Quarterback Jacob Conover rolls out on a passing play during BYU's team scrimmage during the first practice of fall camp. (Addie Blacker)

2021 BYU football season begins with fall training camp

With the season opener against Arizona just 29 days away, BYU football gathered together on Thursday to begin fall training camp.

Following an eventful offseason with much to be said about the success of the 2020 squad, the Cougars were ready to put the talk aside and get back on the field.

“We’re tired of just working out, we want to go play football,” defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua said. “I saw some chippiness out there, so that’s how you know guys are excited to play. A lot of guys have a lot to prove. We need to show that last season wasn’t a fluke.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake, entering his sixth training camp at the helm for the Cougars, was especially upbeat following his observations at practice.

“I love seeing what the players did in the offseason and how it paid off in practice today,” Sitake said. “A lot of guys came back healthy and that was encouraging to me. We want to keep promoting our culture and living it the right way.”

Players participated in various position drills and finished the day with an 11-on-11 scrimmage of offense versus defense, with rotating substitutions throughout the drives.

“It’s great to be back, but we’re trying to keep that same edge we had a year ago,” offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said. “We’re just trying to stack a bunch of good days together and see what happens.”

Roderick credited the defensive unit as a whole for its performance on day one, along with receiver Neil Pau’u as the day’s top standout. Running backs Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa, and tight end Dallin Holker, all featured on the first-team offense for practice reps, also received praise from Roderick.

“Our depth is better than any time since I’ve been here,” Roderick said.

Such depth has brought about a number of position battles across the field for the Cougars, which has allowed Sitake to get even more out of his players at practice.

“They are being physical and competing hard, even without the pads on,” Sitake said. “I love that our guys can learn to be physical but also play smart and take care of each other.”

Roderick was a bit more critical of the first day in regards to quarterbacks, evaluating their play as “good, not great” and emphasizing the need for improvement throughout camp as BYU searches for its starter.

Jaren Hall took the first reps at quarterback during scrimmages, theoretically placing himself as the early favorite to win the starting job. Jacob Conover made his own case with some impressive improvisation during the scrimmage period. In order to remain as healthy as possible, the quarterbacks will not take any hits during camp, Roderick said.

No matter where he lies on the depth chart, Hall said, his mentality will remain the same. “My mindset is to go win against Arizona, just to focus on game one and prepare for that.”

The Cougars will continue fall camp throughout August before facing Arizona on Sep. 4 in Las Vegas.

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