Week two concludes in the sun with outdoor practice


PROVO, Utah – Thanks to some warmer weather, BYU football finished up its second week of spring practices on Friday afternoon with its first session on the outdoor practice fields. 

The Cougars were in full pads again, dialing up more physicality as spring ball rolls on. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, quarterback Kedon Slovis and defensive lineman Caden Haws met with members of the media briefly following the practice session. Read select comments below. 

Head coach Kalani Sitake
“This has been a great second week of practice. We’ve been very physical and done a lot of tackling both today and on Monday. We’ve done a lot of live work, even with the ones, more than we’ve done in the past. I think it’s good for our guys to get used to this solid defense and it’s important for what we want to accomplish in run defense. We also played some situational football today with short-yardage and goal-line situations toward the end of practice. For the most part, guys are healthy. Some guys are banged up but that’s going to happen. After the first six practices, I’m happy with where we’re headed. There are good things I’m seeing from our players right now. I’ve seen a lot of progress from day one to day six in practices and meetings. Guys are stepping up and making plays in all three phases of the game. I’m happy with the way offense, defense and special teams are working.”

On where he’s seen the most progress
“I’ve seen a lot of progress in our punt team and that’s probably because [Ryan] Rehkow is such a great veteran. We’re a lot further ahead than we’ve been previously. I would like to see our place-kicking be where we want it to be but we’re utilizing all the practice time for it. Coach Kelly Poppinga is doing a lot of drill work with the special teams and we’ve been able to see a lot of guys that can have a role there. Coach Poppinga puts a lot of attention to detail into special teams.”

On the place-kickers
Matthias Dunn, Will Ferrin and Justen Smith are all competing for that job right now. We’ll see who steps up and takes the prize because it’s up for grabs right now.”

On the offensive line
“There are some new guys but we also have a lot of veterans. I feel good about the group that’s there and the talent we have. I feel good about our two-deep. It’s just a matter of competing and getting the young guys up to where we want them to be.”

On the defensive line
“[Defensive line coach] Sione Po’uha has done a great job helping the interior defensive line to be disruptive and get in the backfield. Stopping the run starts with those guys. Kelly Poppinga has done a great job with the defensive ends. It starts up front first and then makes the job easier for the linebackers. Tyler Batty has done some good things this spring. I’ve been very impressed. He is a lot further ahead than I thought he would be and is really starting to come into his own. I don’t usually talk about individuals, but I think he’s a guy that stands out quite a bit. Isaiah Bagnah has done a great job too. Then there are other guys in the mix like Blake Mangelson, Aisea Moa and Michael Daley that we think can get some valuable reps and make that defensive end position very solid.”

On the defense overall
“The defense has made a huge step forward. Our defensive coaches have done an amazing job getting the most out of their guys. It’s not what our players are used to, but they are excited to become more comfortable with the technique and the scheme we’re asking them to execute. I’m very excited about what I’m seeing, especially today. Today was a huge step forward for our defense.”

Quarterback Kedon Slovis
“Today was good. There were more short yardage goal line situations, so not a ton of throws. But that stuff’s important. Those are big situations, fourth and one, third and one, and I thought the offense converted well.”

On the offensive objectives for spring ball
“A lot of it is just getting guys reps and learning. I think you kind of see improvement with everyone and getting certain guys to certain places and keeping guys healthy too. Again, I think just getting better within the offense and running effectively. I think when you get in those situations, the ones you want to do well in you learn from it, but also you want to execute and I  think we executed well today.”

On how to improve timing with wide receivers
“Just reps. I think it’s been good so far. There's still like a few routes, you know, the double moves and stuff like that everyone's a little different. So, you need a lot of reps with those guys and I'm not saying that's where it is needs to be by right now but it's close and it's there and we'll get better and better as the season comes. I’m not really worried about it because whenever those guys want to throw or whatever I want to, those guys are always out there getting reps in. We'll get it ironed out. I know where their spot is going to be and I kind of just throw it to a spot and they are usually there.”

On his comfort in the offense.
“Very comfortable. You think you know the offense and you can draw it up on the board. But once you get out there with signals and bullets flying its little bit different. I feel like now you kind of know the offense like the back of your hand and it just gets easier and easier then. I think by day six, I hope most guys kind of feel like it's been pretty to pick up.”

Defensive tackle Caden Haws
“I thought the defense looked great today. We got a bunch of stops in the four-minute drill, and everybody is doing their job and looking really good, so we’re excited.”

On the new defensive role this year
“I think you guys have heard a little already, but the defensive role is way more aggressive this year. We get to fire off the ball and create some havoc, which is way different. I think it’s the way everyone likes to play defense. We have gotten accustomed to it pretty quick, so now it’s just dialing-in our technique and making everything perfect.”

Biggest challenge with how defense is being played this year
“I honestly think it makes everything easier. You still have to know your assignment, but after you know that, you can turn the brain off and just react. I think this style of play allows for a little more complimentary football, which our coaches talk about a lot. We want to help the offense, they do everything they can to help us out, and special teams is helping everyone out, so it’s the same thing between us and the backend. The more pressure we get, the less time they have to cover for. So if they know they only have to cover for a few seconds, they can battle and fight their hearts out, and the play will be over.”

On Coach Sione Po’uha
“Coach Po’uha is great, we really love him. He played in the league for a long time, so it’s fun to learn from a guy who played our position for a long time at such a high level. He is a great teacher who helps us understand the technique, the fundamentals and the scheme, so he has been a great addition to our defensive room.”

On embracing the new coaching staff
“Everybody is completely bought-in, which I think is just part of Kalani’s culture that he has established here. We are here to love and learn, and accepting our new coaches is the same thing. We love them, they have been fantastic for us so far, and we have learned a ton from them already.”