Sitake pleased with team progress, offensive line after day two of fall camp
PROVO, Utah – The second day of fall camp concluded Friday afternoon as the BYU football team practiced inside the indoor practice facility.
A Look at the Offensive Line
One group that is working hard is the Cougars' offensive line. The offensive line is under the direction of former Auburn All-American center Ryan Pugh, an addition to the coaching staff after Jeff Grimes was named offensive coordinator. With 16 offensive linemen currently in fall camp, a young group of players are looking to claim their spots on the field. The Cougars have seven freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and two seniors competing in camp.
BYU returns last year's starting tackles in senior Austin Hoyt and junior Thomas Shoaf, a former Freshman All-American. Redshirt freshman James Empey also returns after backing up center Tejan Koroma last season, while sophomore Notre Dame transfer Tristen Hoge is competing for one of the starting guard positions after sitting out last season. Redshirt freshman Brady Christensen hopes to earn a significant role along with a strong group of talented sophomores in Austin Chambers, Keiffer Longson and Chandon Herring.
Jacob Jimenez and Addison Pulsipher join Shoaf as juniors on the roster, while senior Ului Lapuaho has returned to the team after sitting out the last two seasons with injuries. Freshman Harris LaChance got playing time during spring ball and is joined by fellow freshmen newcomers Clark Barrington, JT Gentry, Jacob Smith and Michael Thorson in fall camp.
The following quotes are from Friday’s post-practice media availability.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake
“I’m pleased with a lot of things and there’s some things we have to fix. The guys are working hard and they look good. I think you can probably look at every position and say that everyone has gotten better. The players are starting to grasp the scheme a lot better. Defensively, we gave a lot of young guys some reps. We’re really working on getting our depth on defense. I’m really pleased with the way the guys have worked. Offensively we did a pretty good job today.”
On practice tempo
“We changed up a lot of things. I don’t want to give away the game plan, but we can do a lot of different things offensively. We’ve thrown a lot of the playbook at them and I think the offense has a done a good job of handling it. It helps having a walkthrough in the morning to kind of go through all the plays. I think the coaches are utilizing the time the right way and demanding a lot from the guys. The guys obviously worked a lot over the summer and it’s paying off.”
On Dylan Collie
“He knows a lot about the game of football. You see his leadership, he doesn’t mind helping the younger guys out. He’s helped with our young receivers. He’s not shy, so he’s not a guy that’s going to wait to say something—he just steps in there, and if he sees something then he’s going to open his mouth. It’s nice having a guy that has that much experience and then is also about helping the team—it helps the rest of the group.”
On Moroni Laulu-Pututau and the tight ends
"He’s doing great this camp. It’s great having Moroni Laulu-Pututau and Matt Bushman out there and getting a lot of young guys looks. JJ Nwigwe has been solid a tight end – he’s improved quite a bit. Dallin Holker and Hank Tuipulotu, those guys are doing great things. Moroni is a guy that’s had tons of reps and has played a lot of games for us. The injury was unfortunate last year, but he looks really good right now. We just hope that he gets there for the first game.”
On the offensive line
"Tejan Koroma is hard to replace, but Jake Jimenez has gotten a lot of reps and has played before and James Empey is doing a good job. There’s a competition there as well, so we’ll get that sorted out as soon as possible. There is still some shuffling on the O-line. I trust coaches Pugh and Grimes and what they are doing with the O-line. I am seeing something with the O-line that I have never seen before as a coach. I think the way they work their scheme and what they do as O-line coaches I’m really excited about. I think we can do some great things up front."
Defensive Coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki
On the defenses performance after day two
“It’s all really good so far. We’re not in pads yet, so it’s really hard to gauge exactly where you’re at, but there’s a lot of speed on the field. There’s a lot of young guys that need to learn and get caught up with the system. I think we’re okay right now, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
On the teams mentality
“They have really bought in and started doing certain things that the head coach has asked. Some of the things that he’s asked them to do require discipline and toughness and they’ve bought in. They’ve been sold on just doing everything that Coach Sitake has asked them to do. I think that it’s showed up in some of the development that we’re starting to see, especially with the young guys.”
On players trying out new positions
“We’ve talked about, especially early on, having a depth chart that we roll through and change at least throughout the first two weeks of camp. Today, a lot of the younger guys took a majority of the reps. We ended up pulling some guys out just to make sure that we could get some of the young guys caught up with the scheme.”
On the defense facing this type of offense
“I think it’s great for us to make sure that we’re sound, but also this type of football is physical. This game has always been about physicality. It’s always been about being big and strong and I think that tests us right out of the gate. We’re excited about being sound with our scheme and making sure that we have answers to everything that they’re throwing at us. We’re playing big man football.”
Offensive lineman Austin Hoyt
On the offensive line’s performance at fall camp
“I think we’ve had a good start so far. Over the summer, we worked a lot on learning the plays and how to execute them. It has carried over the last couple days. We really haven’t had many false starts or lapses in assignments.”
On the offensive line getting bigger
“It’s an emphasis from the coaches. They really pushed us to gain weight during the offseason. Even now, we weigh in every morning and night just to make sure that we’re on track. It’s making me stouter in run-blocking and pass protection. I haven’t noticed a huge decrease in my speed or getting off the ball, which has been good. They wanted us to gain enough weight at the beginning of the season so we could be carrying it throughout the summer so we didn’t feel as heavy coming into fall camp.”
On offensive line coach Pugh
“I really like the way he takes time to teach and go over all the fundamentals to make sure we have it down from a scheme point before bringing us out on the field. I also love the energy that he brings. He brings a lot of energy and passion for the game.”
On team leaders
“Over the summer is where a lot of guys developed in stepping up and being more vocal. I feel like a lot of the guys who did it over summer have carried over to doing the same thing in fall camp. I look at Micah Simon and Tristen Hoge as leaders. I think they came out this summer and stepped up by being more vocal, encouraging guys and cheering guys on.”
Running back/linebacker Matt Hadley
On returning to the team
“We had a lot of people put in a lot of hard work for me to be able to come back and I’m so grateful. This is an amazing staff and an amazing group of guys. It’s a privilege for me to come back and work hard with them again and make the most out of this season. I hope that I’ve been an example to a lot of the guys and I hope to continue. If not, that should be one of the things I should focus on and help the team as much as I can through leadership.”
On if there was a time he thought he wouldn’t get another year
“I think there was a time, especially at the beginning of this year. There were those months after the submission where it was tough to know and I felt like there was a good chance I might not get it.”
On training as a running back
“I played running back in high school and that’s been awhile, but Coach AJ and Harvey and I have talked and they’ve been super encouraging along with the running backs to try and help me find that rhythm again that I might have had one day in the past.”
BYU football wrapped up its first week of fall camp with its fifth practice on Saturday morning.