Provo • It didn’t take long for head coach Kalani Sitake, offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes or starting quarterback Zach Wilson to single out which player shined the most at BYU’s first preseason training camp scrimmage on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Graduate transfer running back Ty’Son Williams apparently didn’t account for any of the 54 points the offense put on the scoreboard in running 107 plays, but he did a lot of the work to get his teammates in position to score.
The scrimmage was closed to the media and general public, but coaches and players were made available for interviews when it was over.
“Ty’Son Williams did really well today,” Sitake said of the South Carolina transfer. “He is starting to feel more comfortable in the program … as far as finding legitimate ways to be a leader. I think the guys respect him. He did some good things today.”
Williams took the humble route when he was told about Sitake’s comments.
“No, don’t believe him, don’t believe him,” Williams said. “I feel like I was doing pretty good on my runs, stuff like that, but I feel like we did good as an offensive unit. That’s the most important thing I am proud about.”
Said Grimes: “Ty’Son Williams is exactly what we are looking for in a back. He’s an all-purpose back. He can run, he can catch, he is a willing blocker, and he showed the ability today to break tackles and make guys miss. … Some of our other backs [Lopini Katoa and Emmanuel Esukpa] did the same things, but Ty’Son certainly did a great job.”
The 54 points and zero turnovers notwithstanding, most coaches and players called it a draw between the offense and defense and noted that while the offense only out only tight end Matt Bushman and receiver Aleva Hifo during the tackling portions of the scrimmage, the defense went without a lot of expected starters.
Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said he held out cornerback Dayan Ghanwoloku, defensive end Zac Dawe, defensive tackles Khyiris Tonga, Bracken El-Bakri and Trajan Pili, safeties Sawyer Powell and Austin Lee and linebackers Zayne Anderson and Isaiah Kaufusi.
Also, Devin Kaufusi, Chaz Ah You, Lorenzo Fauatea, Max Tooley, Payton Wilgar, Malik Moore and Keenan Pili saw action in only the first two series.
“I know we would be a different defense if we lost any of those [aforementioned] guys who didn’t go today,” Tuiaki said. “We got to get those guys to the Utah game [on Aug. 29]. That’s the most important thing.”
BYU SCRIMMAGE HIGHLIGHTS
• The Cougars ran 107 total plays, 75 of which were “live” where tackling was allowed
• According to coach Kalani Sitake, graduate transfer running back Ty’Son Williams had an impressive day
• Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said the offense committed six penalties, but didn’t have a turnover
• Key defenders such as Zayne Anderson, Dayan Ghanwoloku, Austin Lee and Khyiris Tonga did not participate in the live scrimmage
Bottom line, Sitake said, is that his team is progressing well on both sides of the ball.
“I am really encouraged by what I have seen, especially the physical part of our team,” Sitake said. “I think that’s going to be really exciting for us when these guys take the field. We have to build on that.”
The coach said players came out of the scrimmage “fairly healthy,” but won’t know for sure until they report back to camp on Monday.
Along with Williams and Wilson, Grimes said receiver Keanu Hill made some nice plays.
The freshman from Texas “is a guy who has really shown some ability to make plays,” Grimes said. “I don’t think the moment will ever be too big for him.”
Grimes was unhappy with the penalties, saying the offense committed six miscues, including three holding calls.
Wilson and backup quarterback Jaren Hall wore green jerseys and were off-limits to tackling, while Baylor Romney and Joe Critchlow — who are in a duel to be the third-stringer — went live and were tackled like any other offensive player.
“I thought the offense played really well,” Wilson said. “Obviously a quarterback’s success always depends on the rest of his team. I think those guys are really balling out and the receivers are making plays. Our offensive line protection looks great. The running backs really stepped up today, too.”