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What I’m Looking For During BYU Football Spring Practice

Feb 29, 2024, 1:46 AM

PROVO, Utah – BYU football spring practices are set to kick off for the 2024 season.

There is no shortage of storylines for the Cougars entering spring ball after an underwhelming 5-7 campaign last season.

Media members will have opportunities to watch some practice windows throughout the month.

Here are some notable things I’ll be looking for during spring practice.

BYU Quarterback battle: Jake Retzlaff vs. Gerry Bohanon

Anytime BYU football has a quarterback battle, it’s a storyline that absorbs most of the oxygen around the program. That will probably be the case during spring ball, as everyone will have their eyes peeled on BYU’s signal-callers.

Jake Retzlaff and USF/Baylor transfer Gerry Bohanon are the two quarterbacks contending for the job.

After BYU announced Bohanon’s official signing in February, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said that Bohanon and Retzlaff would lead the competition.

“We expect [Bohanon] to compete with Jake Retzlaff this spring, and we’re excited about that,” Roderick said.

 

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Roderick also added on Bohanon, “Gerry is a great leader. He has not only graduated but has also completed his master’s degree. An outstanding leader and a really smart guy who has started a lot of games. He had a tough injury last year and didn’t get to play any football at all last year at South Florida. We went down and watched him throw and he looked great.

Retzlaff comes into spring practices with four starts under his belt. During his four starts, Retzlaff passed for 648 yards, three touchdowns and tossed three interceptions. His completion percentage was 50.4%.

The former JUCO standout also rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

It’s unlikely that Roderick will name a starting quarterback after the conclusion of the 15 spring practices. But what needs to happen is that Retzlaff and Bohanon show enough to make Sitake and Roderick feel confident they can win games with either of those guys.

If they do, BYU probably avoids dipping into the post-spring transfer portal for another signal-caller.

Deep passes are an area in the quarterback battle that I’ll be curious about. Roderick wants to return to BYU offenses that stretch the field and pick up chunk plays. Whichever quarterback shows that consistently could earn the upper hand after spring.

The pass rush

BYU football finished with 11 sacks last season. That was tied for the fewest sacks in the country. What’s going to change?

It’s hard to gauge a pass rush in spring practice, as quarterbacks aren’t going to be hit. But you want to see the quickness and versatility of individual players on their moves.

The return of Tyler Batty at defensive end significantly boosted BYU’s defensive outlook in 2024. Batty earned Second Team All-Big 12 recognition last season.

BYU also added Weber State transfer Jack Kelly, who led the Big Sky in sacks last season with 10.5. Kelly has already emerged as one of the strongest players in the program.

Other pass rushers that I’ll watch for in spring are returning starter Isaiah Bagnah, JUCO transfer Sani Tuala, and true freshman Ephraim Asiata.

Newcomers who give the “flashes” of potential

Spring ball is always a chance for new faces to make a name for themselves. Making plays in spring practice doesn’t ensure that a newcomer will earn significant playing time in the fall. However, when players show “flashes” of potential, it’s a good reference when a team has to dig into their depth during the season due to injuries.

So every snap, even in spring ball, takes on some importance that could eventually translate to Saturdays during the season.

Some of those newcomers I’m intrigued to see are the aforementioned Tuala and Asiata on the edge. I’m also intrigued by Snow College transfer defensive lineman John Taumoepeau.

Taumoepeau signed with BYU as a preferred walk-on in 2023 but didn’t enroll in class last year. He was a good pass rusher out of Snow at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds.

BYU has a pressing need for depth at defensive tackle. Springville High freshman Dallin Johnson steps into the program and could climb the depth chart if he shows well in spring practice.

At cornerback, Weber State transfer Marquee (pronounced Mark) Collins has a chance to step in and be in the two-deep. I’m intrigued to see what Therrian “Tre” Alexander out of Georgia can do in his first collegiate practices.

Along the offensive line, Lone Peak High returned missionary Joe Brown has earned rave reviews from the coaching staff. Brown returned from a Latter-day Saint mission and earned a scholarship after initially being offered as a preferred walk-on. He could be a contender to start somewhere on the line this season.

Four-star tight end Ryner Swanson is a talented pass catcher who steps into a tight end unit looking to replace Isaac Rex and has a new coach in Kevin Gilbride.

Punter competition

It’s not likely we get to see much of the punter battle. However, it’s a position that BYU needs to get right. After losing one of the all-time great punters in BYU history, Ryan Rehkow, the Cougars have a big void to replace at that spot.

The top candidates are Rehkow’s younger brother, Landon Rehkow, and Pitt transfer Sam Vander Haar. Vander Haar is an Aussie rules-style punter who can kick with either leg.

Running Back depth

LJ Martin is the number one running back for BYU entering spring practice. Martin has the potential to be a star in his BYU career.

In his first season in the BYU football program, he rushed for 518 yards on 109 attempts and four touchdowns.

Turning the job over to Martin is fine. But what’s after him?

The unexpected departure of Aidan Robbins to the NFL draft leaves BYU’s depth in an unproven state. Miles Davis and Hinckley Folau Ropati are both entering their fourth seasons in the program, but each has had inconsistent roles due to injuries and being buried on the depth chart in previous years.

 

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BYU needs both to emerge as strong backups to Martin during spring practice.

The other options at running back include returning missionary freshmen Pokaiaua Haunga and Jovesa Damuni.

Earlier this month, Roderick said Haunga “might have a chance to play early in his career.”

Accountability along the offensive line

BYU’s offensive line underachieved last season. It was an issue brewing in 2022, but it hit rock bottom in their first season as a member of the Big 12. That led to Darrell Funk being dismissed as the offensive line coach.

BYU football brings in TJ Woods from Georgia Southern, who has previously worked at Utah State.

One of the knocks on BYU’s offensive line over the past few years has been a lack of toughness and accountability. We will get the first glimpse of how Woods establishes his culture along the offensive front.

BYU’s offensive line should be improved in 2024 with Connor Pay, Weylin Lapuaho, and Brayden Keim returning. Kalani Sitake was bullish on the improvement from Caleb Etienne in year two.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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What I’m Looking For During BYU Football Spring Practice