BYU’s Puka Nacua Motivated To Rid Last Year’s Sour Ending In 2022

Jul 18, 2022, 11:55 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2022, 3:06 pm

PROVO, Utah – BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua is gearing up for his fourth college football season. It’s gone fast since his days as a blue-chip recruit at Orem High.

But there’s more for the junior standout to prove.

Last season, in his first year with BYU after transferring from Washington, Nacua was BYU’s leading receiver with 805 yards on 43 catches. He emerged as the big-play receiver BYU’s staff imagined he would be when they got him out of the Transfer Portal. Nacua averaged 18.7 yards per catch last season.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect had that success last season while dealing with a nagging hamstring injury that limited him during fall camp.

Confidence is growing for Puka Nacua entering 2022

Now healthy, Puka Nacua wants to take his game and the hometown team to new heights in 2022.

“I feel like the confidence that the guys have in me was a huge help for me,” Nacua told KSL 5 TV’s Jeremiah Jensen about what he learned about himself at BYU in year one. “Obviously, I played college football at another school, and I’m kind of an old guy with this technically my fourth season with all the COVID and stuff, so guys are getting older. But just being able to find a rhythm and a pace and then confidence in myself.

“When I know that I come back to the sidelines after dropping the ball whether I make a play, the guys are there cheering me on and they want me to succeed whatever time I go back. So it’s a confidence boost for me every time when I step out on the field. I know that those guys got my back but they’re also expecting greatness from me so it helps hold myself to a higher standard and make sure that everything that I do is held at that standard.”

UAB loss left a bitter taste to end last season

On paper, the 2021 season was a resounding success for BYU. The Cougars finished 10-3 and ranked No. 19 in the final AP Top 25 poll. But the loss to UAB in the Independence Bowl put a damper on what was a year that included a 5-0 record against Nacua’s old league, the Pac-12.

“I don’t know how the other guys feel, but the UAB game is something that has sat sour, I feel like in everybody’s mouth,” said Nacua. “It was such a good season to kind of let it fall to the wayside at the end of the year is something that’s kind of pushed us through the offseason in the wintertime and then through spring ball. Then I’m sure it’ll get us all the way to the South Florida game.”

Puka Nacua is part of a talented BYU football offense

Nacua is part of a BYU offense that brings back nearly everyone except running back Tyler Allgeier. Not only do they have experience, but many of the offensive personnel –including Nacua– are being mentioned as potential high-profile NFL draft prospects in the 2023 class. With that much talent, Nacua is bullish about what the offense can produce this fall.

“The collective group of veteran guys and the confidence that we have [on offense],” said Nacua. “We know what we’re capable of, and we’ve shown it the last couple of years. We haven’t pieced it all the way together. This is the year we feel we have another good schedule. It’s the last year of Independence. So kind of kickoff and make sure we go into the Big 12 the right way. But we also want to go out there and win every football game we participate in.”

Reflecting on the decision to transfer to BYU from Washington

The Big 12 is still a year away, and Nacua has the chance to be part of that BYU team in 2023. But regardless, the former Orem standout is happy with his decision to transfer to BYU. Leaving Montlake for Provo gave him the chance to play one season with his brother, Samson Nacua (Indianapolis Colts), and be close to his family. The main reason why he transferred from Washington in the first place.

“To be a part of some of the things I was in last year and for [Samson] to be in that Utah game and to experience some of the stuff with my brother was an absolute blast. But in life, to be there to spend the last moments with my grandma before she had passed away. To be here with my mom and with our entire family to be there and to have them support me in the journey that I’ve been on and then also for us to support each other with the things that have been happening in our life. I wouldn’t take that back for anything. It’s been a huge blessing to be part of and I’m glad to have those guys super close by.”

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

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BYU’s Puka Nacua Motivated To Rid Last Year’s Sour Ending In 2022