This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
If they stay healthy, senior Fred Warner and juniors Butch Pau'u and Francis Bernard will form one of the best groups of linebackers in recent BYU football history.
There was a mild scare at the Poinsettia Bowl last December that this unit wouldn't return for the 2017 season intact because Bernard was held out of the 24-21 win over Wyoming for disciplinary reasons.
But Bernard is back in spring camp, and making plays all over the field.
"Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely," he said Wednesday when I asked him if the problem that caused him to be suspended has been cleared up. "I am just excited to be here in spring ball, excited to be back with the boys, so we are just going to get it rolling. … I am excited for what is to come and for the future."
My report from Monday's practice focused on the tight end situation and Moroni Laulu-Pututau's move from receiver to tight end.
A couple leftover tidbits from tight ends coach Steve Clark:
* If the season started today, Laulu-Pututau would be the starter at tight end, with freshman Matt Bushman behind him. Last year's starters Tanner Balderree and Hunter Marshall had surgery recently and will re-join the team in the fall.
"We use a lot of two tight end sets, so it would probably be those two, is the way we would start," Clark said.
* Clark said Bushman has the potential to be really, really good.
"He has put on a little weight he's just right off a mission. So we have to be a little patient with him. But he caught seven balls in our team [sessions] on Friday. Yeah, he's got a great feel for the game, good hands, big body, just needs to get more strength," Clark said.
* Clark isn't concerned that Bushman is also giving baseball a try.
"The baseball coaches there say he could get drafted. He's that good of a baseball player," Clark said. "But he's on scholarship for football. Football is paying the bills right now. So, we have him when we need him … But he goes up and goes through batting practice with them. But when we need him here, he's here."
The Cougars will practice again on Wednesday, and the media is invited to watch the last half-hour and do some interviews when it is over. On Friday, they will take the entire show to St. George for a 3:30 p.m. practice at Dixie High School, and a FanFest after at approximately 4:30 p.m.
Coach Kalani Sitake liked what he saw at Monday's practice.
"It was good. Good work," he said. "I think obviously we have some issues, and most of it are guys not used to the scheme and the program, but for the most part I am really pleased with the progress that our returners are [showing] and I like the stuff I am seeing up front with the O line, D line, and so everything else is going well. I mean, I think there are always some things that we can fix, but for now I am really pleased with how we are doing in spring after practice 7."
Having said the numbers are too low at some positions to hold a true spring game, Sitake was asked which positions have good depth.
"I am happy with the numbers at running back," he said. "We have a bunch of guys. it is just a matter of who is going to get the bulk of the carries. It is hard to replace an athlete like Jamaal [Williams]. But you do it with numbers and a lot of guys who are skilled. So we will let them compete and the best will start the game. We are not going to rely on just one guy to carry the load. I think Jamaal deserved that last year and throughout his career. We will see if someone emerges this year, but for now we feel really good with [by] committee, the whole group. We will just see how they progress in the offseason and through spring ball."
Sitake was asked if KJ Hall has earned a scholarship yet.
"No, not yet," he said. "He is a guy who is definitely up there on the list and he had done everything to deserve one. We just have to find a way to create some numbers and give the right guys scholarships. But he is a gifted athlete and he has great vision. I think the only knock would be his size, but in everything he does he plays way bigger than he actually looks. He has great vision and great instincts."
One of the best position battles going on is at safety as several players vie to replace the ultra-talented Kai Nacua. Micah Hannemann returns at the other safety spot. Hannemann said Wednesday that Washington State transfer Kamel Greene was recently moved from cornerback to safety.
Here's Sitake's rundown of the battle at safety:
"Well, having Tanner Jacobsen and Micah Hannemann there, we were able to move Matt Hadley a little bit, and give him a look at running back. We feel good with the guys who could be at that position. We also have the ability to move any of our corners to safety if we feel like we have the need. But we feel good with the numbers that are there with [Utah transfer] Austin Lee and some of the others that are starting to emerge as guys in that position.
Kai was a ballhawk who got a lot of picks, and hopefully we can find that, but a lot of that is created by the defensive front and the linebackers with drops, too. So someone is going to get the most sacks, and someone is going to get the most picks. Hopefully the guys will emerge. It might not be a newcomer. Micah could be the guy who gets most of the picks this year. Maybe it is Dayan [Ghanwoloku], maybe it is Troy [Warner]. We will have to see what happens."