BYU football hosted its annual media day June 23 at the BYU Broadcasting Building to discuss the state of the program and the upcoming schedule and reflect on the coaching legacy left by the late LaVell Edwards.
Athletic Director Tom Holmoe began the day with four announcements in the State of the Program address, the first being that ESPN has exercised its contractual option to extend the current deal with BYU through 2019.
“(This) gives us a couple more years to consider the future,” Holmoe said. “It’s great to be back with ESPN for at least one more year.”
Next, Holmoe announced BYU still does not have a bowl tie-in for this season, but ESPN will be a factor in helping the Cougars find a postseason destination should they become bowl-eligible.
BYU originally had agreements with the Poinsettia Bowl for 2017, but the San Diego Bowl Game Association announced in December the group would no longer be host the game in order to focus on the Holiday Bowl.
For the time being, BYU will be a wild card come bowl season.
After, Holmoe announced that No. 6, worn by quarterbacks Marc Wilson and Robbie Bosco and running back Luke Staley, will be retired.
The ceremony will take place during the home game against Wisconsin on Sept. 16.
Holmoe said a player must graduate from BYU and win a major award to have his jersey considered for retirement.
Wilson was awarded the 1979 Sammy Baugh Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate passer each year. He was then drafted by the Oakland Raiders and won two Super Bowl rings during his NFL career.
Wilson earned his degree in economics and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Bosco led BYU to the 1984 national championship and also won the Sammy Baugh Award.
“It’s really special,” Bosco said. “These things don’t happen without great teammates and great people surrounding you and great success.”
Bosco graduated with a degree in communications in 1986 and was inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
Staley won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s best running back, in 2001 and was a consensus All-American that season.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Staley said. “It’s a great honor.”
He was drafted by the Detriot Lions in 2002 and earned his degree in sociology.
Finally, Holmoe announced the team will wear a special patch this season to honor LaVell Edwards, who died on Dec. 29, 2016.
The coaches will wear the patch on their left sleeve while the players will have the patch on their jerseys.
“The patch with LaVell was an idea with Kalani and me to be able to come back and just show the country every game on TV how people remember and talk about (LaVell),” Holmoe said. “We certainly want to pay tribute to LaVell; we want to honor LaVell for the man he was, for the coach he was, for the love he gave us.”
Following the State of the Program address, players and coaches met with media to discuss the schedule and their progress.
One major question on the offensive side of the ball is how the Cougars plan to replace the productivity of former running back Jamaal Williams.
“I think there’s a lot of talent there,” Sitake said. “If we didn’t have talent, I’d be really nervous. Right now there’s a committee of guys that can actually play the position, and the best will play. But I think there’s also some opportunities where more than one can play at a time.
The 2017 football almanac lists junior Squally Canada as the starter on the depth chart, but has five other backs behind him.
Canada, who is listed at 205 pounds on the roster, gained 13 pounds this offseason and is ready to follow the trail Williams established last year.
“My goal is to go in and make it my best year so far,” Canada said. “Every year of football in my life that I’ve played, I always get better as I get used to being in the program, so hopefully I increase from last year and get more than 315 yards and two touchdowns.”
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said the run game was great last year and he isn’t expecting the same production out of the gate this season.
“Overall, we need a few more chunk plays where we don’t have to be in third-and-short all the time,” Detmer said. “We need to pick up some first downs on second down or go first down to a first down.”
One way Detmer plans to achieve that goal is to involve the tight end position more often.
“I think the group we have are all athletic types of guys,” Detmer said. “That group will be a big part of what we do.”
Similar to the running back position, Detmer plans to use multiple people at the position depending on the game situation.
“All those guys will play,” Detmer said. “It’s important to have rotations and different guys for different sets. It’ll be by committee and make sure those guys are fresh and ready for when we need them most.”
One change will be seeing Moroni Laulu-Pututau at the tight end spot instead of wide receiver.
“(Moroni) made the move,” said tight ends coach Steve Clark. “It was his idea last year. Before the season, he wanted to make the move. We didn’t feel like we could sacrifice him playing receiver to come in and do it. During the season, he did play tight end. He was listed as a receiver but he came inside and ran the same routes that we do as the tight ends.”
Clark added they’ve been working on the blocking schemes this offseason to prepare Laulu-Pututau for the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, a concern is replacing safety Kai Nacua, who led the team with six interceptions.
Returning safety Micah Hannemann noted Nacua was able to help him understand how opposing quarterbacks work.
“Kai played mind games with the quarterbacks,” Hannemann said. “He taught me a little bit of it, so hopefully I can test some of it out this year.”
A strong point of the defense looks to be the returning core of linebackers.
Fred Warner, Butch Pau’u and Francis Bernard all return and are working to maintain the toughness that pervaded the defense last year.
“It’s all about working hard right now in the offseason and putting in the extra work so we can be that force on the field when the time comes,” Warner said.
BYU will open fall camp during the last week of July in preparation for the first game of the season on Aug. 26 against Portland State.