Football completes second scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium
PROVO, Utah – BYU football completed its second fall camp scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, getting over 100 reps on the field. With numerous returning players, the tight end and safety groups will look to bolster the rest of the team as they prepare for the 2021 season.
The Cougars look to replace Chris Wilcox, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Highlighting the returners with significant 2020 game experience are juniors Keenan Ellis, D’Angelo Mandell and Shamon Willis as well as sophomore Isaiah Herron.
The four each played in at least eight games last season, with Ellis starting six games and Herron starting one. They recorded 21 starts in the last two seasons and tallied 21 solo tackles with nine pass breakups altogether last season.
Joining the Cougars this season are freshman Quenton Rice and Jakob Robinson as well as junior Oregon State transfer Kaleb Hayes.
BYU’s tight end room will feature seven returning players and one newcomer in the 2021 season. Despite losing Freshman All-American Matt Bushman, who went to the NFL this offseason with the Las Vegas Raiders, BYU’s tight end group will retain several experienced players expected to contribute this season.
Isaac Rex, who was named Freshman All-American and is a 2021 John Mackey Award candidate, played in all 12 games last season, starting in eight. He led the team in receiving touchdowns and tied for No. 1 in the nation with 12 receiving touchdowns and 72 points scored by a tight end. Sophomore Dallin Holker returns after serving a mission to Chile. During his freshman season in 2018, he played in 13 games, recording 235 receiving yards and 19 receptions. Sophomore Masen Wake, a fullback, also played in all 12 games last season while Carter Wheat returns after playing 10 games last season and recording 18.50 yards per reception.
The tight end room will add Ethan Erickson this season and will feature returning freshmen Bentley Hanshaw and Ben Tuipulotu and junior Lane Lunt.
The following are quotes are from the media availability following Saturday's scrimmage.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake
On what was accomplished in Saturday's scrimmage.
I saw a lot of good work. We had a lot of great opportunities to learn with a lot of great situational football. We manufactured different looks to put our guys in the different positions that we will see in games. We were able to get all three phases of the game clicking today. The offense started slow, which means the defense did pretty well. The offense got things rolling and then it was kind of back-and-forth. We had a good amount of the scrimmage go live, however, we did mostly practice tempo with our ones. Last week we had the ones go live quite a bit. For guys that have played a lot of football, like Tyler Allgeier, we may not have them get tackled in the scrimmage, but we have had the opportunity to do some live tackling. Next week we're going to work against our scouts and start focusing on Arizona and away we go. Right now, I feel good about where the team is at.
On the timeline for announcing a starting quarterback
I wouldn't say that there's a lot of separation between the quarterbacks, but we feel very good about the three quarterbacks. We have an idea of what we're doing. We thought that one might be elevated over the rest but all three of them have elevated their game and we're starting to see how this is going to shape up. I want to confirm it all with the film and communicate with the quarterbacks themselves.
On the progress of the team at this point in camp
We have everything in place. Obviously, there's more to practice and learn. We haven't done any scouting on Arizona. All the focus has been on our install with the offense, defense and special teams. Now it's a matter of getting the depth chart solidified and giving the right reps to the right guys. Then we'll start working on Arizona prep. As we start doing that, we'll look at the play call sheets on offense and defense and figure out the schemes that we want to work with. We've put a lot of emphasis on our assignments and technique and the fundamentals of football. That's a daily process, but we want to start getting towards a position where we feel like we have a scheme and a mindset to execute against Arizona. To do that, we must have an idea of who's going to run the bulk of the reps in practice, who's going to be running the scout team to give us the looks we need and start getting our travel squad solidified.
On the receivers and tight ends
Puka Nacua has been a little limited but today he was full-go and he's been doing that during the latter part of this week. He looks good. I really like that receiver group and the skillset on offense. I would love every player to go serve the mission that Dallin Holker served because he's in great shape. He has two weeks left to perfect his craft. He's good and goes very well with Masen Wake, Isaac Rex and the other guys we have in that tight end group. I really like Gunner Romney, Neil Pau'u, Puka Nacua and I know I'm leaving guys out, but the receivers did some really nice things today, they blocked well downfield too. I'm excited to see these guys get back some fresh legs and get ready for the game.
On concerns he has in preparing for the season
Every head coach has concerns. There are always concerns, but I have a lot of comfort with our coaching staff and the type of players we have in this program. It makes my job that much easier to know the type of leadership we have on this team and I'm happy with how the coaching staff has prepared this team. I'm really looking forward to these next couple of weeks because I feel like things have gone according to plan. As much as I like the progress of the team, there's still a lot of mistakes there but they are things that we can fix with a little bit more focus, discipline and instruction from the coaches. These scrimmages are good for our players, but I think a lot of people don't realize that they're good for the coaches as well. The coaches need to go through game situations, play-calls, working with our personnel and working with referees. The players need the work, but the coaches do as well. We're going to take every advantage of these next two weeks to get ready for this game."
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Aaron Roderick
On being on track at this point in camp
We're in good shape. We’ve got a lot of work to do, though, we can’t take any days off at all. We've got to keep progressing, we still have a lot of work to do. But I feel good about where we are, and I like our team. We’ve got some good skill players, we’ve got a good offensive line and the quarterback position is starting to become more clear.
On who is someone that had a good day
Hobbs Nyberg had a really good day. He did some good things and he's proving to be a good offensive player. Last year I didn't even know who the guy was, and all of a sudden he was in a game catching a punt, and then he became our full-time punt returner and did a great job. Then this spring, he started proving to us that he could play receiver. Then he had a good scrimmage today, to the point where he's in the mix; I wouldn't be surprised at all if we see him playing some receiver in games this year as well as being our punt returner.
On the quarterbacks
We've been going equal reps all the way up to today. I'm getting close now to being ready to divvy up those reps a little more to give the starter, whoever is going to start the first game, a little more. So we'll start getting to that real soon. We’re going to go watch this film, we're going to talk about it as a staff, and I think it's becoming pretty clear. They've battled hard, and they've all gotten better, and that picture is starting to clear up for us.
Linebacker Coach Kevin Clune
On who won during the scrimmage
I have no idea, I just try to take care of my linebackers and try to make sure the defense is going straight. I know we played good football today on both sides. I thought that at linebacker those guys are playing at a real high level mentally. That's really carrying over every day in practice. I really am fired up with that position group and how they're doing and how the front is working together with the defensive line. All that stuff is on point right now, right where we want to be for camp."
On linebackers that have stood out in camp/may break into the rotation
You see Ben Bywater out there, he was injured last season, and is really coming on and playing smart. He's playing a number of different positions and has handled all that mental load well. He's flying around and doing good things. He's fast, he's strong and so he's kind of a guy that's going to show up that maybe you didn't see last year. Guys like Morgan Pyper have done a great job, he has also played multiple positions and is running around and playing good ball. You know the next crew is probably Josh Wilson and Drew Jensen. As a group, I'm very happy with the direction they're going and the progress they've made."
On the depth of the team
I inherited a great group of guys, a solid deep crew of guys that take care of business on and off the field. They have a great mindset and mentality for playing linebacker and they understand what they want to get done. I've just been blessed walking into a room where I got 12 guys that I can count on. They all bring something different and I'm just happy to be a part of that. I love this crew of linebackers.
On who the leaders on the defense are
This 2021 version of BYU football is still evolving and that leadership is still coming around. We lost good leadership last year, we lost our quarterback, Isaiah Kaufusi, Khyiris Tonga, and so the new leadership has to step in, take over and establish itself. It is going to be different than what it was last year and the year before so that natural evolution is still in play. I look towards players like Keenan Pili who is a very quiet leader but always doing the right thing, always in the right place and working hard, so he's a great guy to look towards. Peyton Wilgar is another leader who's been on the field before and knows what you're gonna get. Every single day when he comes out, he's looking to get mentally better and so guys fall on their example. Overall, this whole team is mature young men and if somebody is stepping out of line, those guys will handle it even before we might see it as coaches. That's a great thing. We've got tremendous kids here and it's a pleasure to work with kids like that.