Football embarks on 2022 fall camp
PROVO, Utah — With a month to go before BYU football embarks on its final season of Independence, the Cougars took the field for their first practice of fall camp on Thursday.
Following months of offseason workouts, player-run practices and staff additions, the team reported on Wednesday for meetings and equipment issue prior to reuniting with coaches for Thursday’s opening practice. Head coach Kalani Sitake and other members of the team addressed the media during a post-practice interview period on Thursday at the Student Athletic Building. Read some of their comments below.
The Cougars return 33 players (14 offense, 19 defense) with starting experience from the 2021 team which beat six Power Five opponents on the way to a 10-3 record and final ranking of No. 19 in the AP Top-25.
Head coach Kalani Sitake enters his seventh season at the BYU helm, flanked by assistant head Coach Ed Lamb, defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick.
Despite the departure of NFL Draft pick Tyler Allgeier, wide receivers Samson Nacua and Neil Pau’u, the BYU offense looks to continue its explosive production in 2022. Junior Jaren Hall returns at quarterback along with reliable receiving targets in Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua and Keanu Hill. Cal transfer Christopher Brooks joins senior Lopini Katoa in the backfield, while Isaac Rex, Dallin Holker and Masen Wake return as dynamic playmakers at tight end.
Left guard Clark Barrington, a Phil Steele Preseason First Team All-American, combines with junior left tackle Blake Freeland to anchor a BYU offensive line returning 90 career starts. As a unit, the offensive line ranked No. 8 nationally in 2021 for fewest sacks allowed, and helped BYU rank No. 3 in red zone touchdown percentage at 74.55. Transfers Kingsley Suamataia (Oregon) and Sione Veikoso (Arizona State) join the team to further bolster the offensive front.
Tyler Batty, Payton Wilgar, D’Angelo Mandell and Malik Moore lead an experienced corps of returners for the BYU defense in 2022. At linebacker, the Cougars return 73 career starts, with Wilgar, Keenan Pili and Ben Bywater named to various preseason award watch lists. True freshman Aisea Moa (defensive line) and Vanderbilt transfer Gabe Jeudy-Lally (defensive back) headline newcomers to the defense.
Returning specialists Jake Oldroyd and Ryan Rehkow are featured on the Lou Groza and Ray Guy Award watch lists, respectively. BYU players or coaches have been named to 15 different preseason watch lists to date. See the list below.
BYU opens the 2022 season against USF at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, Sept. 3. The matchup between the Cougars and Bulls will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 4 p.m. EDT and can be heard on the BYU Sports Network (BYUradio SiriusXM 143, BYURadio.org, BYU Radio app and KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.
Cougar Kickoff - Aug. 17
Fans can join the team in celebrating the coming season at the 17th annual Cougar Kickoff on Wednesday, Aug. 17 from 6-8:30 p.m. MDT at the BYU football practice field. The event will feature games and activities for all ages along with prizes, giveaways, food trucks and a live DJ.
Preseason Award Watch Lists
Head coach Kalani Sitake (watch video)
On the team entering fall camp
“The guys look really good and prepared really well in the offseason. The camaraderie and the connection that they have and the leadership we have on this team is pretty evident.”
On running back Chris Brooks and the rest of the run game
“I liked that Chris protected the football today, that's all I care about. From what I saw from him, he did an amazing job today running the ball. All the running backs looked good today. You got to give a lot of credit to the veteran offensive line group, they're opening the holes for running the ball.”
On the development of Brooks
“He's big, he's strong, and he looks the part, but you don't get that big and strong from just being lucky. That's hard work and dedication to the sport he loves. He loves being at BYU and he loves football. The football junkie in him allows him to increase his football IQ and succeed through the environment that we put him in. I think that's a huge compliment to offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, running backs coach Harvey Unga and the rest of the coaching staff.”
On the birth of his daughter
“I am lucky and honored to be a new daddy again. It's a lot of fun and such a great blessing. I have a great family and the best wife. I forgot what it's like to have a newborn and hold the baby, it's really cool.”
On his players developing beyond football
“I want them to be great football players but I also want them at the same time to focus on being a great father, a great husband, great people, great sons and great people in the community.”
On his role as a father and football coach
“We’re all a bunch of people just balancing a bunch of roles here and we relish all of them. I'm no different I just happen to be the head football coach at BYU with some average but mediocre dance moves.”
Quarterback Jaren Hall (watch video)
On what's standing out in the passing game
"Yeah, I saw the o-line. How clean the pocket is. How well we ran the ball today. We don't have pads on but they're moving dudes. It’s no secret you know that's our strength of our team. Has always been."
On being the established QB versus competitions in previous years
"Just another year of experience under my belt. That’s it. Just a little more confidence. Games a little slower, a little more understanding of things. So, let's try to keep everything simple as always."
On the backup QB situation
"No, I mean, every guy in the room has been here and all five quarterbacks that we have, they’re ready to go. We don't have anybody new. They've all been through the system. So, you know, knock on wood you only have one quarterback and that's always the goal, but I mean any number of those guys want to be ready."
On sharing parenting tips with Kalani
"I need to. Yeah, me and him need to have a little sit down. See if I can give him a reminder too. It's been a while since he's been through this, but I think his wife’s probably got it all figured out. So, I'm happy for them. That's crazy to be doing that. What they’re going through having another baby. But he's handling well, he's just I mean, you wouldn’t tell with this focus that they have something that's you know, extreme going on their life but he loves us, he's here for us but no, no, he loves his family. That’s the way he does it."
On his experience with John Beck and what he worked on most with him
"So, syncing up all my mechanics properly, making sure everything's firing at the right time. It's like a step-by-step process. We throw the football and him and his guys are so good at seeing that. And so, for the last year now a little over a year I've been able to be with them all summer and talk throughout the year and this season and stuff. So, he’s great at seeing that, and then
also just the mental side of the film stuff. I'm talking to defenses and just a better understanding of the game myself."
On if he talks with Zach Wilson
"Yeah. Every now and then, you know when he's in town, but yeah, we're both very busy kind of doing our thing."
Wide Receiver Gunner Romney (watch video)
On the top priorities of fall camp
“Number one for this team is keeping everybody healthy. That is the key. And then I would say perfecting our craft and getting better every single day. I expect both sides of the ball to be great, and you know, iron sharpens iron so working against each other will help us get better.”
On how it helps entering camp knowing Jaren Hall is the starting quarterback
“We can focus much more on specific play concepts we want to work on against specific defenses. It’s really fun having that connection already, that way we can start to tune up the finer details.”
On Jaren Hall’s skillset
“We know what to expect from him. He’s a baller. It’s fun seeing him picking apart a defense again and I’m excited to watch him play a full game again.”
On the team’s level of experience
“I don’t feel like we’ve taken a step back at all since spring ball and even last season. Everybody’s already in midseason form, and everybody’s ready to go and so I think it makes it that much better than we have a whole month before the game starts.”
“It’s really fun having a bunch of veterans because everybody knows what to expect when we hop in those big games and when we play that tough competition. Everybody knows what the standard is, and so I think holding each other accountable every single day to that standard really helps. We’re not going to be shocked to go in and play these big-time teams throughout the season.”
On the coaching staff’s continuity
“It’s awesome having the same coaches I’ve had for the last four years. Because of our connection, I know what they expect and they know what to expect from me. It’s really fun being able to have that open communication and open dialogue to be able to take my leadership to the next level.”
On anticipating the upcoming season
“Fall camp can be a grind, but I love playing football. Even though I’m not playing against another college jersey, it’s fun to just come out here and play football. Obviously we can’t wait to suit up for game one, but I’m going to try and keep a mindset of having fun, enjoying the day, and getting better.”
Linebacker Ben Bywater (watch video)
On opening fall camp with lots of team experience
“It's just hitting the ground running. You look at all of our offense coming back, our defense is coming back, so it's fun, you got over that learning curve. A lot of the young bucks are already learning so it's exciting.”
On his goals for fall camp
“For me and for the guys who have been around, just staying healthy and then perfecting your craft. It's so easy to go through the motions and not get better after coming off a good year. But for me and I know for the other guys, it's just getting better every single day. We've always heard that cliche phrase, one percent better, and that for me is staying healthy and then getting better and getting prepared for game one.”
On the depth at the linebacker position
“I'm going to be real I really do believe in those guys. I'm not just saying that, we got a lot of great guys. Obviously Max Tooley, and then Pepe Tanuvasa came back and is playing more as a linebacker. We've got Jackson Kaufusi, Tavita Gagnier and Morgan Pyper. And then we got a bunch of returned missionaries that have showed up. Bodie Schoonover, Tate Romney, Logan Pili and then I'm sure I'm missing somebody.”