Eye on the Y: Cougars close to landing a graduate-transfer from South Carolina, but competition for talented RB is fierce

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU running backs coach AJ Steward (right) chats with senior RB Squally Canada during a spring practice last March. Steward said BYU coaches will leave no stone unturned in their search for a workhorse running back to replace Canada, who graduated in December.

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After BYU’s spring football practice on Tuesday, offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was asked if the coaching staff is still anticipating the addition of another running back before preseason practices begin in late July.

“I hope so,” Grimes said. “Still working on it. Recruiting never ends.”

That’s good news for Cougar fans, who look at the current group of running backs and wonder if there is a difference-maker among them. Trust me, folks are worried.

So here’s more good news, perhaps: Sources say that BYU’s chances of landing fifth-year graduate transfer Ty’Son Williams, a running back who has played at North Carolina and South Carolina, have improved considerably lately.

Williams has narrowed his favorites list to BYU and Florida State. He has already visited BYU, along with his family, and his parents were reportedly overwhelmed — in a good way — by what BYU has to offer.

Grimes and running backs coach AJ Steward both mentioned Tuesday that oft-injured running back Kavika Fonua has impressed them in spring practices. Sounds like Fonua will push current RB1 Lopini Katoa for playing time this fall, along with walk-ons Tyler Allgeier and Morgan Pyper. Redshirt freshman Sione Finau is also still in the mix for reps.

“I am very pleased with what I am seeing from Kavika,” Steward said. “He is a hard-nosed guy. He is very coachable. You can see that even though he has been out for a year, he is still a veteran player who understands the game of football. His learning curve isn’t as steep as the younger guys have it. He has shown some really good flashes thus far this spring.”

So has Pyper, the freshman from Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“He has really good speed, really good agility as well,” Steward said. “He’s still learning, though. He’s a freshman, so he still has some room for learning the schematics and such. But if you put a ball in his hands, you will see that he’s a good athlete. He’s on pace to do some good things for us.”

More good news: I spoke at length with tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau last week, and the rising senior who has sustained two season-ending injuries told me he’s on track to participate in preseason camp in late July, thanks to a groundbreaking surgical procedure performed in part by renowned Dr. James Andrews.

Also, quarterback Jaren Hall — who coach Kalani Sitake said last week is emerging in the race to be Zach Wilson’s backup — drove in the game-winning run in the baseball team’s extra-innings win over Utah Valley on Tuesday night, just hours after leaving football practice and arriving in Orem in the third inning.

Basketball buildup

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe announced Sunday night after the Cougar hoopsters were snubbed by the NIT that the season was over and coach Dave Rose’s team wouldn’t be participating in the CBI or CIT, tournaments that charge entry fees.

But the BYU women’s basketball team is still playing — in the Big Dance. The Cougars received a No. 7 seed for the NCAA Tournament and will meet No. 10 seed Auburn of the SEC on Saturday at No. 2 seed Stanford.

“I think right now we are definitely starting to get to the point where we are reaching our potential, and we are almost peaking,” said star guard Brenna Chase. “We are not quite there yet. But right now, I would say we are playing the best basketball we’ve played all year.”

For the men’s team, it has been a rough couple of weeks since it was bounced from the WCC tournament by San Diego, which just happened to get an NIT bid, then was routed at Memphis. So the Cougars will have to cheer on their fellow tenants in the Marriott Center Annex, and watch league foes Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s play in the Big Dance.


I asked Sitake on Tuesday whether the team that he has assembled for spring practices can be successful next fall as currently constituted. His reply:

“Of course, yeah. Yeah, I do, as long as the head coach doesn’t get in the way, we will be OK.”

Around campus

BYU’s baseball team is 15-6 overall, 1-2 in WCC play, heading into a three-game WCC set with Portland this weekend in Provo. The Pilots are also having a strong season, standing at 15-6 overall, 1-2 in league play.

Right-hander Jordan Wood will get the start Thursday night at Miller Park, putting his 1.76 ERA to the test against the hard-hitting Pilots. Easton Walker is scheduled to start the second game and Justin Sterner will be the Game 3 starter.

• The BYU track team’s first weekend of outdoor competition was a success as the Cougars claimed several first-place finishes at the Willie Williams and UNLV invites last Saturday. Next up for BYU is the Aztec Invitational in San Diego on Friday. Notably, freshman Cameron Bates recorded the No. 5 javelin throw in school history in Arizona.

• BYU’s women’s golf team is in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, this weekend for the Hawkeye-El Tigre Invitational at El Tigre Country Club. Anna Kennedy had her best tournament of the season last week at the BYU at Entrada Classic in St. George and finished tied for 11th. Annick Hackiewicz tied for 25th.

• The West Coast Conference season can’t come fast enough for the BYU women’s softball team, which struggled last week in a tournament in Tennessee against a pair of national powers. The Cougars (10-15) suffered a 3-0 loss to No. 11 Texas and a 5-1 loss to No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville and are struggling to score runs.

BYU is off this week, then plays Utah Valley in the UCCU Crosstown Clash on Tuesday, March 26 at 4 p.m. at Wolverine Field in Orem.