BYU football begins spring practices

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Taysom Hill stiff-arms a Virginia defender in 2014. Hill is returning to BYU for a fifth-year. (Universe Archives)
Taysom Hill stiff-arms a Virginia defender in 2014. Hill threw some passes in practice on Tuesday. (Universe Archives)

The BYU football team began its spring practice on Tuesday and the team was facing a number of uncertainties.

Not the least of which was the quarterback situation.

Fifth-year senior Taysom Hill isn’t really participating in the camp as he rehabs his Lisfranc injury. However, he was able to do some light jogging and threw some passes during practice.

The 6-foot-2 quarterback said that he felt like he’d never left his teammates.

“It felt great, it felt like I never left,” Hill said. “It’s so much fun to be back on the field with the guys and to be able to put a helmet on and jersey and cleats and strap up a little bit was like Christmas morning. I loved it.”

When asked about the starting quarterback job and potential locker room divides, both Hill and Tanner Mangum said they weren’t concerned.

“Look, I think all these conversations are from the outside looking in,” Hill said. “There will be a lot of conversations about it I’m sure, but I don’t feel anything like that.”

Mangum echoed Hill’s sentiments. He said that it was great to share the field with Hill and added that he’s prepared for the competition.

“Obviously it’s a competition,” Mangum said. “And that’s fine. Every team has that. But that doesn’t mean it has to be divisive. I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Hill) and there’s a mutual respect there. We’re both competitors and fighters, but at the same time we’re playing for the same team. It’s not Team Taysom or Team Tanner, it’s BYU. Whatever happens, we’ll do what’s best for the team. It’s not a personal thing. Competition is good for the team.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake and his new staff has more to deal with than a positional battle at quarterback. They also welcomed back running back Jamaal Williams.

Williams, a senior, has 2,524 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in his career. He returns after withdrawing from BYU in 2015 and suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2014.

But Williams said he always knew he’d return to Provo.

“I was going to come back,” Williams said. “Come back, play, finish my years here and be a mature person. You have to start where you finish and I’m always loyal to where I started. Transferring and all that was none of my concern. I was always going to come back to BYU and finish my college career here.”

Williams is a welcome addition to BYU’s backfield and locker room. Sitake called Williams a “fun guy” and added he’s a “good leader.”

Both Hill and Mangum noted the energy that Williams brings to the team and emphasized that he’s a locker room favorite.

In addition to the returns of former backfield mates Hill and Williams, many coaches on the BYU staff took to the field for the first time in their new roles.

Sitake enjoyed looking at both sides of the team, instead of focusing solely on the defense, but acknowledged that he’d like to be more “hands on.”

As the Cougars adjust to a pro-style offense and a 4-3 defense, Sitake said that he expects a steep learning curve. But the first-time head coach said it was a “good day one” and that the team is “adapting well.”

Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer enjoyed his first practice as well.

“It’s great to get out on the field,” Detmer said. “We’ve had a few meetings and a couple light walkthroughs with half the group, so to finally get a ball in our hands and run some plays (was good). It’s one thing to be out there versus air, it’s another to be out there against a defense.”

Detmer emphasized that the Cougars want to establish the run game – hinting at a large role for Williams – and said that his offense puts a lot on the shoulders of the quarterback. Sitake said that the team will be in the shotgun formation quite a bit, but Detmer’s offense is a pro-style set that features more work under center. As the players learn a new playbook, Detmer said the coaches can only do so much.

“The players really make things go,” Detmer said. “That’s one thing I learned in the NFL: the good teams had good leadership in the player department. We have a lot of that in a lot of positions. Coaches can only motivate so much, it’s got to come from the players.”

Other Notes

– Sitake noted that not every position change would be permanent, but hinted that it’s likely former running back Francis Bernard will stay at linebacker for the Cougars.

– The Cougars are aiming to hold a traditional spring game, but injuries at certain positions may force the team to do more of a controlled scrimmage. “We’ll see when it gets closer,” Sitake said. “We’d like to have a spring game, but I also want to make sure we’re doing the right things. The goal is to be ready for the fall, not the spring game.”

– It’s speculated that starting center Tejan Koroma is dealing with a Honor Code violation. Sitake didn’t elaborate on the situation, but when asked about Koroma’s return said, “That’s up to (Koroma). We care about him.”

– Defensive tackle Travis Tuiloma is expected to be healthy for the fall.

– Junior college transfer Handsome Tanielu is where he was expected to be in the juco transfer process.

 

 

 

 

 

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