BYU opened spring football practices on Monday, likely for the first time in February, and head coach Kalani Sitake says he liked what he saw from nearly every group of team positions. before a player throws or catches a pass, or participates in a drill. .
That’s because the Cougars seem to have achieved one of their main goals this offseason — which was to get bigger and stronger across the board.
“It’s pretty obvious that our team has gotten a lot bigger and stronger over the last two months, working,” Sitake said.
“We tested our guys in the weight room, and I really like the numbers for the whole group, so overall, as a team, I’m really happy with the strength numbers, and we’ll see how that will transfer to the football pitch.”
“I think the guys just came in with a different kind of attitude in the weight room, and it shows in the numbers, it shows in the testing. Each position group got stronger. And that should help us. — Kalani Sitake, BYU Football Coach
Sitake said the defensive linemen, who were roundly criticized for not being able to effectively stop the run in the game’s loss to UAB, have really stepped up.
Caden Haws, Earl Tuioti-Mariner, Tyler Batty, Josh Larsen, Gabe Summers and John Nelson are among the returnees who saw plenty of time last year.
“I think guys just came in with a different kind of attitude in the weight room, and it shows in the numbers, it shows in the testing,” Sitake said.
“Every position group has gotten stronger, and that should help us.”
The coach hopes the renewed emphasis on hard work in the weight room will help the Cougars stave off injuries, which led to defense burnout, in particular, late last year.
“Strength training doesn’t get enough injury prevention credit that it has in the program,” Sitake said.
Regarding the first practice, Sitake said “it was a really good day” and seemed to suggest that the attack was ahead of the defense, which was expected.
“Really impressed with Jaren (Hall) and the offense and the timing,” he said. “Defence, we have things to go through. …I like a lot of new bodies that we’re seeing on the defensive end, and a lot of guys have come back (bigger and stronger).
After leading the first day of a spring camp for the seventh time he was at BYU, Sitake said it was one of the most experienced teams he had, unlike last year. when Zach Wilson and many of his weapons evolved.
Speaking of Hall, the starting quarterback declared himself 100% healthy and ready to go, recovering well from the ankle/foot injury that kept him out of the bowling game. .
The fifth-year junior said he suffered three broken ribs against Arizona in Game 1 last year and endured the pain against Utah and Arizona State, while suffering an injury in the chest.
“It was fun to watch everyone come back and go and see the wheels start to spin a little bit,” Hall said.
Quarterback Jacob Conover said all quarterbacks got reps on Monday, including himself, Cade Fennegan, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters and Nick Billoups.
Neither Fennegan nor Billoups participated in the team practice portion seen by the media.
“Day one was awesome,” Conover said. “I mean, the spring ball is supposed to be enjoyed, and everyone bought today and took their day one jitters out, so that was fun.”
A few other developments and/or list surprises:
• Offensive lineman Keanu Saleapaga is back with the team after missing all but one game in 2020 due to injury and all of 2021 due to undisclosed reasons. The former starter, listed at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, started in 19 games and appeared in 22.
“Adding it to a deep O line is really good for us, and we’ll see how much we can use it,” Sitake said. “He was limited in training today, which is really good for us. We have to come into the fall healthy, and there are a lot of other guys who can use more reps in the 11 stuff. against 11 (only Saleapaga).
• In the high-profile part of practice, defensive back Micah Harper lined up in the safe positions. Harper was a cornerback his first year, 2020, and started in five games. He suffered a serious knee injury in spring camp last year and has missed the entire 2021 season.
“All of our corners will play it safe, and all of our safeties will play the corner,” Sitake said, when asked if Harper’s move to safety was permanent.
• A few players have changed shirt numbers, as is usually the case every year. Tight end Dallin Holker moved from No. 32 to No. 5 and linebacker Ben Bywater moved from No. 33 to No. 2.