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BYU football: Cougars “got way better” in spring camp, feel good about 2017 season

First Published      Last Updated Mar 31 2017 05:44 pm


BYU football » Sitake upbeat as team holds annual Alumni Day.

Provo • Bronco Mendenhall wasn't a by-the-book coach in his 12-year tenure at BYU, and second-year coach Kalani Sitake has proved to be similar in that regard.

Sitake has continued the tradition of holding a week of spring practices after the spring game or scrimmage. Almost a week after last Saturday's exercise at LaVell Edwards stadium, Sitake ran the Cougars through their final spring session Friday at the Indoor Practice Facility with a hundreds of former players watching on Alumni Day.

Sitake was asked whether his team as presently constituted is ready to tackle a schedule this fall that includes LSU, Utah, Wisconsin, Boise State and Mississippi State. He said the day he was hired that BYU fans deserve a winning program that can compete with any team on the schedule.




"I side with the fans all the time and the one thing the fans can all be united on is winning," Sitake said. "So let's try to win and make them happy and see what happens. In the meantime, we are going to build this program around love, and a foundation of love. [Players should] love their teammates, love their fans, love their community, love what they stand for and what they represent, and we will see how many wins that gets us."

But unlike Mendenhall, Sitake is not going on a "quest for perfection," or anything close.

"I don't want to make definitive statements or things like that," he said. "I just want to keep progressing. I think we are getting better and we are right on the path that I want to be on, and that our coaching staff wants the guys to be on."

Sitake and his coordinators, Ty Detmer on offense and Ilaisa Tuiaki on defense, said the main goal was to focus on technique and fundamentals.

"Mission accomplished, as far as spring," Tuiaki said. "We stayed healthy for the most part, the technique got better, and guys are starting to match with the scheme. And that's what we talked about doing."

"It was a really good 15 practices," Sitake said. "I thought we got way better, got more comfortable. … We actually had some time to do some new install. I think that is going to help us in the fall."

The Cougars also hit the weight room hard, coaches said, continuing Sitake's emphasis on getting bigger and stronger that was established 15 months ago when he took over.

"The main focus was to not disrupt our offseason conditioning and strength training," he said. "For us, the weight room is the most important part of this phase. And with [spring] football, we felt like we could do both."

Coaches said the player who emerged the most offensively was freshman tight end Matt Bushman; defensively, it was sophomore cornerback Chris Wilcox and defensive end Trajan Pili. Tuiaki said if some incoming cornerbacks are as good as coaches think they'll be, 2016 starting corners Troy Warner and Dayan (Lake) Ghanowoluku could get a look at safety.

If the team has a weakness, it is probably at receiver, after Nick Kurtz, Mitchell Juergens and Colby Pearson graduated and Moroni Laulu-Pututau moved to tight end. Sitake said receivers such as Micah Simon, Akile Davis and Talon Shumway stepped up to ease his concerns.

"We feel really comfortable with the talent that we have there," Sitake said. "It is a new group, but the guys are ready to step up."

Detmer said a running back didn't emerge to replace Jamaal Williams, so that battle between Squally Canada, KJ Hall, Ula Tolutau, Trey Dye and Riley Burt will continue through preseason camp in August, as will the competition between sophomores Beau Hoge and Koy Detmer Jr. to be Mangum's primary backup. Freshman returned missionary quarterback Kody Wilstead might be asked to redshirt, Detmer acknowledged.

drew@sltrib.com Twitter: @drewjay

 

AT A GLANCE

Storylines

Hundreds of former players participate in Alumni Day as the Cougars held their final practice of spring camp indoors.

» The Cougars worked on the deep ball with quarterback Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge, Koy Detmer Jr. and Kody Willstead, who may redshirt this fall.

» Coach Kalani Sitake said everyone will “find out when spring semester starts” in April whether defensive ends Tomasi Laulile and Sione Takitaki rejoin the program.


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