BYU football: At least three freshmen could start in opener
Provo • With the season opener at UConn 10 days away, BYU coaches haven't released a depth chart yet, and probably won't until Friday, at the soonest.
But there's a strong possibility that the Cougars could be starting three freshmen, maybe more, when they line up against the Huskies at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on Aug. 29. And they are not guys who were highly touted out of high school, either.
After the Cougars practiced at the indoor practice field on Tuesday, head coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive line coach Garett Tujague both said if the season started today, the line's starting center would be true freshman Tejan Koroma, a 6-foot, 280-pounder from Allen, Texas. Koroma has apparently beat out a couple veterans, junior Terrance Alletto and Rimington Trophy candidate Edward Fusi.
"He's earned it. It is not like it has been given to him," Tujague said of Koroma. "He's a stud. He's a flat-out stud. The defense has a nickname for him, and it has been very well-earned."
Tujague wouldn't divulge the nickname, but it might have something to do with the fact that Koroma was kicked out of Friday's scrimmage for getting back-to-back personal fouls.
"Just feistiness," Tujague said. "That's kind of our policy you block until they fight you."
Mendenhall acknowledged that Koroma "could be" the story of camp, to date.
Ului Lapuaho, a freshman from Hunter High who served a church mission before enrolling, is closing in on the starting left tackle spot.
The defense could have a surprise freshman starter as well. Former Fremont High athlete Jordan Preator, who redshirted last year, "has had as good of a camp as any player on our team," said defensive coordinator Nick Howell.
Asked who would be the starting cornerbacks if the season started today, Mendenhall said possibly Preator and either Trenton Trammell or Michael Davis.
"It is still kinda open there," Mendenhall said. "So tomorrow's [scrimmage] will have something to do with that."
That Mendenhall didn't mention the returning starters, Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel, when asked about the starting cornerbacks is further indication that the seniors will be suspended for the opener, as has been suspected since before fall camp began.
Neither Johnson nor Daniel have appeared in the post-practice interview room all camp, despite several requests for both by The Salt Lake Tribune. Johnson did speak to a Deseret News reporter at photo day and denied he has been informed that he will miss the opener.
Regardless, Mendenhall said Daniel might be moved to safety and called the junior college transfer "our best defensive back, currently, so the corner battle will have something to do with where he fits, and the safety battle will have something to do with where he fits."
Although Daniel played safety when the media was watching Tuesday, Howell said he "is going to play the same position" he played last year, which was cornerback.
"I think Rob is playing better than anybody right now," Howell said.
Back at it
After missing the first two weeks of practices and scrimmages with injuries, offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch and linebacker Bronson Kaufusi are both practicing this week and looked like they hadn't missed a beat, coaches said.
Asked about Kaufusi's ability to step in and play a new position after missing most of camp, linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga said he has no worries whatsoever.
"Zero worry," Poppinga said. "That's all I'm going to say - zero."
At the end of practice, the Cougars worked extensively on field goals and Mendenhall said senior Trevor Samson has a lead of two percentage points over sophomore Moose Bingham. He said Oregon State transfer Andrew Mikkelsen is the best at kickoffs, but Mikkelsen is out with a sore back. â¦ Neither candidate to start at mike (middle) linebacker, Zac Stout or Harvey Langi, practiced Tuesday. â¦ Mendenhall said the battle to be the punt returner is between UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie and Stanford transfer Keanu Nelson.
O What we learned • The Cougars held their final practice of training camp on Tuesday and will have a scrimmage Wednesday for coaches to get one more look at younger players hoping to make the travel squad. Preparations for the Aug. 29 opener at UConn begin Thursday.
Who was hot • Quarterback Taysom Hill threw a pair of long touchdown passes to Mitch Mathews and Devon Blackmon during the media-viewing portion of practice.
Who was out: Linebacker Harvey Langi has not practiced since suffering a bruised knee in practice last Thursday.
Season opener BYU at UConn
O 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29
TV • ESPN