Ari Davis | Posted: 9 Aug 2021 | Updated: 24 Aug 2021

Week two of fall camp starts for football

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Neil Pau'u

PROVO, Utah – Cougars look to experienced wide receivers and an up-and-coming defensive line as it enters its third day of fall camp. 

Wide Receivers
BYU enters fall camp with 16 wide receivers, including top returners Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney, who combined for 84 catches and 1,370 yards last season. Chris Jackson, Kody Epps, Keanu Hill and Brayden Cosper each saw action in at least six games last season as well. They totaled 19 catches for 176 yards in 2020.

Samson and Puka Nacua joined the Cougars this summer. Both brothers caught touchdowns in last year’s shortened season, playing in two games and three games for Utah and Washington, respectively. In their last full seasons, Samson recorded 18 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns, with Puka tallying seven catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Hobbs Nyberg, Talmage Gunther, Terrence Fall and Kade Moore each saw action in 2020, while Jacob Boren last played in 2019. Tanner Wall and Maguire Anderson are both true freshmen, and Chase Roberts, a 2019 commit, returned from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Calgary, Canada and is also a true freshman. 

Wide Receiver Neil Pau'u
On going up against the same guys every day
It's just competition, I think that’s probably the biggest thing. You get a feel of what they like to do, what they do well and then you try to exploit that. The weaknesses that you have or that they do super well, you just try to build on it. It’s a battle each and every day, somedays you get the best of them, somedays they get the best of you. It just comes back and trying to work on everything and hopefully, we’re ready by the time Arizona comes.

On the biggest strengths the wide receivers have
So far, it is just the mentality. Some guys are only doing one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens, some guys are trying to recover from injuries they got that first week. So, the mentality just to come in, stay focused, locked in and grind. Hopefully, in a week, everybody’s healthy and we can see what’s really going on with everybody.

On the offensive coaching transition
I think Aaron Rodrick is probably a little more aggressive. I think that is good because I love when the ball’s in the air and we get to make plays. A-rod called a couple of games last year based on some circumstances, so it’s nothing new and was a smooth transition and we're just excited.

On acclimating to the new players
I think Gunner Romney and I did a good job acclimating everybody and making sure that everybody feels included. Puka and Samson Nacua came in and just wanted to be a part of the group. They just came in and tried to be one of the guys and it was an easier transition than most of us thought. Now that everyone was able to see who these two guys are, a lot of the assumptions are out the window.

Defensive Line
Despite losing two key players from the 2020 season in Khyiris Tonga and Zac Dawe, the Cougars return eight players with experience on the defensive line. Redshirt-senior Uriah Leiataua comes into the 2021 season with appearances in 36 games since 2017. Junior Pepe Tanuvasa, a transfer from Navy, played in all 12 games last season, recording 24 total tackles and one sack. Juniors Lorenzo Fauatea and Earl Tuioti-Mariner also provide leadership to the freshmen-filled position.

Redshirt-Sophomore Gabe Summers and Freshman Caden Haws both played in all 12 games in 2020, each recording 15 total tackles. Sophomore Atunaisa Mahe, who did not play last year due to health concerns, played in all 13 games in 2019, recording 22 total tackles. Despite his season being cut short last year due to injury, freshman Tyler Batty led the team with four sacks and will be a pillar on defense for the Cougars. 

Freshmen Mike Petty, Fisher Jackson, Kade Pupunu, Josh Larsen, Joshua Singh, Jacob Palu, Blake Mangelson, John Nelson and Hunter Greer round out the group as defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki looks to pick his starting defensive line. 

Defensive Lineman Lorenzo Fauatea
On how they don't get burnt out during fall camp
Honestly, it's on yourself. You give it your all, then you recover by yourself and doing the extra stuff and treatments. When there's time off of practices, we can use that for treatment.

On evaluating the first week of camp
I think it's been good for us. I think the schedule that Kalani and the staff have inputted for us, has worked out a lot better for us. For five hours we put in all the emphasis is beneficial instead of being here all day and night. I think the schedule that we have now we've adjusted to it. I think as players, we love it a lot.

On preparing for Arizona
We’ve been looking at the spring games past teams that those coaches have coached, their tendencies, how those teams that played out the play calls, different situations and then tying those into the spring game. Comparing and contrasting how the plays have been called at the different universities and how they called them during the spring game.

On his biggest strength defensively
My biggest strength defensively is my IQ. I’m able to read an offensive lineman, their stances, tendencies, the way the offensive line sets up and the calls they make during the game. I feel like it is easier for me to click on it, recognize what they say and what they want on the play, so I think IQ for me is my strongest tendency.

The following quotes are from Thursday’s post-practice availability at the Student Athletic Building.

Head Coach Kalani Sitake
On how he feels about the offense
I feel good with our offense, I feel good with the progress we've made. We're taking it day to day and taking advantage of all the time we have on the field.

On if camp looks on schedule so far
I really do. I feel good with the installs. There's been a lot of effort going into when to do things, how we do our practices, the type of intensity we're going to have, the tempo. I feel really good about the connection with our players, I think we're in a good spot right now. 

On balancing reps with the runningbacks 
If our biggest problem with the running back room and other positioning groups is how we're going to get enough reps for all, that's a great problem to have. They're all great teammates, we watch them work together, competing for reps and obviously for carries and games. They're really close friends, they all love each other. They're following the leadership from Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa. It's nice to have that.

On what experienced players like Jared Kapisi can add to the team
He's been in the program for a long time, him and Uriah Leautau are the two that come to mind that are there to help us with our culture especially. Having those guys that can echo what the coaches and leaders are saying, is a big factor.  It's good to have some of those guys that have been through a lot of football with us, a lot of games with us. 

Quarterback Baylor Romney
On offense vs defense in camp so far
Things have been clicking on offense, especially today and Saturday. As we keep installing our offense things keep clicking and are going well. There's a lot of players that are stepping up on both sides.

On how he chooses who to throw to
It can be hard because there's not just one guy out there that has mismatches. You look around the offense and it's everyone, it's nice to know that at every position you got a guy that's going to win.

On the quarterback battle
It's competitive. Those guys want it, I want it. We'll see how it turns out in the next couple of weeks. Reps have been pretty evenly divided between the three of us.