BYU Had ‘Different Feel’ At First Fall Camp Practice As Big 12 Team

Aug 1, 2023, 7:43 PM

PROVO, Utah – BYU football was blessed with overcast skies and temperatures in the high 70s for its first fall camp practice of the 2023 season.

That weather alone is a different feeling than the scorching hot temperatures they are used to this time of the year in the late afternoons in Utah County.

More than the weather, eighth-year head coach Kalani Sitake sees differences in this 2023 squad at practice that he likes as BYU gears up for its inaugural Big 12 season.

“There’s just a different feel to the team this year, and I like it,” Sitake said after practice concluded on Tuesday. “It’s probably because of the great leadership and the coaching they are getting.”

Jay Hill brings a new look to BYU Fall Camp

Sitake overhauled his defensive staff. He moved on from his close friend Ilaisa Tuiaki and former associate head coach Ed Lamb. In comes Jay Hill from Weber State. The winningest coach in Wildcat history has already made his presence felt at BYU.

During day one of practice on Tuesday, the media watched for 20 minutes, and within that observation window, BYU ran two different “team” portions.

If you’re wondering what the “team” portion of practice is, it’s 11-on-11 football. It’s the closest thing to a game during practice.

BYU had two live team portions with QBs Kedon Slovis, Cade Fennegan, and Nick Billoups on the east side of the SAB field and Jake Retzlaff and Ryder Burton on the west side.

That two-team portion look was brought to BYU from Jay Hill. Hill used to run two live team portions during his time in Ogden.

New faces everywhere you look

The logic behind it is to give everyone more opportunities for reps. BYU brought in nearly 60 newcomers to this roster. Those 60 new faces are a combination of returned missionaries, freshmen, and transfer portal players.

I’ve been tracking BYU football roster movement since the 1995 season. By my records, it’s the most newcomers in one year to a BYU team over that span.

So there are a lot of opportunities for evaluation and competition, which is an objective for Sitake and his staff.

“Keep the competition going and start to solidify the depth chart a little bit more,” Sitake said on fall camp objectives. “Right now, there’s a lot of great athletes that are competing for limited spots. So I think, in the next little bit, we’ll just get them as many reps as we can. Then evaluate and see what we’ve got to go with.”

Sitake added that “in two weeks time,” he wants to solidify the starting spots in preparation for the season opener against Sam Houston on September 2.

Kedon Slovis continues to feel comfortable in BYU’s offense

The quarterback spot is one position that doesn’t need to be solidified. Slovis is BYU’s starting quarterback. That was decided coming out of spring ball in April. It’s the first time since 2019 that BYU has a clear number one at the top position.

Slovis has a lot to prove this season. He struggled last year in his one year at Pitt throwing nine interceptions to only 10 touchdown passes. Then he struggled with injuries in his final year at USC in 2021. The fifth-year signal-caller is 27 yards away from 10,000 career passing yards picked BYU over offers from SEC programs and Notre Dame because of the QB-friendly system the Cougars run.

Aaron Roderick’s friendliness to quarterbacks was displayed in the first team portion snap on the east side field. Slovis connected on a deep ball down the sideline to wide receiver Kody Epps, who was sporting a fresh new multicolor-tinted visor.

“I think the good thing here is we’ve done so many PRPs (player-ran practices) today, you know, shouldn’t be any MAs (missed assignments); we’ve done all these plays probably four or five times now in PRPs alone. If you were here this spring, you’ve done it probably 10 or 15 times,” Slovis said. “So that’s the biggest thing. I don’t think we made any mental errors. Everyone, for the most part, did their job. That’s the stuff I look for today.”

BYU fall camp goes through week one

BYU fall camp will continue tomorrow. The media will have another observation period this Friday, August 4.

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 Had ‘Different Feel’ At First Fall Camp Practice As Big 12 Team