Hard work pays off at BYU football fall camp

Joe Critchlow is one of the QBs fighting for the starting position at BYU Football fall camp. Many other positions also have significant competition as camp heads into its second week. (BYU Photo)

Experience and hard work pay dividends as BYU football players compete for playing time in the second day of fall camp.

Everyone wants to know who will be the starting quarterback this fall when the Cougars take the field. The answer to that question, along with many others, is still under wraps even after BYU finished its second day of fall practice.

New and experienced players alike have the opportunity to impress coaches and compete for playing time during the fall. Coaches and players were both impressed following day two.

“Having Moroni (Laulu-Pututau) and Matt Bushman out there and getting a lot of young guys looks is good,” Head Coach Kalani Sitake said. “Moroni is a guy who’s had tons of reps and has played a lot of games for us. The injury was unfortunate last year, but he looks really good right now.”

Tight end Laulu-Pututau missed all of last season due to a Lisfranc injury in his ankle. He said he is 100 percent healed from the injury. At the tight end position, other players have been stepping up and playing well in camp.

“JJ (Nwigwe)’s been solid at tight end. He’s improved quite a bit. To see Dallin Holker on the field, as well, Hank Tuipulotu — those guys are doing great things,” Sitake said.

After praising the tight ends, Sitake discussed the defensive line’s shortcomings.

“All the tight ends had a great day today, and so being a guy who’s going to be involved with the defense a little bit, I’m going to go in there and kind of yell at the backers for not getting the right depth and covering,” Sitake said. “But I think the quarterbacks are making some good throws and we have some really good tight ends who can catch the ball.”

Identifying the center — a position played by Tejan Koroma the past four years — is another critical decision coaches need to make soon. “Tejan is hard to replace, but Jake Jimenez has a lot of reps. He’s played before, and James Empey is doing a good job, so there’s competition there that’s good, and we’ll get that sorted out as soon as possible,” Sitake said.

Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said the team needs to be patient and not over– or underreact until they have a chance to see everything in context.

“It’s not as good as you think when you leave the field, and it’s not as bad as you think,” Tuiaki said. “Some things that stick out as a negative in my mind, I’ll go look at on film and I’ll say, ‘Ok, that wasn’t that bad,’ or we’ll be super excited about the interception at the end, but we’ll look at the film and say, ‘That was just a bad throw.’ You just have to make sure you stay even keel the whole way through.”

Austin Hoyt, who has played in 38 games during his first three years at BYU, said BYU’s offensive line is in good shape for next season.

“We worked a lot during the summer knowing the plays and how to execute them. That’s carried over. We haven’t had a lot of false starts this fall, no laps in assignments. I think our work over the summer puts us at a really good point right now,” said Hoyt.

BYU will start the season by traveling to Tucson to play the University of Arizona Wildcats on September 1. Kickoff is at 7:45 p.m. PST, and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN.

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