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BYU football: Optimism abounds as Cougars begin spring practices

Published February 28, 2017 10:06 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The offseason is over for the BYU football team, as linebacker Butch Pau'u put it Monday, as the Cougars started spring practices at the Indoor Practice Facility bright and early Monday morning.

Here's my report from the first day, a closer look at the quarterback situation — one of the more stable QB situations I can remember the past 10 years.

Obviously, Tanner Mangum is the man and Beau Hoge, Koy Detmer Jr. and Kody Wilstead are the backups. Young Tanner (confusing name, I know) and Jeremiah Evans are also on the roster.

"It was just nice that we had a system already set," was coach Kalani Sitake's take on the first day of spring camp. "We have guys that are veterans and know our deal. I am really pleased with how the ones worked on defense and offense. We will have to watch some film, but for the first day I was pleased. We had a couple miscues with center miscues, but that happens. I think we had a couple of those today. But not as much as we have had in the past. For Day 1 it was really good."

Sitake reiterated what Ed Lamb said in a teleconference last week: The Cougars will focus on fundamentals and technique and not so much on competition and position battles, like they did last year when the staff had been on the job for just a couple months.

"There are a lot of new guys in different spots as well, and so we are trying to develop some depth. I think all the coaches at this time say the same stuff, and so I think everyone is trying to improve.

We understand that there is a game in the fall, so right now we are not in the best game shape. Right now, we will work toward that and we will get stronger, so we are trying to improve our technique and improve as a team, and at the same time still get stronger in the weight room," Sitake said.

I summed up some of the more newsier items with the aforementioned story, but here is a more complete rundown of those:

* Projected starting cornerback Dayan Lake has asked to be called Dayan Ghanwoloku this year. I've put in a request to interview No. 5 on Wednesday when the next media availability session is conducted to get the story behind it.

* Projected starting safety Matt Hadley is getting a tryout of sorts at running back, a position he played in high school in Washington.

"At this point, still in conversation mode with he and coach Sitake," Ed Lamb told me last week. "He would be giving up a lot on defense. But we feel like he has a lot to offer on offense. He's also a good kick returner … We haven't talked to far with anybody else, but Matt might be a guy that could get some snaps on the other side of the ball throughout spring."

Sitake said linebacker Kavika Fonua will also get a look at running back this spring.

Ty Detmer said now is the time to see what guys can do in different positions.

"This is the time of year where you can experiment a little bit," Detmer said. "[Hadley] has got a lot of experience at safety, and so we feel like he knows the defense, so he can come over and give us an opportunity to evaluate him at running back and see if he can help us there and make a difference there. It is really kind of that experimental time of year where you are trying guys at different spots to see where they can help contribute."

* Detmer said "there are a couple of guys who have played for us that we are holding out of spring ball due to injuries that are experienced. We know what they can do."

Later, he mentioned that sophomore receiver Aleva Hifo is "out with an injury, so he is not getting work."

* Tomasi Laulile, a starting defensive end last year before getting injured, is not on the roster. Neither is Sione Takitaki, a standout DE in 2015 who did not play at all last season.

I asked Sitake about Takitaki's status.

"He will be with us spring semester [but is not in spring practices]," the coach said.

* Sitake confirmed that Moroni Laulu-Pututau has been moved from receiver to tight end, a development that was reported here on Signing Day last month.

"So he and [freshman] Matt Bushman are playing that hybrid look," Sitake said. "They are playing tight end. But you saw him line up as a receiver a few times, too. So we need to put those guys in a spot where it can be a mismatch for a corner or linebacker. You will see them in different spots throughout the spring."

Bushman, from Tucson, Ariz., is also been practicing with the BYU baseball team as an outfielder.

* Junior linebacker Francis Bernard missed the Poinsettia Bowl win over Wyoming for undisclosed reasons. However, he was out there Monday with fellow starting linebackers Butch Pau'u and Fred Warner. If they stay healthy, that trio will be a big strength.

Pau'u said sophomore LB Johnny Tapusoa — who is called Ku-J — has been moved to the Mike linebacker (middle linebacker) spot and "looks really good" at that position.

"You don't have to worry about us being aggressive or having to play physical," Pau'u said. "That's something that comes second-nature to us. When you see Fred he is screaming all over the place and just doesn't stop. Francis is the same way, and the defensive line does a really good job of just keeping us motivated.

"Our biggest weakness last year is we let too many big plays happen and that was just due to not sound fundamentals and not being in the right position at the right time."




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