The BYU football team continued its spring practices on Thursday. Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki and offensive line coach Mike Empey addressed the media.
Empey said that he was pleased with the effort of his linemen, particularly senior Parker Dawe, who is starting at center now that Tejan Koroma isn’t enrolled at BYU. Empey said that Dawe was doing an “outstanding” job stepping up for the Cougars. Empey also pointed out junior Tuni Kanuch as an emerging leader.
Empey said that the emphasis right now learning new techniques.
“They’ve been in a two-point stance a lot,” Empey said. “Some of them have been doing that their whole career. Now I’m asking them to put their hand on the ground, more pro style. So learning how to pass block and kick step out of that stance is a new skill. So when they struggle and are frustrated, I’m not evaluating whether or not they’re a good football player yet, I’m trying to help them master a new skill.”
The Cougars are thin at offensive line – a problem that Empey is all to well aware of – but many of them have experience at multiple offensive line positions. Empey said that’s been a major help to the team as they struggle with depth issues, but aims to cut out the ‘utility linemen.’
“It’s helped that they have experience working with different positions,” Empey said. “But my goal for the long term is to get a guy into a spot where he’s a great fit and let them get good at that one spot. But I’ve got depth of experience.”
Defensively, Tuiaki said there were “a lot of positives” to the first two days of practice, but added that the team has a “long way to go.”
In terms of schematics, the Cougars will attempt to switch to a 4-3 defense, but that’s not a move that will happen in one year. Currently, Tuiaki described the defense as “multiple” – meaning BYU will line up in a number of fronts throughout the season.
With the multiple fronts, many players are switching positions. Francis Bernard has made the jump from running back to linebacker, Micah Hannemann and Jordan Preator have been working with both the cornerbacks and safeties and most of the pass-rushing linebackers (Sione Takitaki, Fred Warner and Harvey Langi) are working with defensive ends as well as the linebacking group.
But regardless of where his players line up come week one, Tuiaki knows what he wants his defense to be.
“We want to be meek, but we want to punish our opponents,” Tuiaki said. “We don’t want to be running out there cocky and all that. We just want to do things the right way, play the game the way its meant to be played and live our lives the right way.”
– Tuiaki will be the defensive play caller for the Cougars this season.
– Safety Kai Nacua is missing spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Other Cougars missing spring are: full back Toloa’i Ho Ching (wrist), defensive tackle Travis Tuiloma (foot), linebacker Austin Heder (foot), offensive lineman Jaterrius Gulley (foot), defensive tackle Logan Taele (shoulder), linebacker Phillip Amone (knee), linebacker Sam Morell (knee) and defensive back Connor Noe (knee). Offensive lineman Kyle Johnson is expected to have knee surgery soon and will all of spring practice.
– The Cougars will no longer be using an up-tempo offense. There’s an emphasis placed on huddling up and taking some time between plays.
– Wide receiver Nick Kurtz said that offensive coordinator Ty Detmer’s offense will feature a more consistent lineup at wide receiver and will rarely sub them out.