we are a unit, that individual accolades aren’t what makes us. It’s about what we can do together. He’s instilled a grit and toughness in us. He makes sure that every time we come to practice or to a game that we do everything it takes to win.”
Junior offensive lineman Blake Freeland on offensive line coach Darrell Funk
“I’ve learned a ton from Coach Funk. He’s been a very good motivator both to me and the team. He’s very good at unifying our position group. I can’t even list all of the things I’ve learned from him. My technique, my skills, my game continues to grow under his coaching. It’s been great having him here.”
Freeland on the nature of this offensive line
“We have a bunch of selfless guys who will do anything for the team, anything for the boys around them. Everybody in our group works very hard to not only succeed as an offensive line, but succeed as a team.”
Freeland on what’s motivating the team heading into 2022
“We want to prove to ourselves that we can continue to compete at a high level. Nobody here is satisfied. Individually and as a team, we still have a lot to prove. We finished the season on a negative note with the loss in the Independence Bowl. There were a couple of games last year that we don’t think we should’ve lost. We still have so much to prove as a team.”
Passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on balancing the rotation
“I’ve got to play as many guys as I can without disrupting the flow of our veteran guys. Some years it’s been three guys and other years it’s been six. That is yet to be determined. Obviously, Puka (Nacua) and Gunner (Romney) are tier-one veteran guys. Keanu is a proven guy who’s going to play a lot of reps this year. And then between Chase Roberts, Cody Epps, Braden Cosper, you know, it’s going to be interesting to see how all that unfolds. Those guys are going to be ready. They’ve all made huge strides this offseason and could start for us in game one.”
Passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on the depth of the wide receiver unit and development of Keanu Hill
"As always, it’s up to competition, but Keanu Hill has earned the right to be that solidified third guy headed into game one. Anytime he’s on the field, he plays with passion and I expect big things from him this year. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to be pushing on a weekly basis and playing. I want to play as many as deserve to play without disrupting the flow of any individual player."
Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on player-run practices this summer
“There’s a new rule where the NCAA gave us where we get two hours a week with our guys, so we’ve actually been able to be there in-person, which has been different than in years past. It’s been nice to get around the guys at this time of the year; the player-run practices are going really well.”
Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on Gunner Romney’s health
“He’s been very conscious of his diet and has worked a lot with Skyler and me. He’s been doing a lot of rehab stuff and feels really confident right now. He’s getting stronger, feels flexible, and hopefully that durability kicks in. He’s never dealt with season-ending stuff, just little nagging things. He’s making huge steps right now to have that be a non-factor in the season.”
Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on giving feedback to receivers
“I’ve just been open and honest right up front with them. A lot of people with good depth try to mince their words a little bit because they don’t want to lose lower-depth receivers to the transfer portal. I’d rather be open and honest and lose a guy than end up messing with emotions.”
Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on the impact of wide receivers being drafted
“When you play next to, share the same room, go to the weight room, etc., with guys who are now playing at the highest level, you’ve got to take and extract those things that you think are suitable for yourself. You can better understand their weaknesses and strengths yourself, which gives a great picture of what it looks like to be successful.”
Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on losing two receivers to the NFL
“I lost two really, really good guys but that’s been every year since I’ve been here. I’m not concerned about losing that production because I know the next man up is going to pick up the rifle.”
Wide receiver Gunner Romney on his priority to stay healthy throughout an entire season
“I used to go full-throttle, 24/7, but I think I’ve done a really good job of just listening to my body. So if I’m feeling banged up or extra sore one day, I’ll scale it back and just do more mobility or stretching rather than pushing myself to the edge like I have before.”
Romney on how the team is staying motivated this year
“One of the biggest things is last year’s bowl game. We kind of fell asleep a little bit and it wasn’t a great turnout for the end of the season. But carrying forward that motivation will help us because we got a lot of kickback and grief for that.”
Romney on skills he wants to develop to become NFL-ready
“One of the main things I’ve been working on this offseason is just getting a better, more explosive first step, whether that’s off the line or coming out of my breaks. I think that’s the number one part of my game that needs improvement. And with that comes getting faster and getting stronger.”
Romney on Keanu Hill's development
"He’s really coming into himself as a route runner. I think he’s getting a lot more fine-tuned with the craft of being a wide receiver. He’s understanding the technicalities and all the little things it takes to get separation and all the things it takes to succeed at this. I think he’s getting more confident. He knows what it takes to be successful at this level. Putting his physical imprint on his game is going to make him that much better."
Wide receiver Puka Nacua on how the team is staying motivated this year
“The way our season ended last year, losing our bowl game after a really good season was something that will drive us all the way to the first game when we land in Florida. Especially because we didn’t show up at our best. Losing is always a driving factor.”
Nacua on Keanu Hill’s biggest strengths
“His size. Especially out of a receiver. I mean, even me and Gunner get mentioned as big receivers but I keep thinking that both of us being above 6’3 over 200 pounds, like, that’s not something you hear about all the time. So his size to play the position but then I think just understanding his tempo.”
Nacua on being without his brother Samson
“It’s definitely different, but Gunner also lost his brother. I feel like we can become brothers in a sense while ours are both now gone.”
Wide receiver Keanu Hill on how Fesi Sitake has helped him develop
“He’s corrected me on things I need to work on and things I’ve done well. Personally, I don’t want to hear the things I’m doing well, I want to hear the things I need to improve on.”
Hill on how Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua help him improve
“They are great to be able to talk to. When I first got here, I looked up to Gunner and he always had me with the playbook. Puka has helped me be more technical. They’re both my brothers.”
Wide receiver Brayden Cosper on Fesi Sitake
“Fesi’s not a coach that puts everything on you all at once. I think he’s really good at teaching you one step at a time and easing you into things so you’re not overwhelmed. And you’re not feeling like you’re going to mess up a lot. That’s one thing I think he’s really good at.”
Wide receiver Chase Roberts on Fesi Sitake
“I love Fesi’s way of making the game fun. I’ve always loved football and he’s kept it that way as I’ve transitioned to BYU. It helps me want to get better and helps me want to help my teammates. It builds more of a unit and we all build off each other and become better every day.”
Wide receiver Kody Epps on Fesi Sitake
"He’s been the same person from the day that I met him and talked on the phone to today. He likes to make jokes but when it’s time to get serious, he gets serious.We have a really good relationship. The most he’s taught me is a positive outlook on life. Sometimes you put in a lot of work and you don’t get a good result. But it’s about doing everything you can to stick to the process and then that is the result."
Epps on the current state of the program
“We’re on the rise. It’s the interactions that we have with coaches and team interactions. Everything is gelling together and becoming one for us to be pushed forward and go do great things. That’s why I feel like we’re at the beginning of something great.”
Epps on how he chose to come to BYU
“I felt a spirit come upon me and tell me BYU was the right decision. I genuinely felt some sort of feeling that came upon me, like let’s do it.”
Epps on going to school at BYU
“My favorite classes are religion classes because of the topics we bring up. In uncomfortable conversations, I get to hear more about personalities. Teachers are smart and know what they’re talking about. They know how to say things with wisdom and intent to the point where you’re able to use that little gem of wisdom in your life.”
Tight ends coach Steve Clark on how he feels about Isaac Rex and his tight ends overall
“I feel great. You know, Isaac is a very important piece. So, if he’s good to go, I think we’re in business.”
Steve Clark on Dallin Holker
“Dallin is as good as ever. Dallin is one of the hardest working players on the team. He lives down there. He’s either lifting weights, running routes, or catching balls off the JUGS machine. He’s good.”
Steve Clark on his first impression of Masen Wake
“He comes in and Jeff Grimes says you're coaching the fullbacks and the tight ends. Mason Wake is coming with you. So, that’s when I had to get to know Mason. He came back on a crush block. He came to cut the backside and just drilled somebody, and I knew we had someone special.”
Steve Clark on the addition of Houston Heimuli
“I love Houston. He’s special. He was a captain at Stanford. He comes across as a leader. Just a natural leader.”
Steve Clark on the health of Isaac Rex
“I'm cautiously optimistic with Isaac. He feels like he's as good as ever. Structurally the ankle is as good as ever. He's wanting to go, and I just have to have his best interest and, you know, it's one thing to run around outside and seven on seven and stuff and then go through a camp. So, we'll see. We'll take it day by day and see how he recovers. But he's done everything he's supposed to. He's ahead of schedule. So, it looks positive right now.”
Steve Clark on Isaac Rex’s recovery
“He’s been amazing. He’s ahead of schedule. Every marker they’ve given him he’s beaten it. You know, you should be here at this point while he's ahead of it. We’re out recruiting, and we can’t be with him every day. He’s sending me videos of himself running and running routes. He wants to go to the next level. He’s done everything he’s supposed to do to get there. I’m optimistic but I’m careful also.”
Tight end Isaac Rex on if he has been cleared by the medical staff
“I got cleared by Dr. Fox last week. I've been running and jumping for about a month now. I'm progressively getting better at it.”
Rex on his health/recovery
“I’m feeling good. I'm running. I've been doing all the strength and conditioning stuff. The lifting/running. I feel like I'm close to 75% right now. I feel like I could get a little bit better before fall camp but I'm excited with how I’m progressing.”
Rex on his goals for the season
“When you go through an injury, it's crazy. You just want to get back on the field and prove that you can play again, so my main focus is just getting as healthy as possible and being able to go out there and help my team contribute. I'm not worried about the individual stats as much as I am proving that I can get back to playing.”
Rex on NFL players he watches to help him improve his game
“One guy I've been watching this offseason is Mercedes Lewis because he's been in the league for 15 or 16 years. He's a great technical blocker. He has really good feet, really good hands. He's a longer guy, a taller guy. But I've been really trying to watch him to see how I can improve as a blocker. Then as a pass catcher, there are a lot of good pass catchers. We've watched Kyle Pitts. We've watched Hunter Henry. I watched Kyle Rudolph. There's a lot of good pass-catching and blocking tight ends that we watch together.”
Tight end Dallin Holker on having to be flexible in Aaron Roderick’s offense
“I think it's cool because I think a lot of guys on offense are very versatile and can do a lot of different things. It's cool just because so many different guys can do so many different things. It's cool to see.”
Holker on if he sees himself more as a receiving or blocking tight end
“I really like running routes. I just think it's fun. I like the creativity that comes with it and the challenge of having to see what the defense is doing and just beating a guy one on one. I think it's fun but you know I think we're both willing to do whatever we need to help the team win in the end.”
Holker on his goals for the season
“There are individual stats, but I think the biggest thing is just winning. I mean, you know, focusing on each game individually and just doing whatever it takes to win that game. That science is the most important thing.”
Running backs coach Harvey Unga on the versatility of his backs
“The fun part with my group is every single one of them can catch. Every guy has great hands and can run a route. It's fun to see them and it's been cool to see that ARod trusts them and has implemented a lot of different things for the backs to be involved in the passing game.”
Unga on the depth at running back
“Obviously losing Ty (Allgeier) is tough. But before Ty was Ty, there was always the question of who's up next. I'm not worried about any of the guys in the room now, I feel like each and every one of the guys are capable of being that guy. I don't have to worry a ton as far as the drop off from the number one guy to the next or the next. I've got a great room and I love all the guys in there.”
Unga on the culture of his position group
“I've got so many guys in the room that have game experience. They understand the offense and what the team's about so that I don't have to tell them ‘Hey, this is what we're doing here, this is what we're doing there.’ It's cool to see Lopini Katoa and Jackson McChesney take charge. Even Chris Brooks has been a great leader. Honestly, I'd feel comfortable if these guys wanted to call a game and do their thing, I really would trust them to do it.”
Unga on the assimilation of Cal transfer Chris Brooks into the running backs room
“I think a lot of it is a testament to the boys in the room. I told them beforehand, ‘whoever it is, you bring him into our room. He's one of our brothers. We'll help him and help each other out and then see where it goes from there.”
Running back Lopini Katoa on his final season
“I just want to make the most of it and leave knowing I left it all out there. It's easy to do that knowing that it's my last year. I'm grateful to work out and run the stadium stairs even though they're terrible. It’s my last year so I'm soaking it all in. I want to leave with no regrets.”
Quarterback Jaren Hall on new addition Chris Brooks at running back
“Chris is such a good dude, first and foremost. Calmest, kindest dude who is very humble, but he’s a workhorse. There are very few people that work as hard as he does on a daily basis. He's done with school, he has his degree from CAL which is pretty impressive and now all he has is football. I'm excited to see what he does this fall, he had a great spring and I think he's earned the right to get a lot of snaps and see what he can do.”
Fullback Masen Wake on the role of fullbacks in the offense
“We’re the hammer of the offense. ARod and Coach Clark talk to us all the time about how we got to be physical. That’s true for the whole offense, but as fullbacks we're out there to smash some heads and maybe jump over them every once in a while.”
Fullback Houston Heimuli on the role he sees himself playing for the team
“I like to be almost like a fairly good band aid. You know, I'm willing to do whatever job is required of me and really bring a lot of physicality. My role I feel like is to plug any gaps that we need filled and, and hopefully, propel our running game and our offensive attack further.”
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki on player-run-practices in the offseason
“This year we have the perfect team for player-run-practices. We have so many different guys who are ready to take the lead. Our summer term freshmen have been here since last week. I was talking to defensive back Kaleb Hayes yesterday and he was saying, ‘We’re already doing individual drills with those guys, we’re teaching them.’ It’s important for those guys to get that training right out of the gate.”
Tuiaki on lessons learned from last season
“Last season we saw the cost of a guy transitioning between position groups. When a guy is going back and forth between safety and linebacker, that’s a really hard thing to do. Looking back, now we realize that, as much as we can, we need to keep one guy in one position.”
Tuiaki on developing players
“Every player needs development. I don’t care what star you are. When I was at Utah we recruited a four-star defensive tackle that everybody wanted. When he came to us, he was worse than the walk-ons. The walk-ons had been in the weight room, they knew the system and the expectations. This kid had a miserable experience because he was like, ‘I thought I was going to come and play.” Every kid needs some development.”
Tuiaki on the team’s motivation in 2022
“The way the season ended had a silver lining. It was not fun to lose the way we did in the Independence Bowl, but the silver lining is that these guys are hungry. They are ready to get after it. They know the expectations are higher. They know they can do better, they should do better. Going into the offseason, the players put it on themselves to be better and do more.”
Linebacker coach Kevin Clune on the depth of the linebacking core
"I could name five guys that you would consider starters and I can make five more that you know their names. I have so much depth and leadership that it's gonna be awesome to see these guys work and find ways to make a difference on this team."
Clune on impact of Keenan Pili and Payton Wilgar returning from injuries
"They bring a whole lot of leadership. Both of those guys are great examples of hard work, understanding football and Kenan is maybe a little quieter, but he's always doing the right thing, always working to find ways to make an impact. Payton is a little more vocal, but he also has a very wide skill set…He's a great teacher in what he does and having those two guys back on the field will help us handle business."
Clune on next step for middle linebacker Keenan Pili
"Yeah, I think just figuring out all the different little things, being efficient every single play, knowing what he should be doing and this is how he's gonna make a contribution. Also, becoming that more consistent player that can grade out at a 91, 93, 95."
Clune on Pili
"He's a top notch player. In the film room when we're making corrections, I don't have to explain because when the clip comes out, he's already saying, “Coach, I should have done this.” So I don't do a ton of coaching with him, but instead just check in to keep him on the right track."
"Keenan is just a ball player. He played safety in high school, but he has linebacker instincts and just understands how to get out there and make plays. He’s a tremendous player and I love coaching him."
Linebacker Keenan Pili on having to learn by watching
“Yeah, it's obviously hard watching from the sidelines. It was a cool learning experience for me to take on a coaching role, but I felt more like a student because I was learning the game, learning from the mistakes or their successes from the team. Overall it was good to be there for them and to still be a part of the team even though I couldn’t play.”
Pili on measures of success for this season
“I think we just need to keep doing better each and every day. I feel like we've been building since you know when Kalani came in 2016 and the program has been improving each year.”
Pili on personal goals
“My personal goal each day is to get mentally sharper and smarter on the field and then I just want to stay healthy. That's obviously a goal for me. I have learned a lot about my body over the past year and I am going to take extra care, extra time each day to make sure I’m all good.”
Pili on motivations for this season
“We didn’t finish the season how we wanted to last year, so that's definitely a motivation. I feel like as a whole, a lot of the players who I’ve talked to feel like they have a lot to prove so they can impact and do more for the team.”
Defensive ends/Hybrids coach Preston Hadley on sophomore defensive end Tyler Batty
“Tyler Batty played his best football this last spring. He has an opportunity to have a very good season with how he’s developed his body and his football IQ.”
Hadley on senior defensive end Earl Tuioti-Mariner
“Earl Tuioti-Mariner is versatile. He will play both defensive tackle inside or strong end for us outside. We’re really excited to have him back. When healthy, he’s a very good football player. He’s very athletic, very strong. He has a natural feel for recognizing blocking schemes.”
Hadley on sophomore defensive end Fisher Jackson
“Fisher Jackson is a young guy who saw some time down the stretch last season. He will play outside end for us this season and has a chance to play a pretty significant role. He had a good fall camp and a good spring. He’s getting bigger and stronger, and continuing to understand the position.”
Hadley on sophomore defensive end Blake Mangelson
“Blake Mangelson came out of nowhere last year. He also had a very good spring. He continues to get stronger. He’s tall, long and athletic. He has a wrestling background as well that allows him to better understand leverage. He has a natural feel that you can’t teach.”
Sophomore defensive end Tyler Batty on the defensive line’s goals in 2022
“As a defensive line we need to make sure that our run defense comes first every game. When we have the opportunity to get to the quarterback, we need to get there. This season we need to get after it and get off the field.”
Senior defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner on how the defense can improve in 2022
“This season we can improve in our execution and at getting to the quarterback. Coach Tuiaki has also wanted us to get bigger so we can dominate the line of scrimmage and we have been able to get bigger since spring ball.”
Tuioti-Mariner on the importance of depth
“It means we have more guys to rely on. If one guy goes down, it means we have another guy who has playing experience who can step in.”
Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford on experience of his group
"My expectations are pretty high for my guys every year, but with all those guys having the experience they do, my expectations for them to push each other and hold each other accountable are very high. I’m talking about right now. Not fall camp or during the season. My expectations for their preparation are very high."
Gilford on staying hungry after two successful seasons
“We need to have a week to week mentality regardless of who you’ve beat or what you’ve done. This is a whole new year. What we did last year has nothing to do with this year.”
Gilford on the personalities of his group
“I love my room. Everyday there’s jokes, sayings, and personality. It brings out the best in everybody. We have fun moments everyday, I promise you there’s not a dull day throughout the year without something happening.”
Gilford on Cornerback D’Angelo Mandell
“If he can continue to do everything that he’s been doing and now start to make plays at a high rate, he’ll literally take off.”
Gilford on Gabe Jeudy-Lally’s decision to come to BYU
“The players really took him in and let him know that it’s really a family community. I mean, with the administration, everybody. He fell in love with everything about the school.”
Cornerback Kaleb Hayes on the mindset of the team entering the season
“Try to stay humble and stay hungry. When I’m out there I can’t take the earlier things we’ve accomplished for granted.”
Hayes on what he hopes to accomplish this season
“Keep working on my ball skills, force turnovers, and get comfortable within our defense.”
Hayes on why he transferred to BYU
"I knew about the winning culture here and wanted to be surrounded by teammates that care. And from what coach Jernaro Gilford explained to me, I realized that the program is growing into something even bigger than what it is now. I just wanted to be a part of that success and up the output. I mainly came here for football, but I’m here for my friends and it’s a better fit for my family. I think everything happens for a reason, you know, God has helped me get through any adversity in my life. And, my mom loves that I’m here."
Cornerback D'Angelo Mandell on on what he hopes to accomplish this season
"Staying consistent is the biggest thing I’m looking for. You play good one or two games and need to make sure you stay consistent throughout the season."
Mandell on the team mindset entering the season
“We need to stay humble, but at the same time, we know what we can do. We’re all good players, so we’re excited.”
Safety Malik Moore on the biggest thing he learned last season
“I need to tackle a little more. Finish takeaways. I’m just working on my craft trying to get better. I’m not too worried about last year because I can’t get that year back. Defenses in general you have to have a short memory. For me, that short term memory is working right now. I’m just trying to get better this year.”
Moore on the expectations for the defense this season
“Tackling. More turnovers. Fixing the mistakes/issues we had last year.”
Kicker Jake Oldroyd on his goals for the upcoming season
“Not miss. Make everything. We want to have fun. I don't ever want to miss two kicks in a row. Missing is usually inevitable when you go through the whole season, you're going to miss kicks here and there but I want to be able to bounce back effectively and always make the next one.”
“I'd like to get my kickoffs a little bit more refined and be a little bit more consistent in terms of placement. And then rack up as many points as I can for us.”
“I also want to improve our net kickoff yardage, work with coverage teams to do better at pinning teams on kickoffs. On a more broad scale I would love the BYU long field goal record.” (Current record is 56, he’s hit 54s in game and says he has the leg to beat the record).
“I don't think I'm too far off the all-time points record for BYU, so that would be cool. Ultimately the bottom line is I just have to make my kicks and the rest falls into place.”
Oldroyd on his final season
“I'm quite confident of where I'm at. This is my fifth season, and I can take another after this one. I won't, this will be my last season because that's where I'm at in life and school. I'd love to play at the next level, so we'll see where that goes.” (Oldroyd will graduate in December with a degree in accounting and Spanish.)
Punter Ryan Rehkow on his goals for the upcoming season
“We strive to be the best. I know that we can be the best and so this is the year where we got to go out and prove that every game and every single attempt.”
“I think a bigger focus on net punt yards. So, just being on the same page with my coverage team and putting them in the best spots to be able to limit those returns. And then as well with holding, giving Jake a perfect hold every time. We're striving for perfection.”
“Another goal is no touchbacks. Whether that happens or not is sometimes down to chance with the way the ball will bounce.”
Offensive line coach Darrell Funk on transfer additions to the offensive line
"We add Kingsley (Suamataia) into the mix along with Sione Veikoso, the transfer from Arizona State. Sione was recruited here and really wanted to come here and the numbers didn’t work out at the time. He’s long, he’s athletic. He’s a great addition to our roster."
Wide receiver Gunner Romney on the new transfers at running back, Chris Brooks and Houston Heimuli
“They got in before spring ball even started and so it feels like they’re a part of the team right now. They hang out with everybody and are good friends with everybody. They’re both very personable people, very easy to get along with and very social.”
Fullback Houston Heimuli on his transition from Stanford
“It's been really smooth mainly because you know, I know a lot of guys on the team anyways and then I have a family here, so those connections just made it easy.”
Heimuli on his decision to come to BYU
“It’s home. I grew up watching BYU football since I was three.”
Heimuli on how he sees himself fit as a leader on the team
“BYU has a lot of great leaders on the team anyways, and I've never seen so many guys want to step up and take charge. It's more like lending my help whenever needed.”
Freshman offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia on transferring from Oregon to BYU
“Being close to home is one of the biggest blessings in my life. Being around a team, having people that actually care about you is really something that’s different. That’s something that means a lot to me.”
Running backs coach Harvey Unga on the assimilation of Cal transfer Chris Brooks into the running backs room
"I think a lot of it is a testament to the boys in the room. I told them beforehand, ‘whoever it is, you bring him into our room. He's one of our brothers. We'll help him and help each other out and then see where it goes from there."
Cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford on Gabe Jeudy-Lally’s decision to come to BYU
“The players really took him in and let him know that it’s really a family community. I mean, with the administration, everybody. He fell in love with everything about the school.”