It is decision week in fall camp.
As it approaches just under 20 days until the opener, final calls will be made on the two-deep depth chart and the travel roster.
There aren’t too many questions about what the two-deep will look like, but there are a number of younger players pushing to travel to South Florida. Which players make the cut will tell a lot about which packages BYU feels most confident running, particularly on defense.
As an added bonus, the younger guys who ultimately win spots will be a good gauge for the future as the Cougars’ move to the Big 12 looms.
“I want to see some separation in the competition,” head coach Kalani Sitake said after the first scrimmage. “That is in terms of our sub packages, personnel groups and who is going to be in our major roles, and who is going to be in the rotation.”
Most of the questions reside on defense. There are true freshmen, like cornerback Korbyn Green, who are talented but still learning the playbook. Aisea Moa, John Nelson, Fisher Jackson and Josh Larsen are all in that boat too. Nelson and Larsen in particular have had strong camps.
There are also older guys, which we have written about here, who are fighting for their college careers. Jackson McChesney, Alden Tofa and Lorenzo Fautuana are all in battles with younger players behind them.
“I think we have an idea of [who will make it],” Sitake said. “But I’d like to see it get knocked down a week from now. People are battling for spots just to get on the travel squad. This is a highly competitive team right now.”
The Vandy transfer aiming to start?
Corner was a major place of concern this offseason.
And, to be fair, it still is to some degree.
But the most pressing issue with the cornerback spot is who will start, and who will be on the two-deep.
The top two corners BYU has are Kaleb Hayes and D’Angelo Mandell. But the program brought in Vanderbilt transfer Gabe Jeudy-Lally this offseason, with the expectation he would start at some point.
Jeudy-Lally has taken a few reps with the first-team defense in camp thus far. With three years of experience in the SEC, it would figure he will be a major talking point this week in camp if he can beat out Hayes.
“Absolutely,” defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said when asked if he will push to start. “We will need corners this year. We have 10 games with no bye and that is one thing we talked to our defense about. We have a lot of good players out there and we have guys playing roles that maybe they didn’t expect. Backup roles and not starting roles. But we are going to need all of them.”
There are other depth questions that will be hammered out at corner. The previously mentioned Korbyn Green has made plays in camp to potentially make the two-deep chart. So has Zion Allen, a freshman out of California. Allen and Green were members of the February signing class.
Sitake said both will have a fair shot at making the travel roster.
“The young corners are super fast. They have a ton of speed and it shows on the field,” Sitake said. “We just need to make sure they have the defense down and the technique right. Being fast is good, but when you are wrong, you are more wrong. They definitely have the tools.”
A sleeper at tight end
Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick mentioned Ethan Erickson after the scrimmage on Saturday. He said Erickson is having the best camp, potentially, as any player on the roster.
It is a weird spot for Erickson to be in this year. Tight end might be the one place on the roster, no matter how good Erickson is, where a backup doesn’t have much of a shot to get on the field if the starters are healthy.
Yet, it is also one of the thinnest rooms in terms of depth. So if an injury happens, Erickson will immediately appear.
Rex has been given multiple off days in camp as he worked back from a leg injury. Holker did not play in the scrimmage because of injury prevention. So Erickson, a second-year player, has made the most of it.
Roderick does not expect Erickson to be a big part of this offense, especially as Rex has progressed nicely in his re-acclimation process, but it is something to keep note of down the line. BYU has one of the best starting lines at tight end in the country, but in an emergency, Erickson might be its only option.