Eye on the Y: This time, BYU coach Kalani Sitake doesn’t duck questions about a troubled football player

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau'u (84) flexes as he celebrates as BYU faces the Western Michigan Broncos in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.

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Provo • A rather refreshing development occurred at BYU’s first practice of 2019 preseason football training camp on Wednesday. Head coach Kalani Sitake took a question about the status of troubled wide receiver Neil Pau’u, answered it directly, and moved on.

It was a far cry from the way Sitake handled questions the first day of camp in 2016 when defender Sione Takitaki was among the missing. Sitake brushed off questions regarding Takitaki’s status, and they went on for several weeks. They became a distraction.

The star defender, now one of the Cleveland Browns’ prized draft picks, never played that season but came back in 2017 and you know the rest of the story.

As has been well-documented, Pau’u was accused of driving drunk on BYU’s campus on June 8, and pleaded not guilty to the class B misdemeanor on June 19, according to documents filed in Provo City Justice Court.

On July 22, Pau’u, 24, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of impaired driving. A second misdemeanor charge — interfering with signs and signals — was dismissed.

After saying “I love him to death,” Sitake spelled out Pau’u’s future plans, which will include redshirting this season but remaining in school and with the team.

“He’s on the roster, but he is not participating in fall camp because he is not going to play this fall,” Sitake said. “He is going to redshirt and be a junior for us next year. He’s in school … and he’s part of the team and he will be around the guys.”

And so it begins

The Cougars opened preseason training camp with the usual optimism, and quarterback Zach Wilson said he’s well on his way to recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and will be ready to face Utah on Aug. 29. Linebacker Zayne Anderson is also back from shoulder surgery and said he’s ready to go as well.

My preview of camp took a closer look at the issues surrounding the offense, defense and special teams. Speaking of the rivalry game four weeks from Thursday, Utes beat writer Kurt Kragthorpe says Utah will be missing an expected contributor at linebacker.

Sadly, former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is dealing with the death of his father, Paul, before he runs training camp at Virginia.

BYU basketball news

New BYU basketball coach Mark Pope had an interesting week, which included the hiring of Nathan Bubes as the program’s coordinator of strategy and analytics. Also, it appears that Pope has landed a replacement for TJ Haws when Haws runs out of eligibility next spring — former Arizona point guard Alex Barcello.

There was some troubling news, too. As reported at length in this piece, big-time prep basketball recruit Mady Sissoko sustained a fractured right hand during his official campus visit to BYU, raising questions why BYU coaches subject recruits to activities that could be seen as dangerous when they are on their visits to Provo.

Finally, former BYU star Jimmer Fredette was in town last weekend, briefly, for the TBT at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.

Other voices

• Dick Harmon of the Deseret News focused on what adding some fifth-year transfer running backs means for BYU’s football team this year.

• Jeff Call of the Deseret News laid out some storylines to watch in preseason training camp.

• Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News offered some of the best and worst scenarios for Utah’s college football teams, including the Cougars.

• Darnell Dickson of the Provo Daily Herald featured BYU basketball newcomer Jesse Wade, the transfer from Gonzaga.

Around campus

• BYU’s Wilson is one of 34 players named to the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) 2019 preseason watch list for the CFPA National Performer of the Year Trophy. All FBS players are eligible for the award. The winner will be announced January 15, 2020.

• The Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) named BYU men’s golfers Chad Hardy and Kelton Hirsch as 2018-19 All-American Scholars on Wednesday. Hardy placed in the top-20 three times last season, including an eighth-place finish at the Nick Watney Invitational. Hirsch carded his lowest score of the year at the NCAA Pullman Regional, where he shot a 207 (-3) while helping the Cougars earn a berth to the NCAA Championships. Hardy is heading into his junior year and is majoring in finance, while Hirsch is also prepping for his junior year and is undecided on a major.

• BYU senior libero Mary Lake has been selected to the 14-player U.S. National Team roster that will work to secure a 2020 Olympic Games berth in a qualification tournament in Louisiana that begins Friday. Lake, an AVCA All-American and three-year starter at BYU, recently helped Team USA win the FIVB Volleyball Nations League title, defeating Brazil in the gold-medal match on July 7 in Nanjing, China.