BYU opens training camp hoping to build on last year’s 11-1 season

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PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The post-Zach Wilson era has begun at BYU.

The Cougars, coming off an 11-1 season, a #11 final national ranking, and had five players taken in the NFL Draft, opened training camp Thursday, hoping to build on last season’s success.

“We started playing football!” defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua screamed into the mic. “Let’s go! We’re tired of just working out! Let’s go play football.”

The biggest difference between this year and last, is unlike the uncertainty the pandemic brought to the college football landscape, the Cougars know they will have an opponent opening weekend.

“You’re right,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Just having the goal that we know we’re going to be playing somewhere September 4th. Last year we were concerned if we were going to be playing or who. The pandemic was really hard, but I don’t think we’re going to take a lot of things for granted anymore.”

The Cougars will kick off the season against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. BYU will also play the likes of Utah, Arizona State, Boise State, Baylor, Virginia and USC.

Critics claim that BYU’s success in 2020 was because of a weaker schedule. The Cougars are out to prove last year wasn’t a fluke.

“I feel like a lot of guys have a lot of things to prove,” Leiataua said. “Especially when everyone keeps saying that our schedule was cupcake last year. I think everyone is ready to show them that it wasn’t, and it wasn’t just a fluke and we don’t need Zach Wilson to do that.”

“Most people don’t care what we did last year,” added offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “For some people there’s an asterisk by it, and for others it’s just over.”

What’s just beginning is the battle for the starting quarterback job. Jaren Hall, Jacob Conover and Baylor Romney are competing for the chance to replace Zach Wilson, who was the #2 overall pick in the NFL Draft by the New York Jets. But Hall isn’t worried about his prospects just yet.

“My mindset is to go win against Arizona whatever happens,” Hall said. “That’s just my mindset, just focus on game one and prepare for that.”

BYU has a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball with running backs Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa, tight ends Dallin Holker and Isaac Rex, and wide receivers Samson Nacua, Puka Nacua, Gunner Romney and Neil Pau’u. So whoever wins the starting job will have plenty of weapons with which to work.

“Right now, we have some positions where we look really good,” Sitake said. “There’s a lot of good players there, and that’s a problem I want to have all the time. But we have a lot of work to do.”

BYU kicks off the 2021 season September 4th against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

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