PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – After not playing since November 26th, the BYU football team is itching to get back on the field.
“A lot of really good practices,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “They’re just really excited to play a game.”
The Cougars will face SMU Saturday night in the New Mexico Bowl. But the status of quarterback Jaren Hall is still very much up in the air. Hall, who has thrown for 3,171 yards and 31 touchdowns this season, has not practiced much since suffering an ankle injury in the regular season finale against Stanford.
If Hall can’t go, BYU will have to start either Sol-Jay Maiava, Cade Fennegan or Nick Billoups, all of whom have yet to take a snap this season.
“Jaren has not been eliminated from contention to play,” Sitake said. “He hasn’t been participating as much as we’d like him to be in practices, but if there’s a chance that he can play, he wants to. If you guys know anything about him and his competitiveness, he wants to get on the field and play.”
With Keenan Pili entering the transfer portal, and Payton Wilgar and Max Tooley injured, the Cougars will be really thin at linebacker against the Mustangs.
“I’m confident in our guys,” said defensive lineman Tyler Batty. “I still think we have a lot of depth. Even though some guys maybe haven’t played as much, I think we still have the guys to go out there and play.”
“We still have some really good players there,” Sitake said. “Pepe Tanuvasa will play, and we’ll have Ben Bywater who has been solid for us and led the team in tackles.”
SMU will be down leading receiver Rashee Rice, who led the nation in receiving yards per game at 112 per contest.
“We know he’s a great player,” Sitake said. “I mean, he had 96 catches. A lot of the stuff that he’s done is on film when we’re scouting them. But they have tons of athletes all over, so they’ll be fine.”
“They do have some dudes out there,” said defensive back Kaleb Hayes. “They’re a very explosive offense.”
Since being hired as the defensive coordinator last week, Jay Hill has already made a positive impression on the team.
“You can already feel the energy that he’s bringing to this defense,” said Hayes. “It’s exciting.”
“Jay Hill has gotten a lot of people motivated,” added tight end Isaac Rex. “He’s been a great addition to this coaching staff.
“Jay is an awesome dude,” said Batty. “He does bring a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. So, I’m really excited to see how our defense shifts.”
BYU and SMU will play in the New Mexico Bowl December 17th at 5:30 p.m. on ABC4.