BYU Football’s Five Most Intriguing Position Battles During Fall Camp

Jul 25, 2023, 2:19 PM

PROVO, Utah – When Pioneer Day goes in the rearview mirror, the focus shifts to BYU football fall camp. Summer is unofficially winding down for college football teams across the country. BYU is no exception.

The Cougars are ramping up for their first camp as a member of the Big 12 Conference. They’ve had a month to enjoy the glow of being welcomed officially into the league with Day One festivities and Big 12 Media Days.

But now it’s time to start preparing for the work that will take place on the field.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake has always stayed true to his message of creating daily competition to field the best 11 at all times. So there will be no shortage of competition when BYU reports to fall camp practice on July 31.

These five position battles pique my interest heading into Camp Kalani.

Will transfer wide receivers push the assumed starters?

Coming out of spring practices, BYU has three established, veteran players at receiver, with Kody Epps, Keanu Hill, and Chase Roberts returning.

After those three, there were questions. That’s why it was a top priority from BYU’s offensive staff to pursue transfer portal receivers in the post-spring window. They landed UConn’s Keelan Marion and Eastern Michigan’s Darius Lassiter.

Could either one of these transfers crack into the top three? It’s worth monitoring entering fall camp.

Marion is a speedster who can take the top off a defense as a deep-play threat. He might already be BYU’s best home run ball receiver in Fesi Sitake’s wide receiver unit.

Lassiter comes to BYU after one year in the MAC at Eastern Michigan. He hauled in 40 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns and has a skill set that could fit nicely with BYU’s intermediate passing attack.

After the transfers, rounding out the depth chart will be important for BYU’s wide receivers. A handful of pass catchers showed flashes of playmaking ability in the spring with Talmage Gunther, Hobbs Nyberg, Dom Henry, Koa Eldredge, and Parker Kingston before he suffered a hand injury.

Tight End No. 2

There’s no debate about who BYU’s starting tight end will be this season. That’s Isaac Rex, who enters his fifth season with the program. Rex had 320 receiving yards last year while never playing at 100% health after a season-ending injury leg injury he suffered in 2021.

So Rex is settled into his role and looks to be better this season.

After him is where things get interesting at the tight end position. Keep an eye out for four-star freshman Jackson Bowers. Bowers is a true freshman, but he loves playing a physical brand of football. His physicality is mature for his age; keeping him off the field will be hard.

Ethan Erickson had the inside track for the job entering spring practices but left the door open for a freshman like Bowers to compete immediately. The 2023 BYU football team also has Masen Wake returning.

Another freshman to watch that could earn snaps this season is preferred walk-on Nason Coleman. A former Chandler High standout in Arizona turned down scholarship offers from FBS programs to sign with BYU. He showed well as a third-team tight end in the spring.

BYU also brought in JUCO transfer Ray Paulo and Southern Utah transfer Mata’ave Ta’ase to compete after spring practices concluded.

Starting five along the BYU football offensive line

There’s a good idea of who will be in the starting five. It’s a matter of where they all line up. Preseason All-Big 12 selection Kingsley Suamataia will be at left tackle; you don’t mess with a potential first-round draft pick who took every first-team left tackle snap in the spring.

Where it gets interesting is Paul Maile and Connor Pay. Pay was the nation’s highest-rated pass-blocking center from Pro Football Focus. But he could be switching over to the guard spot. The reason for that is the arrival of Utah transfer Paul Maile.

Regardless of where Pay and Maile take snaps, they will likely be in the starting five.

Then BYU also has another guard spot to fill. A favorite coming out of spring was Utah State transfer Weylin Lapuaho. As a true freshman, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Lapuaho started all 13 games last year for the Aggies.

Missouri State transfer Ian Fitzgerald and redshirt freshman Trevin Ostler could be players to compete for that interior guard spot.

At right tackle, watch for Oklahoma State transfer Caleb Etienne. BYU football coaches felt good about the right tackle spot with Brayden Keim coming out of spring ball, but with a chance to add a tackle with 13 starts in the Big 12, that’s too good to pass up.

Free Safety competition

BYU returns Malik Moore as a graduate senior, but there’s a new defensive staff. The man that oversees the safeties is first-year defensive coordinator Jay Hill. So there’s a high standard for what he expects from the position.

The top contenders for the free safety spot are returning starter Malik Moore along with Talan Alfrey, who has starter experience. A wild card in the mix could be redshirt freshman Chika Ebuonha was a special teams ace last season.

Moore has 21 starts in his career. If Hill gives Moore the nod, it could create a solid safety tandem with the hard-hitting Micah Harper to go with athletic Moore, who had a productive 2021 season recording three interceptions.

Talan Alfrey has nine career starts and was a heralded athlete from the Pacific Northwest. He’s navigated injuries during his BYU football career but now appears ready for a more significant workload this season.

Who fills the shoes of Jake Oldroyd at kicker?

The observation windows the media witnessed in spring practice saw a roller coaster ride at the kicker position. It was only a handful of practices where the kickers put in work in front of the media, but there were many misses.

When the gates were closed at practice, maybe it was a different story for the BYU kickers.

BYU coaches remain confident that someone will emerge to fill the shoes left by BYU’s all-time leading scorer Jake Oldroyd.

Boise State transfer Will Ferrin, walk-on Matthias Dunn, Justen Smith, and Landon Rehkow are the candidates.

BYU needs to find consistency in this kicker position. If a guy emerges, that would be a nice luxury to have a kicker they trust going into the season.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on Twitter and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Football’s Five Most Intriguing Position Battles During Fall Camp