Football rolls on with week three of fall camp
PROVO, Utah – A veteran running back core coupled with a stout linebacker group highlight the BYU football team heading into the 2021 season.
BYU has eight running backs in fall camp this year, including top returners Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa. These two combined for 22 touchdowns and 1,574 rushing yards last season. Miles Davis and Sione Finau also saw action in at least four games last season ending with a combined 455 rushing yards.
Allgeier finished last season with 1,130 yards to rank No. 8 in the nation and averaged 7.53 yards per carry and had 13 touchdowns. He added 14 receptions for 174 yards as a receiver, averaging 12.4 yards per catch. Katoa finished the 2020 season with 444 yards, adding to his 1,225-yard career stats. He had five touchdowns and averaged 5.29 yards per carry as well as 23 receptions for 293 yards averaging 12.74 yards per catch.
Jackson McChesney played in one game before suffering a season-ending injury in 2020. Enhancing the depth of the running back position, Hickley Ropati will see action this season after suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp last season, while Mason Fakahua, true freshmen Beau Robinson will add depth to the position group.
Running Back Miles Davis
On how fall camp is going
Fall camp has been going pretty well. I have a lot more I can do, I have a lot more to learn, so I’m looking to the older guys and trying to get better.”
On his transition from receiver in high school to running back
In college, there has been a lot more learning and growth. It’s been pretty difficult, but I’m trying to get over those obstacles and keep pushing.
On the other the running backs
All the running backs are pretty good and we’re all competing to get to that next level. We all keep moving up that depth chart as a group.
After losing NFL linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts and tallied 83 tackles including 4.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown in the 2020 season, BYU is looking towards other veterans.
To help in filling the shoes of Kaufusi, BYU returns linebackers Keenan Pili, Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar. The three linebackers all saw time and started in 2020 and combined for 173 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and one interception during the 2020 campaign. In July, Payton Wilgar was named to the Butkus Award and Bronko Nagurski Award watch lists which are given to the nation’s best linebacker and defensive player respectively.
BYU also has a plethora of young talent at the linebacker position including junior Chaz Ah You, sophomores Theo Dawson, Drew Jensen, Jackson Kaufusi and freshmen Jacob Bosco, Ben Bywater, Cade Hoke, Isaac Matua, Cade Pupunu, Viliami Tausinga and Josh Wilson.
The following are quotes from media availability following Tuesday's practice:
Head Coach Kalani Sitake
On how practice was
I think it was really good. We are starting to see some of our travel squad guys start to separate themselves and know the guys that we can give more reps to now that we’ve had most of our install if not all. Offensively, we have a few things to add, but defensively we have pretty much the whole install in. Now, it is just a matter of cleaning it up, being assignment sound and making sure we are executing with the right technique.
On Miles Davis
He is a very athletic, tough kid, very elusive and knows how to run with the ball in his hands. He has the great instincts of a natural runner on feeling pressure, knowing how to avoid it and no one gets a clean shot on him. In the scrimmage, Aaron Roderick mentioned how well he did because he is a hard guy to tackle then you combine that with his willingness to learn and he has a tremendous amount of potential. Plus, he can catch the ball, so he has that ability to do it out of the backfield and we’ll see what else he can put together. But, so far we are really happy with the progress we have seen from him from last year to now.
On the quarterback decision
If you’re having a difficult time like we are, it means that you have a really good group. We feel like we have a lot of confidence in these three guys and feel really comfortable with the guys behind them and the guys that we are seeing improve and get better. I feel really good about the whole room, and I know Aaron Roderick does as well. It is just a matter of the guy winning the spot outright and as long as they keep performing and doing well, all three of them individually, then they’re going to make it really hard for us. For the coaching staff, we have to figure out the guy that’s going to have the most success and that is what we are trying to figure out in the next few practices.
On the defensive line
They look really good and they’ve held their own. They’re going against a really big, physical offensive line so I think it has helped them become better because our offensive line isn’t going to slow down for anybody. It’s not like a lot of the D-line is completely new to it. I want to remind everybody that there a lot of guys that have played on our D-line that have game-time experience. I know we lost some production and some guys to the NFL, but we feel really good about the guys that are coming back, the size that we have and the reps and experience these guys have. We’ll just have to prove it on the field.
On the Nacua Brothers
I really believe that they are going to have a huge presence on our offense. They already have a good presence with our team, the comradery, the chemistry between Puka and Samson and the rest of the guys. They are loving guys that know how to connect with people, they are really great to have in our locker room, such team-first guys and it is really good to have them in our program.
Defensive Coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki
On the defense
Honestly, if you can come away with a pretty stout defense in the run then you feel pretty good about it. We didn't lose too many guys with experience. Tyler Batty is back and he is playing at a high level right now. Atunaisa Mahe, Caden Haws, Gabe Summers, Earl Mariner are some of the other guys with a lot of experience. We feel good about the personnel, we've got a lot of good bodies in there. I think they're understanding the scheme and playing a little bit better. We're playing against what I think is a really good o-line, day in and day out, so it's making our young guys grow up fast, which we need."
On the biggest position battle right now
The free or strong safety. We've got a lot of guys who are rotating through there. Chaz Ah You, Malik Moore, Jared Kapisi, Hayden Livingston and George Udo are coming back with a little bit of experience for us and are doing a really good job."
On his thoughts on the scrimmage
I am happy to be able to see a lot of younger guys get reps. There have been some question marks, but those guys who had question marks showed up in a good way. We've got to continue in the direction that we are going with those guys."
On developing the younger guys
The more veteran your group the more you can carry. When you have younger guys but you feel like you've got the right personnel on the field, it's really just about making sure that we eliminate mistakes and play fast. Having young players does take a bit off of what you'd normally call or scheme, just for the sake of being sound. But I think our young kids are doing a good job of picking things up. We've thrown a lot at them during fall camp. We've had a core of guys that have played, so those guys get it. We're putting a lot on those guys to teach the younger guys and it puts a lot on the younger guys to play all the things that we're doing. Once we start to pull out some schemes and focus on our opponents then there'll be less required of them and you start to see them clean up in their assignments. We overload them early and then start to pull back."