PROVO, UTAH – BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake and select players addressed the media on Monday in preparation for Saturday's season opener against South Florida at 4 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Watch and read interviews from Coach Sitake, quarterback Jaren Hall, linebacker Payton Wilgar and offensive lineman Clark Barrington.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake (Video)
"Game week is here and we are really excited about it. I'm looking forward to getting the team ready, polishing things up for this week and making sure that we're ready for this trip. We're heading out a couple days early, like we normally do when we go out east, we have an opportunity to practice a couple times out there in that environment, and we’re looking forward to the matchup.
We’re expecting a really good, well-coached team from South Florida. We don't know a lot about them because even though they have a lot of returning production, they've also added some transfers from the portal. So, there are some new bodies there, specifically with their quarterback Bohannan. He is someone that we're familiar with, he has a lot of ability, athleticism and ability to control the ball.
There is a lot of unknown still. We don't know much about what they do on offense or on defense with the new coordinators that they have. So, we will have to be ready for everything and we're preparing that way. That happens sometimes in season openers like last year against Arizona. We didn't know a whole lot going into that game and I think this is very similar.
We have an idea, but they could do a lot of different things. Once the game starts, we will do our best with the schemes and strategies and then let the boys play and settle it on the field. I know our guys are looking forward to the matchup, it’s going be a lot of fun."
On the impact of the sports scientists that have been added to the staff
"Two men specifically, that they are talking about or Coleby Clawson and Skyler Mayne Those two additions to our staff have been huge. They have the background to connect the strength room with the training room and then also using data and research to help get our guys in the optimal position for success. Looking at that I think it's been good for them. We've talked about being healthy.
I like having them on our team, having them combine working with sports medicine and working with the strength room. I think it's a really good system that we have in place right now and I’m just really thankful that they're here. We now have a better understanding of where we could push guys and how we could push them. Everything we do is very deliberate and how we approach the game and we'll see how it works this weekend going into Saturday."
On finally getting back to game week
You guys have been waiting for this moment too. Right? Fans are feeling that way, so you can imagine how the players and the coaches are feeling. We're excited for football to be back here, it was cool to watch week zero last week, preseason NFL games and high school football games are going on. We're right at the beginning of it and I like the next few months. I'm excited for it and the guys are especially excited.
It doesn't matter who it is a fans, media, staff, faculty, everybody's excited about football, so definitely the players in the coaches are too."
Quarterback Jaren Hall (Video)
On the team’s recent success in season-openers
"It’s important because you have all summer and fall camp to prepare for your first opponent. You have more time to study their scheme, plays and watching film than for a normal game week. The more you can burn all of that into your memory, then when you’re in the stadium, you can turn off your brain, stop thinking and go have fun. You can allow all your preparation to come out through your energy."
On the benefit of traveling to Tampa two days early
"It’s very beneficial because of the time zone change. You get a couple of extra hours to rest. You also get an extra practice out there in the weather and can adapt to it".
On what he expects from himself this season
"I expect myself to manage games properly, to be the most prepared person on the team, to keep my team ahead of the chains and help them be in the best position possible to make plays. That’s all I’m asked to do. That’s what every quarterback ought to do to the best of their abilities."
On the challenges of facing a South Florida team with a new defensive coordinator
"The challenge for the first game of any season with a new opposing coordinator and players is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. You have a lot of film to pull from past years and different teams where those coordinators have been. Last year against Arizona, we didn’t get what we expected and that could be the case again this year. We just have to have the mental fortitude to see what’s going to happen, accept it if it’s different, make adjustments at halftime and go play ball. At the end of the day, you have to execute your basic plays better than they do."
On head coach Kalani Sitake’s desire for Hall to play with aggression
"It gives me confidence. Kalani trusts us. That’s why we do what we do on third and fourth down. Kalani wants us to have confidence. He trusts us and is willing to put the game in our hands. His trust allows us to play freely, not worry about making mistakes and just go play ball."
Linebacker Payton Wilgar (Video)
On how it feels to be so close to game day
“It’s pretty unbelievable. It came quick, but we’ve been putting in the work in the offseason and we’re just really excited to show what we’ve done.”
On preparing for USF’s game plan
"The main thing is focusing most on what we’re going to do and executing our own plays. Last year against USF, we started off hot and kind of eased off a little bit, and that’s not who we are. We need to play BYU football and that’s four quarters of tough, physical football. Coach Clune is a big film guy, so we’re always in the film room and studying their plans and players. We’ve watched them quite a bit and obviously they’ve got a few transfers like Gerry Bohanon from Baylor. We’re excited to get out there and show what we can do.”
On traveling to Florida two days in advance
“I think it helps to get out there and relax a little bit and adjust to that time zone. Once we get out there, there’s limited distractions. We’re in the hotel and can really focus up and get ready for the game.”
On how the defense plans to prove itself this season
“We’re super hungry. We have a chip on our shoulder and we want to build on last year. We’ve got some injured guys that are back now and we’ve been together for a few years. This is the year we can have a huge impact on the game.”
On recovering from his shoulder injury/surgery last year and overall health
“I’ve been super blessed with the surgery and the rehab. It doesn’t necessarily feel like I had surgery, it felt like I just took some time off and that my shoulders feel better than they ever have at BYU. I haven’t gone with a lot of live, tackle football but I feel really good.”
Offensive lineman Clark Barrington (Video)
On what he enjoys about week one
"It’s always a fun time of the year. It’s a time when you get to show off all of the work you’ve been putting in. We’re all looking forward to is showing what we can do with the work we put in this offseason."
On the key to being successful in game one
"We need to control what we can control and execute the way we should. That’s our big goal going into this game."
On what he’s learned since his first career start at South Florida on Oct. 12, 2019
"We’re different from when we were down there the first time. We’ve grown as players and as a team. We’ve improved a lot. We’re excited to go back down there and show what we can do."
On the pressure to live up to the offensive line’s preseason accolades
"We know that those preseason accolades are nothing unless we live up to those standards. That’s what we’re aiming for."