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Five Things To Know About BYU Football Camp Practices

BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake during a fall camp scrimmage on August 21, 2021. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football camp practices are beginning to wind down. With two scrimmages and 10-plus practices behind them, the focus is beginning to shift to the Las Vegas showdown against the Arizona Wildcats.

Here are five things that you should know that will get you up to speed on what has happened at Camp Kalani.

1. BYU feels confident they can win with any one of the three QBs

Sometimes coaches will give the media comments that are the definition of “coach speak.” When either head coach Kalani Sitake or offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick says they feel confident in all three quarterbacks vying for the starting job, I tend to believe that’s how they feel. Rather than the canned “coach speak” lines.

Either Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney, or freshman Jacob Conover are talented enough to win at least eight games this season, especially when considering BYU’s personnel at their skill positions.

Romney is as cool as the other side of the pillow and has a knack for getting the ball in spots where playmakers can make plays. Conover might have the highest ceiling of them all. And Hall has the potential to be a breakout star in college football with his dynamic playmaking ability.

Hall looks the part of a quarterback one.  His commitment in the off-season to work with former BYU QB John Beck at 3DQB and put his baseball career on hold were strong indicators that he felt there was a path for him to be BYU’s top quarterback this season. If Hall’s healthy, and right now he is, he should be BYU’s starting quarterback in 2021.

2. Wide Receiver unit features a lot of depth

BYU’s wide receiver unit in 2021 might be the most talented the position has been in over a decade. Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick even said it’s the deepest room since he arrived in 2018.

The stars are Gunner Romney and Neil Pau’u. Romney is approaching this year as his last at BYU. A former four-star recruit out of Arizona, Romney was named to the Senior Bowl Watch List earlier this month.

There’s an argument to be made that Neil Pau’u has been the best receiver in camp so far. At 6-foot-4, 215-pounds, Pau’u emerged as one of the top targets at the end of last season. Pau’u hauled in at least 76 receiving yards in four of BYU’s last five games in 2020.

The Cougars also add Puka and Samson Nacua. Both have been brought along slowly due to injuries, but they are expected to be ready for game one against Arizona.

Then there’s Keanu Hill and Chris Jackson. Hill, the nephew to former Texas Longhorns great Roy Williams, made big strides forward in the past week at camp.

3. Intensity has remained high for the BYU football team

Last year, BYU went through fall camp with a lot of uncertainty. They didn’t know if they were even going to play games. The lack of guaranteed opportunities created an environment where players brought their best every day to practice.

Then when the games arrived, BYU was dialed in and steamrolled to an 11-1 record and No. 11 finish in the final AP Top 25.

Capturing that same atmosphere was a goal for the coaching staff coming into this year. So far, through three weeks of camp, the staff has been pleased with the intensity and attitude of players in camp.

“That’s been one of the more promising things for me in the big picture of the team is the intensity, the passion, the energy that we’re seeing right now, right in the thick of camp,” Passing Game Coordinator Fesi Sitake said in the middle of week three practices. “And I think that right there is just a product of the culture. The leadership that we have on this team and I’ve been really pleased with the energy and excitement that these guys are displaying in the toughest part of fall camp.”

4. Safety is the top position battle on defense

All of the Camp Kalani headlines have been focused on the quarterback room. But there are position battles still up for grabs.

The most notable battle outside of the QB room is at safety. Chaz Ah You has emerged as a starter at strong safety, but who the other three players are rounding out the two-deep is anyone’s guess.

Malik Moore is a veteran in the program, and he’s been a player that coaches have felt has a high ceiling. He’s contending for a starting role at free safety along with Hayden Livingston. A former QB who was a week one starter in 2019.

Mitchell Price, Jared Kapisi, Ethan Slade, and Matthew Criddle are others to watch.

If the safety spot struggles throughout the season, injured defensive back Micah Harper could be a candidate to switch from cornerback to safety. That depends on when Harper returns from the injury he suffered in spring practice. Kalani Sitake said back in March that they are hopeful Harper can at least play four games and still maintain his redshirt season.

5. Elite specialists

BYU doesn’t have any worries when it comes to their kicking game in 2021. Kicker Jake Oldroyd is coming off a year where he was a Lou Groza Award finalist. He should be one of the favorites to win the award this season.

Then at punter, BYU football has a weapon in Ryan Rehkow that the staff feels could flip the field if they find themselves deep in their own territory. Rehkow comes from a family of punters. His brother, Austin, parlayed his successful career at Idaho into four years in the NFL. Most recently, with the Indianapolis Colts.

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BYU opens the 2021 football season against the Arizona Wildcats on September 4 in Las Vegas at 8:30 p.m. (MT). You can watch the game on ESPN and listen to KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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