Running backs showing progress in fall camp
PROVO, Utah – The Cougars continued the first full week of fall camp with its fourth practice session on Monday evening.
A Look at the Running Backs
New BYU running back coach AJ Steward will have a lot of options with 13 running backs on the 2018 roster. Last season’s leading rusher Squally Canada, who has a career total of 1,026 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, returns for his senior season at BYU. Canada rushed for 213 yards against UNLV last season, which ranks No. 10 among all BYU rushers in a single game.
Redshirt freshman Zach Katoa led the scout team last year and has made an impact throughout spring ball and into fall camp. Junior Riley Burt, who has shown improvements in spring and fall ball, is also expected to help out during the 2018 season.
New to the position after transitioning from quarterback, Beau Hoge is making strides and is looking to earn playing time on the field. He is joined by linebackers Matt Hadley and Johnny Tapusoa and safety Tanner Jacobson as defensive players last season who have also transitioned to running back.
Senior Brayden El-Bakri returns as the starting fullback with sophomore Kyle Griffitts and junior Tapusoa also competing for playing time. Juniors KJ Hall and Kavika Fonua are currently working their way back from injuries but look to bring their experience to the group. BYU also adds returned missionary Sione Finau to the roster along with fellow freshman Tyler Allgeier out of Fontana, California.
The following quotes are from Monday’s post-practice media availability.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake
"We had a good day off yesterday. I thought the guys did well. We threw in a bunch of stuff on offense and defense. I’m really pleased with the mental stuff. There were a few mistakes. I think that’s a part of every practice, but I’m seeing good things from both sides of the ball and on special teams as well."
On the offense today
"The offense looked good today. Obviously, defensively you want to disrupt some of the timing on their passes and get to the quarterback. They’ve done a great job handling the offensive scheme and the install. If you ask the defensive guys, they’re probably having too much success and the offensive guys aren’t having enough. I don’t know if there’s anything really alarming that I’m seeing. I see us progressing the right way and if we keep this up offensively, I’ll be really happy."
On the running backs
"I’m really excited with what I’ve seen from Squally for the running backs. I think Beau is really starting to fit into his position. He’s so natural out of the backfield and catching the ball. We have put him in a lot of different places and he blocks well too. Zach Katoa, Matt Hadley and Riley Burt are doing some good things too. From those five guys, someone will emerge. I think Squally is doing a great job having a lot of experience behind him right now. I’m seeing a lot of good things from the others, but Beau is sneaking up."
On the depth of the cornerbacks
"Good, its a lot better. We have more bodies. We added Beau Tanner back and he got a lot of reps in today so that helped. I like the group and we should be able to play more than the two corners. That’s why we felt comfortable moving Dayan and Troy to safety because they can play both."
Offensive Coordinator Jeff Grimes
On playbook knowledge
“Overall, in terms of our knowledge of the scheme, I’m pleased with where we are. We are a little bit ahead of where most groups would be at this time of the year, which is a credit to what the players have done this summer. Our overall knowledge is good, but certainly not perfect. We still have a lot to go, but we have a lot of our offense playbook down for only practicing a few days. I’m really pleased with where we’re at in terms of knowledge.”
“We basically took everything that we did before and started again with an installation on day one of fall camp. I would say at this point we’re at about 65 percent of what we will have once we finish the playbook installation. We should be at about 90 percent by the end of this week.”
On the quarterbacks
"They’ve all improved. They are all in a position where they know more about the game than they did before. They’re getting rid of the ball quicker, their anticipation is better. You can tell that they’ve thrown the ball a lot with our receivers this summer, so I think the chemistry between our quarterbacks and receivers is better than it was in the spring. Like any other position, there’s still a lot of work to do, but I’m pleased with what I see from those guys so far."
On Beau Hoge’s position change
"We’ve always known that Beau Hoge is a guy who can do a number of different things and there’s still the possibility of him playing other positions as well. He’s got good hands and an ability to run, so we wanted to see what he could do there. He’s a very good natural athlete. He’s got good feet, good size, excellent hands and he’s a very good route runner. He’s one of those guys that we could put at three or four positions and he could probably compete for playing time."
Running back coach AJ Steward
On playing multiple running back
"We want to be really multiple in what we can do on offense and having depth at every position is important for us. In the spring, we came out with a few guys who showed us what they can do, but we feel like we need more depth. There may be times when we want to have three running backs on the field and if you only have three in your room then you limit yourself. We have some guys that can really get it done but also some guys that are willing to do what’s best for the team, and that’s what those moves were about."
What he’s looking for in the starter
"I’m looking for the guy that can execute the most consistently. Obviously, playmaking goes into it, but I’d rather have a guy who knows what they’re doing and I know what I’m going to get out of them. I’m really just looking for the most consistent guy and the one I can rely on in situational football, that I know I can count on when adversity hits."
On Squally Canada
"He’s had a phenomenal fall. Not only am I impressed with what he’s done physically, but mentally he’s developed as a player. It’s 20 minutes after practice and he’s still helping the young guys out. He’s really grown up a lot and I think he’s really assumed the role of leader in group. He’s the oldest guy in our group as far as playing years and I’m very pleased with his maturity and his want for our team to be successful."
Running back Squally Canada
Thoughts on offensive scheme
On Beau Hoge at running back
Beau is doing really well, I’m happy for him. He was a quarterback, so he already knew all the plays and stuff. It was just about the little details with him. He has a really good grasp of it and he caught on really fast. He’s an athlete.
On Coach Steward
He’s a perfectionist. He wants everybody to be exact and on point with everything they do and in the little details on and off the field. He holds everybody to the same standard, no matter if you’re the starter or the fifth string. He wants you to do everything precise.
Quarterback Zach Wilson
On assessing where he is at right now
“I’ve got to give all the credit to my whole team. It’s just execution across the board. We’ve been installing the same offense since spring so coming out the coaches expected us to know what we were doing, and I think we executed well for having the summer off. I think we executed well for our first day and for the rest of this fall we have been completing a lot of passes and there are huge holes up the middle for our running game.”
Thoughts on offense
“I would say all the quarterbacks definitely know the formations a lot better and we know exactly what everyone is supposed to be in. I would say that the understanding and confidence of the offense for everybody is dramatically different.”
On coming in during spring
“That was the best decision I’ve ever made. I learned the offense the same time as everybody else and the comfort level now is huge because I know exactly what’s going on. The execution takes it to another level because you know what’s going on and can worry about other things.”
Defensive linemen Corbin Kaufusi
On improving the pass rushing
“I think a lot of it is just experience in general and a sense of urgency. We’ve got to be better at getting up field and hitting our moves. I think a lot of times guys were hesitant in their reading, but this year since everyone has a little bit more experience, it is more of going and not having to think as much. I think there are just a lot of little things I’ve been working on, not just personally but as a whole defensive line. Everybody has made strides in their own ways and that has been good for us.”
On evaluating the defensive line
“I think we are in a good spot, but at the same time there is a lot to work on. I think the guys are doing pretty well with the way we are running things and have good physicality, but our technique still needs to grow. In the offseason, you can work so much without pads on but as a lineman it’s a whole different game when you can put the pads on.”
Difference of being big brother compared to little brother
“It’s different, but I love just having a brother on the team. These guys are all my brothers to be honest. I treat my little brother just like how I treat any of the other guys.”