BYU Football Set For Fall Camp Report Day As Big 12 Member

Jul 31, 2023, 12:00 AM

BYU Football, Kalani Sitake, Fall Camp...

BYU football reports to fall camp to kick off the 2023 season, the eighth year for head coach Kalani Sitake. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football has waited 22 months for what awaits them, a season as a Big 12 program.

The moment has arrived. On Monday, the 2023 BYU football team reports to camp, then kicks off practices on Tuesday afternoon at the Student Athlete Building.

That close to two years of buildup was necessary to prepare BYU for the heightened level of competition they will face weekly. BYU will face ten Power Five opponents in a season for the first time this fall.

Additional staff was hired in the recruiting, strength and conditioning, and nutrition departments to go along with restructuring the support staff.

BYU has been aggressive in retooling the roster to ensure they have depth. Eighth-year head coach Kalani Sitake believes this is his deepest team to date.

Physicality for BYU football in fall camp

History has shown that BYU needs a deep roster to survive the rigors of a season. Last year, BYU was 122nd in the nation in number of players to start in games. BYU had 46 different players start last season because they couldn’t keep players healthy. That’s one of the reasons BYU’s strength and conditioning staff was overhauled this offseason.

Former BYU linebacker Coleby Clawson and Dr. Skylar Mayne oversee sports performance, while Ryan Phillis comes from Purdue to take Nu’u Tafisi’s strength and conditioning role.

It’s safe to say there’s been a lot of work leading up to this moment. BYU is in the power conference club they’ve long coveted since LaVell Edwards roamed the sidelines. But now it’s time to start letting the dream become a reality on the football field.

Fall camp will be the first sign of the on-field product for this first Big 12 BYU squad.

Back in spring ball, BYU was very physical in practice. With so many new faces, will the physicality continue in fall camp?

“I know we talked about this quite a bit with our sports scientists and with our trainers, and we developed a system where I think we’re gonna get a mixture of all of it,” Sitake said to KSL Sports on balancing physicality and holding key players back. “But we’re also going to have to pivot and do some things a little bit differently depending on where we see the team.”

Jay Hill takes over the BYU defense

Another big storyline entering camp is the defense. First-year defensive coordinator Jay Hill left the head coach position at Weber State to team up with Sitake at BYU. BYU opened their wallet to land him. Hill inherits a BYU football defense that struggled last season, finishing 93rd in total defense.

BYU was 129th out of 130 teams last year in team sacks. The injuries played a role in that low number, but the conservative scheme did not allow playmakers to create plays. Generating a pass rush will be critical if BYU hopes to exceed the predicted 11th-place finish placed on them in year one of Big 12 play.

The early returns with Hill from spring practice suggest this defense will be much more aggressive than what BYU football has put out in recent seasons.

Hill brought in a veteran staff of coaches with Power Five experience to coach up the defense, including Kelly Poppinga and Sione Po’uha, to lead the defensive line.

“Whatever it takes to keep quarterbacks on their toes and keep them honest, I don’t think it can be just one (rusher),” Hill said on the KSL Sports Zone’s DJ & PK on how many players are needed to generate a pass rush. “If you’re just always sending four, then I think the offensive line get pretty good at sliding to their best pass rusher and eliminating one guy. I think you have to keep quarterbacks on their toes, you have to give them different looks and you’ve got to bring pressures from different areas.”

Final college season for Kedon Slovis

On the offensive side, all eyes will be on quarterback Kedon Slovis. The former USC and Pitt quarterback never envisioned he would finish his collegiate career playing at BYU. However, he has embraced BYU and his team has rallied around him. During spring practices and the off-season, Slovis emerged as a leader. He even took all the offensive skill players on a summer retreat to St. George so everyone could get to know each other better.

The fifth-year college QB has struck a strong bond with wide receiver Kody Epps. Both have been frequent golfers around the valley and in Park City to strengthen their bond as they gear up for their only season together.

Slovis was impressed with what BYU OC Aaron Roderick has done for Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall. Both of those former BYU QBs are now in the NFL. Slovis wants to have that same result next year. There’s a better chance for him to accomplish that at BYU than at Pitt, considering this offense is tailored to his skill set.

Like Wilson and Hall, Slovis has continued to put in work at 3DQB in Southern California this off-season with former BYU QB John Beck. The knowledge and comfort Slovis has within BYU’s offense has people feeling there’s a chance for a nice bounce-back story from the QB, that was once viewed as a Top-10 NFL draft pick.

The offensive line will be fun to watch

The offensive line that will protect Slovis is an area to watch. BYU’s offensive line projects to be the strength of the offense. Who rounds out the starting five should be an entertaining battle. Oklahoma State transfer Caleb Etienne was a significant addition as he comes to BYU with 13 Big 12 starts already under his belt. The same can be said for Simi Moala, a former starting tackle at Utah. Both of those players joined after spring ball concluded.

The Cougars also bring back Kingsley Suamataia, a first-team All-Big 12 selection in the preseason, Connor Pay, and Utah transfer Paul Maile. Maile will make his debut in practice during fall camp. He was out with an upper-body injury during spring ball.

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 Set For Fall Camp Report Day As Big 12 Member