PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU football team kicked off spring practice Monday with plenty of questions to answer before the start of the 2021 season.
“It was a lot of fun,” head coach Kalani Sitake said about the Cougars first practice. “I’m hoping that we can finish up and make sure that we get the next 14 practices going. It’s a little different as you’re trying to get through the first two practices and make sure you can get to where you’re acclimated. Then you get the pads on and we can let it go. But today, there were a lot of really good things.”
Sitake hopes to get a better idea of the top candidates in the race for the starting quarterback job. Baylor Romney, Jaren Hall, Jacob Conover and Sol-Jay Maiava are all in contention to replace Zach Wilson.
On Monday, Sitake was impressed by all of them.
“They can throw,” he said. “I mean, there were a lot of good throws today. You could tell that there was a competition going on but the guys weren’t shy to throw the ball down the field. I was really pleased with the targets that they were throwing to. The guys caught the ball really well.”
“They’re a group of studs,” said Hall, who missed all of last season recovering from injuries. “It’s going to be a fun competition for the 15 practices we have each and every day. I’m just excited to be here with the good guys we have, to push each other, get better and just enjoy the game that we love so much.”
The Cougars are coming off an 11-1 season, and is losing many key players to the NFL, including Wilson, wide receiver Dax Milne, offensive lineman Brady Christensen, defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga, defensive back Chris Wilcox, and tight end Matt Bushman.
The Cougars say know they have a lot of work to do, but on Monday, they were happy just be back on the field.
“It’s great,” said offensive lineman James Empey. “I know everybody was talking today about how it felt like time flew. We’re excited to get back out there and get some work in and get a little bit better. So, it’s just fun to be able to strap up again with the boys and get rolling again.”
The Cougars do return leading rusher Tyler Allgeier, wide receiver Gunner Romney and tight end Isaac Rex. But they are using spring practice to find new leaders on the team.
“I feel like we have a lot of good guys,” said defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua. “Being one of the older guys in the group, I feel like I should put more on my shoulders to take more of that leadership role. We’re pushing guys, we’re trying to see what guys step up. I love seeing young guys like Tyler Batty step up. Tyler’s stepped up a lot lately. We’re taking all the young guys and trying to force-feed them all these techniques. We’ve done a lot of work on our own and continue the success from last year.”
BYU is also breaking in a couple new coaches in offensive line coach Darrell Funk and linebackers coach Kevin Clune, not to mention the promotion of new offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick.
“They’re great,” Sitake said. “I’m really excited about these coaches and the way they connect with their position groups. We’ve been able to have some meeting time leading up to spring ball and even before that they had already connected with their position group.”
BYU also unveiled two new helmets the Cougars will play in this coming season.