BYU Players Who Have Taken Step Forward During Bowl Practices

Dec 15, 2022, 7:46 AM
BYU Football, Evan Johnson, Bowl Practice...
BYU football freshman cornerback Evan Johnson is a player Jernaro Gilford pointed out as taking a step forward in bowl practices. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – BYU football coach Kalani Sitake has consistently noted that every bowl game is important because of the extra practices.

The bowl season practices allow underclassmen to get a more significant share of reps. With younger players getting more snaps in the past few weeks in preparation for the 2022 New Mexico Bowl, who have been some of the guys that have made the most of their opportunity?

BYU coaches shared some insight.

Lisala Tai, Offensive Tackle

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick when asked by KSL Sports which underclassmen are standing out in bowl practices, was quick to mention Lisala Tai.


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“He’s getting valuable reps, and he has a very bright future,” said Roderick. “That guy is going to be an NFL player if he does what he’s supposed to do. His reps have been great. He stands out every day as someone who has a really bright future.”

Tai is a junior college transfer from Snow College who has a long road to BYU. He was a signee in BYU’s first recruiting class in 2016. But after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Tai began his football career in Ephraim.

This year has counted as a redshirt season for Tai, who still has two years of eligibility remaining. He arrived late during fall camp in August, which put him behind the curve for playing time this season.

Tai stands at 6-foot-7, 336-pounds, and will line up at offensive tackle. He’s in the two-deep entering the New Mexico Bowl.

Aisea Moa, Defensive Line

BYU defensive assistant Jernaro Gilford pointed out Aisea Moa along the defensive line as a young player taking a step forward during bowl practice.

Moa will be a crucial piece for BYU along the defensive line as they enter the Big 12 era next season. A former four-star recruit from Weber High, Moa is redshirting this year.

Moa has a positive outlook on the future of BYU football after this season. He wrote on Twitter earlier this month, “WE GON BE JUST FINE COUGAR NATION! COACH KALANI IS GOING TO TAKE US IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION…”

Micah Wilson, Linebacker

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Wilson is in his first year with the BYU football program. This year will be a redshirt for him. With so many linebackers out for this bowl game (Keenan Pili, Max Tooley, Payton Wilgar), it’s caused a more significant chance at reps for Wilson.

The younger brother to Zach and Josh Wilson, Wilson has the potential to be a two-deep player in 2023.

Dean Jones, Safety

Redshirt freshman Dean Jones got some opportunities for playing time against Stanford. Jones was a member of the 2020 recruiting class, and coaches were impressed with his athleticism and size. At 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, and with a new defensive staff in place, Jones could move up the pecking order in the future at safety.

Preston Rex, Safety

The younger brother to Isaac Rex, Preston Rex, was someone that previous safeties coach Ed Lamb pointed out as someone catching his eye in fall camp.

Rex excelled on both sides of the ball during his prep career at San Clemente High School in California.

Evan Johnson, Cornerback

Freshman cornerback Evan Johnson has elite speed. The Monterey, California native ran a 10.41 100-meter last year at Stevenson High School.

With Kaleb Hayes and D’Angelo Mandell moving on after this weekend, there will be spots on the two-deep for young defensive backs to emerge next season. Johnson will be a name to keep an eye on as he has speed plus size at 6-foot-1, 175-pounds.

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. Mitch will be in Albuquerque for the 2022 New Mexico Bowl between BYU and SMU. Follow his coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Players Who Have Taken Step Forward During Bowl Practices