Provo • The question of “depth” is a tricky one for Ilaisa Tuiaki these days.
So much so that when BYU’s defensive coordinator was asked to assess the secondary’s depth last week, he spent the next minute of his response avoiding the word altogether.
“Well, we will have more bodies,” Tuiaki said after taking a long pause. “We signed a bunch of kids. … We always go into the season, at least for us, hoping a couple of freshmen can break in and give us some snaps. But we got bodies. We’re happy with the bodies that we have.”
So after that, it wasn’t surprising BYU added junior college transfer Roman Rashada on Sunday. The real question will be how many more transfers — how many more bodies — will the Cougars add to their secondary before summer camp begins?
BYU has already extended an offer to Vanderbilt transfer Gabe Jeudy-Lally, and more could be on the way.
“We are always open to what is out there,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Last year we added (defensive back) Jacob Robinson. ... I don’t know if we will make a living on transfers. But I will never shy away from taking the best.”
And right now there is little question BYU is looking for help in the secondary. While it is true, the program has bodies, they lack experience.
On the spring roster, there are 22 players listed as defensive backs. But outside of senior Malik Moore, most have not played. Twelve are sophomores or younger. Others have injury histories. And BYU did lose Keenan Ellis to a medical retirement, an opening-day starter last year in the secondary.
“They’re looking for a spot to fill,” Jeudy-Lally told The Salt Lake Tribune, noting he has not made his decision yet. “They like my intangibles and I mean, they told me nothing’s going to be given but if I come in and work I can earn that spot myself. It’s there for my taking, honestly, that’s what I’ve gathered from the situation.”
BYU’s secondary allowed an average 231 passing yards a game last season. That is part of the reason why the coaching staff went out and tried to add so many bodies to the spring roster. Most of them won’t play, but if one of them can help out it would be needed.
Rashada, specifically, is what BYU is looking for. He can come in and play immediately to help a young position group. He spent two years at Diablo Valley College, a junior college in California. He has three years of eligibility left.
“With a junior college transfer, they [want] to make an immediate impact,” Rashada said on Monday. “It’s not like I’m coming in as a freshman. You come in a man.”
Sitake said he was pleased with the depth at safety. But even that is a bit precarious. There are injuries. Chaz Ah You is sitting out this spring with an injury. George Udo has been slowed by injuries in the past.
So, for now, the surest bet is that BYU will bring in transfers to pad the depth. It gives the program more options, something that is becoming a theme as the summer approaches.
“There are 50 million nuances that go into bringing in a transfer,” Tuiaki said. “There is managing roster numbers. Managing return missionaries. There are current guys that are playing that you think you can trust for the next year. There are other guys where you say, ‘You know what, we need to get someone here to replace that guy.’ Those discussions will be had year-round.”
• BYU has almost fully installed the defensive playbook as the program reaches the halfway point of spring practice. Sitake wanted to get the defense installed faster than the offense because of the younger players on that side of the ball.
“We wanted to get it on film first,” Sitake said. “Really work on things as far as technique and fundamentals [with them].”