SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – At BYU Football Media Day, most of the talk was building on last year’s historic 11-1 season.
The Cougars finished the 2020 season ranked 11th in the nation, but the players heard all the talk that their success was the result of a schedule that was weakened by COVID-19.
This season, the Cougars play five Pac-12 teams (Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State, USC), one Big-12 Team (Baylor) and one ACC team (Virginia). So the Cougars are out to prove last season wasn’t an anomaly.
“The fact that everyone says that we had a schedule like that and we weren’t play top-tier competition,” said wide receiver Gunner Romney, “it’s definitely put a chip on everyone’s shoulders.”
“You hear the noise and hear people say it was a fluke and we got lucky with our schedule,” added linebacker Max Tooley. “But when it came down to it, we did what we had to do.”
BYU’s success was reflected in the NFL Draft, as five Cougars got selected, and eight others signed NFL free agent deals.
“We return a lot of players, but a lot of players have moved on,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “They’ve left some big shoes to fill, but I think our guys are really excited for the moment.”
Of course the biggest shoes to fill are those of Zach Wilson, who was taken with the second overall pick by the New York Jets. It’s a three-man race for the starting quarterback job between Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and freshman Jacob Conover.
“I have confidence in all three,” Sitake said.
“It’s just the confidence that I can be that guy,” said Hall, who did not play last year with a lower body injury. “So for me, it’s just put in the work day after day, and when that time comes, the coaches will make their decision.”
“We have a really healthy quarterback room,” said Conover. “Everyone supports each other. But there also is that huge level of competitiveness between us.”
What has the Cougars most excited is the fact that LaVell Edwards Stadium will be rocking at full capacity this season.
“There was definitely something missing when we were playing in LaVell Edwards Stadium without full capacity,” said offensive lineman James Empey. “I’m looking forward to that this year.”
“I’m super excited,” said wide receiver Neil Pau’u. “I think that’s why people play sports for fans to come and trash talk, hear the roars, hear the awes.”
The fun starts September 4th against Arizona in Las Vegas.