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Provo • The LSU Tigers, who will open their 2017 college football season against BYU on Sept. 2 at Houston's NRG Stadium, will start training camp on Monday with a slightly different approach than in the past.
The Tigers' camp will have an NFL preseason feel to it, complete with four weekend scrimmages, coach Ed Orgeron said last week. That's a lot of tackle football leading up to the team's first-ever meeting with the Cougars, who will start their season on Aug. 26 against Portland State.
"We will have four of them. Treat it just like the NFL," Orgeron told The New Orleans Advocate. "Our fifth will be our first game against BYU."
The Cougars won't play nearly as much 11-on-11, tackle football in the preseason, coach Kalani Sitake said Thursday when the Cougars opened their camp in Provo.
As of Sunday, Sitake had not announced a single, full-scale scrimmage. There will be an open-to-the-public practice on Aug. 17 at LaVell Edwards Stadium, but nowhere in the school's release touting the event is the word "scrimmage."
Rather, Sitake said BYU coaches will look for opportunities in camp to simulate different parts of football games.
"I don't know that we will do as much scrimmaging as we will just be looking at different types of scenarios in a game," Sitake said. "We have to generate that. We have to see how our guys [perform] when we have to do a lot of two-minute situations."
Sitake noted the Cougars played in a lot of close games last year. Their four losses were by a combined eight points, three of their wins were by a combined seven points and another win came in overtime, 28-21 over Mississippi State.
"We had a lot of close games last year, so we are trying to generate opportunities for our guys to perform when there is a lot of pressure, and I think it is hard to do that when you are having a game-type situation the entire time," Sitake said. "We want to get to the stressful parts of the game."
The Cougars didn't do a lot of scrimmaging in the spring, either, for depth reasons. The new coaching staff, in its second year, is also more familiar with the personnel than it was last year, when scrimmages were frequent.
"I think we have developed a great relationship with all of [the players]," Sitake said. "It is just a lot more comfortable for all of us. So, now we can focus on other things, now that we have the foundation set. So, let's get this thing going."
Also, the former BYU fullback on Thursday was well aware of a recent New York Times story that said 110 out of 111 brains of former NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Like all coaches, he will walk a fine line between having his team ready for contact in the opener, while limiting it as much as possible in camp.
"My job is to protect these players, knowing all the stuff that happens with head trauma and things," Sitake said. "We will try to put ourselves in positions where we have to tackle, but not hit so much.
"We want to get really good as a team and get physical and aggressive, but there are a lot of different ways to do it without punishing our players," he continued. "As coaches, we have to be creative in how we formulate those opportunities, and that's what we are doing."
There also aren't as many position battles for starters as there were last year, including quarterback. In that regard, the tightest contests are probably at free safety, nose tackle, right tackle and all the receiver spots.
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BYU's first four games
Date Opponent Location
Aug. 26 Portland State Provo
Sept. 2 Louisiana State Houston
Sept. 9 Utah Provo
Sept. 16 Wisconsin Provo