BYU Football 2021 Media Day Quotes
PROVO, Utah – BYU hosted its 10th National Football Media Day on Thursday, June 17, at the BYU Broadcasting Building in advance of the 2021 season.
Scroll below to read quotes from players and coaches.
Head coach Kalani Sitake on playing in front of fans this year:
We had tremendous support last year, we felt it whether the stands were full or not, we knew that they support our team. But it’s going to be nice to see them and to hear it. I know we’ve been looking forward to this, and the fact that Media Day is here means that football is right around the corner.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick on the upcoming season:
The schedule is definitely challenging. We're, we're excited about it, but I spend a lot of time thinking about what we're up against. We are really looking forward to it, but also recognize how tough this season will be.
Passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on overall schedule:
You know you have a good team when the leadership and ownership starts from within. These guys know the schedule we’re up against and they know the mission they’re on. They are excited about it and are open to the challenge.
Assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and safeties coach Ed Lamb on overall program schedule:
Our players are certainly geeked up about the fact that we’re playing more power five teams next year. We have this schedule that everybody’s excited about and is definitely changing the way that they train. In no way though is it changing our process. We have a process and it is the same no matter who we play. We’re going to train just as hard in the offseason and give every single opponent the respect that they deserve.
Punter Ryan Rehkow on playing in front of fans this season:
We didn’t have any of this last season, and with last year being my first year I didn’t know any better. So, all of this is an eye-opening experience for me and I’m excited to get in front of some fans.
Head coach Kalani Sitake on the introduction of Built 4 Life:
I think with flexibility, there are so many different variables with name, image and likenesses that’s something that is needed by our program and by our athletic department to help take care of these kids. That flexibility allows us to take advantage of that situation and the wonderful partners that we have as they mentor and educate our young student-athletes into transitioning from their youth to being an adult.
Running backs coach Harvey Unga on Built4Life:
I think it will be huge. It's so different from when I was here. Never in my life did I imagine all the possibilities and opportunities that these kids have now.
Linebackers coach Kevin Clune on Built 4 Life:
There's going to be an 'after football' part of your life. I think it's just another great thing that makes BYU unique
Offensive Coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick on the impact Zach Wilson had on this year's quarterback room:
I think all three of those quarterbacks were watching Zach very closely last year. Zach was in the zone last year where he was just playing such a high level with so much confidence, and most of those guys were paying close attention not only to what he did in the games but the way he operated throughout the game. They were trying to match his understanding of the game, it wasn't just the on-field stuff. I think all three of them would say they learned a lot from watching him.
Quarterback Jacob Conover on the offense:
Coach A-Rod and this offense really helps produce NFL players. It’s taken a couple of years to get this offense rolling, but now it's a high-powered full-function offense, and it's just ready to rock and roll in its prime.
Quarterback Jaren Hall on if the quarterback battle can rattle confidence:
After every single play, you forget it and you move forward. If you do play like that, you're playing to not mess up versus playing free. It's how Kalani pushes us to play, it's how the coaches push us to play, to play free and not worry about those mistakes.
Quarterback Baylor Romney on the talent on the offensive side of the ball:
They’re explosive, and it doesn't matter who's on the field when we're throwing right now. They’re all looking really good. It's good for all of the quarterbacks – that there are so many weapons on the perimeter this year.
Running backs coach Harvey Unga on the running backs carrying a heavy load this year:
I tell them that all the time, and that's one of the things that we talk about in our room, is carrying the load and carrying the burden. I want the pressure on us. The more pressure we can take on us, I feel like will help out everybody else in the offense.
Unga on how the running backs have developed this offseason:
The transformation from the offseason, it's unreal. They look totally different. Lopini Katoa looks like a totally new guy, a lot bigger, faster, stronger, and I think it's come across the whole entire room where they're all just pushing themselves along and nobody seems to be complacent.
Running back Lopini Katoa on Tyler Allgeier's breakout season:
For the people on the outside looking in, Tyler came out of nowhere. But for those of us who see what’s happening, he didn’t. I always knew Tyler was a great running back and that he was going to be somebody who got a lot of carries. When he came up and the coaches gave him the opportunity, I wasn’t shocked at all when he started doing the things that he did. His success also pushes me to be better. We compete with each other, so his success made me better.
Running back Tyler Allgeier on the running back group:
We’re going to come in and prove the haters wrong. We have the pieces of the puzzle; we’re just going to fit it all together. This offseason we’re all working hard just to do our part. So, I think that we’re going to have a really good season, but obviously, we’re going to take it game-by-game. We’re working to do our part to perfect our craft, to do our one-eleventh on the field.
Passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on the group of receivers:
I have some hard decisions to make, but that’s a problem I like to have. They’re special athletes, they’re special people. It’s one of those deals where I take a step back and be like, what did I do to deserve this problem, having so many good guys to work with.
Fesi Sitake on what he’s looking forward to this season:
The most gratifying part of the job is seeing hard work pay off. That’s what I’m most excited for heading into any season, is to see guys who put so much time, effort and sweat into their craft and to see them improve and get better.
Fesi Sitake on the relationship between new and returning players:
Guys like Gunner Romney and Neil Pau'u have no insecurities about new guys coming in. They’ve accepted them with open arms and have taught them things and have been getting them on board. It’s been really cool to just see the team chemistry of these guys and the acceptance of just bringing these guys in and teaching them the offense, so I’m really happy with where they’re at right now.
Fesi Sitake on wide receiver Gunner Romney:
He’s really taken ownership of not just the receiver room, but the overall offensive team. He’s not afraid to speak up if guys are slacking, or to remind guys that things are going up. The biggest thing I’ve seen from him this offseason is how he’s grown as a leader.
Wide receiver Samson Nacua on joining BYU:
You see what they did here last year, and that doesn’t come as a fluke. You’ve got to be working hard in order to do that stuff. I’ve been hanging out with the guys after practice, going to play basketball a little bit and just getting to know them. It’s been really fun.
Wide receiver Puka Nacua on his teammates:
I’m trying to learn as much as I can. They’ve got some tricks already being in the offense that I’m trying to pick up on, and we’re always talking and trying to learn from each other.
Tight ends coach Steve Clark on Isaac Rex’s improvements in spring ball:
Isaac had a great spring. He's down about five pounds right now but he looks really good. He looks more explosive and we've spent time working together learning the intricacies of the offense that he was thrown into last year, so we're getting to be more detailed in his techniques both in the run and the passing game.
Tight end Isaac Rex on the role of tight ends:
We're just gonna keep running our offense. When you have so many weapons, it's hard for a defense to really game plan for that and it's hard for the defense to try to stop all the different packages. We're definitely going to keep doing what we're doing and I don't think a whole lot will change.
Offensive line coach Darrell Funk on arriving at BYU, spring ball and the offseason:
The recruiting part has been crazy during these last couple of weeks. I arrived at BYU about three or four weeks before spring ball, so that was a whirlwind. Spring ball and getting back to recruiting has been fun. It’s been busy but in a really good way.
Funk on center James Empey:
You always hope that your players who are returning can be like coaches on the field, but the reality of it is that some kids may have started 20 or 25 games and they don’t naturally lead or teach. James is the opposite. He’s very humble, very experienced and a terrific player. He’s like a coach on the field. When your best coach on the field and your most experienced guy is the center, that’s awesome.
Funk on adjusting to coaching at BYU:
Everything we do, I have done during my career at some point, and I’ve been coaching for 34 years. I think I put our players at ease when I said during our second meeting, "We’re not going to change the terminology. You guys have done a great job. I love the system. I have coached all of this. I’m going to come in and learn your terminology."
Funk on the 2021 offensive line and his approach moving forward:
We lost some really good players but we have some guys that have played a lot of football coming back as well. Our offensive linemen have good fundamentals but there are some things I’ve done and had success with that I think we can branch off and take to another level. I’m excited about the group and the way they worked in the spring. How they’re working in the summer is unbelievable. We’re going to need that. That’s how you build a program regardless of the success you had last years.
Center James Empey on where he can improve this season:
I think communication is really important. As I rewatch last season’s games, I feel like here were moments where we lacked some communication that could’ve helped us. That falls on my shoulders. I take that and I know I need to get better at communicating and seeing things and helping guys through it. I could go through a whole list of things I need to get better at.
Empey on offensive line coach Darrell Funk:
Coach Funk is a great man. He cares about everybody on the offensive line and on the team. He tries to work with everybody and understand how they learn. I can feel that he really wants to help us get better. He’s been in the game a long time and coached at a lot of different places. He has some good knowledge to share. He’s done a great job at keeping our momentum while also helping us grow and learn a little more.
Offensive lineman Clark Barrington on seeing the success of former BYU offensive linemen in the NFL:
I think it’s great because it helps us understand that making it to the NFL is a reality. It’s not just some dream out there in la-la-land. It’s possible, but only possible through good work ethic. It’s not a coincidence that Brady Christensen, Tristen Hoge and Chandon Herring made it to the NFL. It’s because they put in the work, grinded every day and tried to get better.
Defensive coordinator and defensive tackles coach 'Ilaisa Tuiaki on the defensive scheme and packages:
The positions on the depth chart show multiple defensive packages. We don’t use everything every single week. We hone in on certain packages based on whoever we’re playing that week. It looks really confusing on the depth chart, but once you hone in on the packages, and everybody knows ‘this is what I’m doing this week,’ it makes it a little bit easier.
Tuiaki on the status of the interior defensive line:
Earl Tuioti-Mariner and Gabe Summers really stuck out this spring in a good way. I think they’re going to be good players for us this year. Caden Haws is also a guy who had a limited role last year, but he is going to step up and play for us this year. We also get Atunaisa Mahe back after he was out last year for medical reasons. I feel good about these interior guys being able to fill in the shoes of those who left last year.
Tuiaki on Uriah Leiataua returning this season:
He wasn’t healthy last season and he missed half of it. We don’t have a lot of experience at the defensive end spot, and he brings a lot of experience. It will be huge to have him back.
Defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua on coming back:
Once I broke my leg, ‘Ilaisa was already getting a waiver ready for me to come back because I missed the whole year. It was weird because although we had a great year, last year was very unsatisfying for me personally. I felt like the team needed me and I have a lot of unfinished business, so coming back was hardly a question.
Linebackers coach Kevin Clune on working with the linebackers:
The kids that I work with on a daily basis are awesome kids. I love being in their lives. They push me to be a better coach and a better man, and their example every day is like a light in my life right now. I can't say that enough. These are unique kids, tremendous young men and their families have done great jobs raising these guys.
Defensive coordinator and defensive tackles coach 'Ilaisa Tuiaki on the linebackers:
The linebacker group is the strength of our defense. We've got a lot of experience coming back with Payton Wilgar, Keenan Pili, Max Tooley, and all the strength that they bring. Those three players are difference makers.
Linebacker Max Tooley on the linebackers taking a leadership role:
We've understood that this is the year that the linebackers really need to step up. We have the most experience and I think we've kind of just decided that we need to step up in helping our defense succeed in the best way that we can.
Linebacker Payton Wilgar on linebackers coach Kevin Clune:
I like his coaching style. He’ll tell you how it is. If you're weak at something he'll tell you and he'll tell you how to get better.
Assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and safeties coach Ed Lamb on players who have stood out at the safety position:
I thought Malik Moore and Chaz Ah You, at the safety position, they’ve shown a lot of leadership. Hayden Livingston is in that group, as well, he's played a lot. Some of the new guys at that position that were surprising or encouraging were Ammon Hannemann, Talon Shumway, Talan Alfrey and Javelle Brown — who has been here a couple of years but hasn't really played a significant gameday role, but he was exciting to watch.
Safety Chaz Ah You on the versatility he brings to the defense:
I feel like I've proven that I can play in the box with the big boys, and when I did play linebacker, I was covering tight ends a lot. This year, I'll have the chance to show that I can cover slots and outside receivers, as well, so I feel like it'll just deepen my toolbox.
Defensive coordinator and defensive tackles coach 'Ilaisa Tuiaki on the corners:
This is the most talented group of corners we’ve had since I’ve been here. They’re long and fast kids. We’re excited about that.
Cornerback Keenan Ellis on competition in his position group:
I just love the competition and just knowing that we have great guys from top to bottom. It pushes you to just keep being greater, and that’s only going to show on the field.
Ellis on his personal goals for the upcoming season:
I don’t like to compare myself to other people, because I’ve noticed that I have my peak performance whenever I compare myself to my best self.
Ellis on cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford:
We all love him. It’s great having that chemistry because I feel like it improves a player way more when you guys have that bond.
Cornerback D'Angelo Mandell on the cornerbacks:
There were a lot of ups and downs in the beginning when we were freshmen. That’s just what it’s like coming in straight out of high school. Over the years we’ve built trust and we’ve obviously gotten better each year.
Assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and safeties coach Ed Lamb on Ryan Rehkow and Jake Oldroyd:
Ryan Rehkow kind of flew under the radar because we just didn’t punt much this last season, but he’s a true NFL prospect and true professional. He and Jake Oldroyd work really well together and they are the most visible part of special teams.
Kicker Jake Oldroyd on working with punter Ryan Rehkow:
We do everything together. All our workouts, all our practicing and all the work we put in outside team workouts. We try to build our chemistry the best we can. There’s a lot of information we trade and we coach each other, and I think that chemistry is what helps us to be successful.
Punter Ryan Rehkow on working with Oldroyd:
There have been little pieces of wisdom along the way that Jake’s definitely passed along to me, and we point things out to each other to help each other out. We know what we’re both supposed to do and we’re just there to help each other execute it. We’re always just bouncing ideas off each other and pointing out little things that can make the small shift we need.
Passing coordinator and wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake on special teams and return game:
ESPN had our special teams unit finish as number one and the return phase is a huge part of that. We have players whose lifelong goal is to be at BYU and they will do anything to be on special teams and to block someone who is running full-speed at them. We have a lot of guys who take pride in special teams. Playing for BYU, you combine that with someone who is dynamic with the ball in their hands and the result of that will be a special return unit and special teams unit.