Observations From Opening Week Of BYU Football Spring Practice
PROVO, Utah – One week of BYU football spring practice is in the books. The Cougars wrapped up week one on Friday with the first padded practice.
Beat writers and local media were given two observation periods this week to watch practice.
#BYU coach Kalani Sitake on his impression of the first practice as a Big 12 team.#BYUFootball pic.twitter.com/vYpGiTeFP7
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) March 7, 2023
Here are some observations from the first week of BYU spring ball.
Kedon Slovis looks comfortable in BYU’s offense
USC/Pitt transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis has settled nicely into the BYU program. After an up-and-down season at Pitt, Slovis looks ready for a bounceback at BYU.
Slovis is the No. 1 quarterback for BYU entering the season, and he’s comfortable in that role. Through two media observation windows, Slovis has only had one pass that you would call a bad one. But even Slovis’ bad pass was thrown well out of bounds and out of reach from the defense.
#BYU QB Kedon Slovis on his favorite parts of Aaron Roderick’s offense.#BYUfootball pic.twitter.com/5sUJNQrKO5
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) March 7, 2023
In practice number one, Slovis completed a 40-year deep pass to preferred walk-on Dom Henry.
How impactful Slovis will be at BYU will be determined in games this fall. But the early returns are positive as Slovis has settled nicely into Roderick’s playbook. The biggest positive is that he appears to be healthier than he’s been in recent years at Pitt and the tail end of his stint at USC.
Under-the-radar players catching my attention in week one
Dom Henry, Wide Receiver
With Kody Epps out during spring ball, as he recovers from a shoulder injury he suffered last October, it’s opened the door for redshirt freshman Dom Henry to emerge—the 5-foot-11, 175-pound pass catcher.
Henry has come up with big plays in both media sessions and looks to be making a solid case to be in the two-deep at wide receiver.
Henry was a highly productive player in high school. During his senior season at Nease High, Henry led the state of Florida in receiving yards with 1,590 yards.
practice flics 📸📸📸 pic.twitter.com/iceQKY24eS
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) March 9, 2023
Ethan Erickson, Tight End
Tight end Ethan Erickson is emerging as the No. 2 behind Isaac Rex. A sophomore from Kahuku High is an athletic player improving his blocking as a tight end.
Cade Fennegan, Quarterback
Fennegan is showing why he earned high praise as the scout team quarterback in 2021. He’s making quick decisions and throwing accurate passes.
Fennegan is making a case to be the No. 2 quarterback. With JUCO transfer Jake Retzlaff still recovering from having his tonsils out, Fennegan has been getting the second-team reps.
Mory Bamba, Cornerback
JUCO transfer Mory Bamba is going to see playing time in 2023. His athleticism is intriguing, and he has big measurables for a cornerback at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. Bamba gave up the 40-yard completion to Henry on Day One, but Henry great play on the ball.
It’s a growing process for Bamba, but his combination of size and speed will put him in a spot to contend for playing time this fall, especially in packages where BYU plays five defensive backs.
BYU defensive line has the potential to surprise
BYU’s defense is going through a transition under the direction of defensive coordinator Jay Hill. When Hill was hired, he assembled a staff with proven Power Five coaching experience, particularly in the trenches.
Kelly Poppinga (DEs) and Sione Po’uha (DTs) are coaching the defensive line now.
Expectations are low for this group, but they have some intriguing options if they are healthy.
Defensive end Tyler Batty has stood out as the group’s leader, along with Atunaisa Mahe in the interior. Moving from the edge to the inside is also John Nelson, who has been productive the past two seasons for BYU football.
Then Boise State transfer Isaiah Bagnah has shown flashes of his ability to create pressure, but as Kalani Sitake notes, there is more to playing defensive line than just creating pressure on the quarterback.
Bagnah’s former Boise State teammate Jackson Cravens has also provided a veteran lift to BYU. On day one, he had a pass deflection on Kedon Slovis at the line of scrimmage. He’s versatile enough to play defensive end in a three-man front.
Redshirt freshman Aisea Moa came up with a fumble recovery in Friday’s practice against an offense with Nick Billoups in at quarterback.
Buy stock now in the running back position
We haven’t seen UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins during the media windows due to his recovery from off-season wrist surgery. So it’s opened the door for other running backs to emerge.
Hinckley “Folau” Ropati has shown flashes as he did against Boise State last season. During a two-minute drill near the end of Friday’s practice, Ropati popped off a 20-yard run that put BYU’s offense inside the red zone.
Along with Ropati, BYU also has Miles Davis. Davis switched his jersey number from No. 19 to No. 4. On day one showed off his speed on a run up the middle.
Former quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters has switched to running back. He’s looking to earn a role in that position group. Maiava-Peters has put on some weight on his frame. During Friday’s practice, he caught a swing pass out of the backfield and gained positive yardage down the sideline.
The stock on BYU’s running backs is trending up, and it should only improve this fall when they add heralded freshman LJ Martin.
Kicking woes for BYU Football
BYU’s kicker situation will be one to monitor. At the end of Monday’s practice, every kicker missed 47-yard field goal attempts, and the misses weren’t close. Then on Friday, a walk-on tryout kicker wearing jersey number 97 booted a 26-yard field goal to close out a two-minute drill.
Boise State transfer Will Ferrin attempted a 48-yard field goal on Friday, and he kicked it well. The attempt went off the left upright. BYU’s offense initially celebrated, thinking the ball bounced back through, but it was a miss.
Then Justen Smith attempted a 43-yard attempt that was good.
It’s a position that has no one ready to emerge at the moment. If no one establishes themselves in spring, don’t be surprised if special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga looks for a kicker out of the transfer portal.
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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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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