admin | Posted: 6 Mar 2020 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

BYU wraps up first week of spring football

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Matt Bushman and Steve Clark drill at spring practice

PROVO, Utah – Four practices are in the books with the conclusion of the first week of spring football on Friday evening.

With the warmer weather, the BYU football team spent the majority of the week outside on the practice field in early prep for the 2020 season.

BYU returns several experienced players, including senior tight end Matt Bushman who highlights a talented tight end group.

The Mackey Award candidate led the Cougars with 688 yards on 47 catches and had four touchdowns. He joins All-American tight ends Dennis Pitta and Gordon Hudson as the only BYU tight ends to total 500 or more receiving yards in three consecutive seasons. 

In addition to Bushman, BYU returns senior Kyle Griffitts, sophomore Masen Wake and redshirt freshmen Isaac Rex and Carter Wheat who all saw action in 2019. Alema Pilimai, Hank Tuipulotu and Nate Heaps all return and newcomers Bentley Hanshaw and Lane Lunt round out the group for spring. 

The following quotes are from BYU's post-practice media availability Friday.

Head coach Kalani Sitake
On practice after four days
It’s good to be in pads. Good competition. We had close to 80 team reps. We got to see and evaluate a bunch of players. We had different scenarios we practiced in. The guys have a lot of energy, a lot of juice. We have two days off and then we’ll be back at it.

On Isaac Rex and the other tight ends
Isaac made a lot of plays out there today. That whole group, we can incorporate a lot of different schemes around their strengths. Isaac is a big body guy, he’ll make a lot of plays for us. With a guy that big who can run and catch balls, he has a bright future ahead.

On the quarterback competition
A little bit. I need to go back and look at the film but I think it’s a healthy competition. The guys are doing a great job with it.

On enjoying spring football
It’s football. I love it. Seeing the guys getting out there and competing. I love coaching guys that love to play the game. You saw how excited they got to make plays and compete against each other. I want the guys to have a lot of appreciation for what they get to do out there. I think it’s important to have fun out there, but we do expect a lot out of our guys.

Tight end Matt Bushman
On what he’s seen from Isaac Rex
I’ve seen more confidence. He’s playing looser and more natural. As a freshman you’re kind of jittery and he’s still a redshirt freshman, but he got some playing time last year. Your first couple of games you’re pretty tense, not wanting to mess up, but once you’re more confident, you’re making way more plays. It’s good to see him out there. He’s a big target; he’s like 6-foot-6 with really long arms so he’s making some big plays. We’re expecting a lot from him, the coaches are, so spring ball will be a good time for him to get a lot better.

On his mentors as a young tight end
When I came in, Tanner Balderree was one of the upperclassmen. He helped me out with blocking and was super cool about everything and letting me get playing time and everything. Moroni Laulu-Pututau, he just finished last year, but he was always a good mentor and good friend. Hunter Marshall, after he got hurt, he medically retired, but he came in and was a good buddy also. It’s weird looking back to that time and now seeing me at my last year, it’s fun. There’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m looking forward to it.

On being a mentor with the younger tight ends
I try to lead by example by trying to be the best player and the most consistent that I can, so they can see what the coaches expect. We have Kyle Griffitts in the room, and he likes to be there and relate with them. Having him help me out with that role has been good. The guys are learning pretty quick; we expect a lot from them with the installs on offense and they’re doing a good job.

On how it’s beneficial to play in spring ball after being injured last year during the spring
Spring is a weird time in terms of football because the season is so far away, but there’s still so much that we can do to get better. When you sit out of spring, it messes with your chemistry with the quarterbacks, so I think this is a great time to build chemistry when you’re not just running one-on-ones during the summer when it’s not as intense. When there are cameras and [the coaches] are filming us, the chemistry definitely builds for us in spring. That’s one of the biggest things but being able to lead by example and make plays out there, showing the younger guys what the expectations are and what the standards are at BYU. Hopefully we can continue to keep rolling.

Linebacker/defensive back Zayne Anderson
On playing some cornerback
It’s coming together. I haven’t given it a full shot yet because I’m still getting healthy, but I’m learning a lot and learning new techniques. As a safety you know what the corners are doing, but until you’re actually doing it, it’s a little different. It’s been an adjustment, but I’m excited.

On the last time he played cornerback
I haven’t played corner. Last time I played defensive back was a little bit last year, but I started in 2017 and then moved to safety. It’s been an adjustment, but I’ve just been learning and trying something new. We’ll see what happens and how everything will play out.

On what led to the decision to switch from linebacker to cornerback
It’s a big change. I think the coaches just want to see if I’m able to play it right. If there comes a time during the season and guys go down, I have shown my ability that I can play that position. It’s going to help me at safety if I end up going back or at nickel. Being a versatile player carries on through every position, so I’ll learning new techniques, but I’ll be able to carry that back to safety and vice versa.

On the frustration with injuries and how difficult it was coming back from them
It really is tough. You get one shoulder surgery and then you come back the next year and in the very first game against Utah it pops out again, so it failed. It was rough and mentally, I’m in a really good place right now. After a few injuries you get down on yourself, but I’m really confident in my skills and I’m confident with what I can do on the field. I just want to be able to prove and to be healthy.

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