Provo• It might be slightly unusual timing, but BYU coach Kalani Sitake is already thinking about next season.
At least when it comes to who might stay and who might go.
With BYU’s bye week coming 10 weeks into the season, there was already a clear picture of which players are on the cusp of leaving the program when Sitake started holding meetings last week. According to Sitake, there is no need to wait until the last regular season game to jump-start these talks.
“There is a good number of players who already have their degree in hand and still have another year of eligibility,” Sitake said. “Some of them will want to go on to the next level and others already have job offers. It is just a matter of talking to the right people and allowing NFL personnel to give their feedback to our guys.”
It means this week will bring more clarity to the looming question: Will wide receiver Gunner Romney return for his sixth year in the program?
He is by far BYU’s most interesting and pressing case at this point.
Last offseason, Romney announced he would return to BYU for a final year in hopes of boosting his NFL draft stock. A big part of that equation was showing NFL teams he could stay healthy for an entire year after injury-riddled campaigns in 2020 and 2021.
However, Romney has played in just two games this year after being sidelined with a lacerated kidney on the second day of fall camp.
It sets Romney up with the potential to take a medical redshirt season and return in 2023.
“It has just been unfortunate. I don’t think [Romney] has played even close to the games that we had hoped for,” Sitake said. “We want to see as many guys as we can play another year if they are not given a full year. We will always visit that opportunity to get guys more opportunities to play if we can.”
But a decision on a redshirt year is made more complicated by two factors. The first is that staying for a sixth collegiate year would delay Romney’s clock for the NFL. That was already a concern for him last offseason, he said, when he decided to play a fifth year. Romney is graduating, per BYU assistant Fesi Sitake, and doesn’t necessarily need to return to Provo.
Potential redshirt candidates
Korbyn Green: freshman, cornerback, has appeared in three games
Chika Ebunoha: freshman, cornerback, has appeared in three games
Josh Wilson: third-year sophomore, linebacker, has appeared in three games
Sadie Romney, Gunner’s wife, told The Tribune earlier this year that Romney ideally wouldn’t like to return next season, but it is a possibility.
“When they kept pushing it back [to return earlier this year], I thought maybe he would come back next year,” Sadie Romney said. “He still has the redshirt year. I know he would hate to do that but if it came down to it he would.”
Romney missed the first four games of the season with a kidney issue. Then he played against Utah State and Notre Dame. However, in the Notre Dame game, Romney took a hit and was again pulled out to evaluate his kidney. He has not played since, missing the last four games.
This season, Romney has just five catches for 59 yards. It could be questioned where his NFL draft stock even is right now with the lack of tape he has this year.
Romney wanted to show NFL scouts he was more than just a deep threat. Because of his lack of snaps, he has not been able to do that.
“I always would [consider a redshirt year],” wide receiver coach Fesi Sitake said. “Really it is up to Gunner. He is graduating. He has put in so much sweat and work into this program. That is a decision I completely leave up to him and one we can discuss over the bye week on what his thoughts are. Haven’t really thought about that yet”
There is a slight bit of urgency to Romney’s decision. If Romney is cleared to play this week, he can play in only two more games to maintain his eligibility for a redshirt season. Including a bowl game, BYU has three games left; Romney would have to sit one out.
However, it is unclear if Romney will be cleared. Fesi Sitake said Romney is back in practice, but is day-by-day because of the injury.
“He has been finally back,” Fesi Sitake said. “It really is one of those day-by-days. Because of the specific injury, we don’t know.”