Uriah Leiataua celebrates after a game in 2019. Leiataua was named a starter on the defensive line for the 2021 opener. (Preston Crawley)

BYU football releases depth chart for season opener against Arizona

BYU football released its first regular-season depth chart of the season Monday before its opening matchup against Arizona.

The chart remained largely similar to the most recent edition at media day in June, with several position battles being sorted out and solidified following fall training camp.

Notable updates include brothers Puka and Samson Nacua platooning for the third starting receiver spot, Dallin Holker hopping to the backup tight end role behind Isaac Rex and the complete absence of defensive back George Udo, who was listed as a starter in June and played in 11 games in 2020. 

Several previously-listed hybrid position groups on defense, such as “joker,” “dime” and “frodo” were nixed in favor of consolidating depth in other areas. 

“There isn’t a position where I don’t feel confident about the players and talent we have there,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “We feel good about the guys who are going to play. We’ll just have to put it to the test.”

Sitake said there “weren’t a lot of surprises” in organizing the lineups, noting that he hoped every healthy player — whether listed on the depth chart or not — would get a chance to contribute on the field this season.

“I expect everybody on the depth chart to play,” Sitake said. “If they’re not on the depth chart, then they probably have some nagging injuries, but nagging injuries are part of the game. We had a physical fall camp and are hoping to get all these guys back to 100% as much as we can.”

Quarterback Jaren Hall was named BYU’s official starter last week following the quarterback competition in fall camp, with Baylor Romney listed as the roster’s backup passer and Jacob Conover in the third spot, presumably to redshirt this season. Hall, along with linebackers Payton Wilgar, Keenan Pili and center James Empey were all named team captains Monday as well.

“It was kind of day by day and he just slowly distanced himself from the other quarterbacks, and I think that’s when the coaches started to see that,” running back Tyler Allgeier said about Hall. “Jaren got the job right there. (We’re) so excited to see what he does on the field.”

Allgeier and Lopini Kotoa were listed as interchangeable starters at running back with the intention to continue their balanced tandem together, and safeties coach Ed Lamb has already named Chaz Ah You and Malik Moore as the anticipated week one starters in his unit.

“They practiced well and made a lot of plays. We feel good about those guys leading the way in the secondary,” Sitake said of Ah You and Moore. “We feel good about the depth of the corner and safety spots.”

For a number of players on the depth chart, Saturday’s opener against Arizona will be their first time playing in front of a capacity crowd, and the Cougars are ready to feed off of the collective energy in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

“We’re super excited to have all the fans come out,” defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua said. “It’s going to be an exciting game, especially for the defense. I know we’re all hungry and ready to get after it.”

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