PROVO, Utah – A large contingent of local media members were on hand to watch the first day of BYU’s fall football camp.
The media watched the practice from the balcony of the Student Athlete Building. It was a nice luxury to have the shade as temperatures soared to 95 degrees on Thursday.
Also, it’s always great to see the practice of a higher perch, in my opinion. It reminds me of the Bronco Mendenhall era when BYU fans would bring in nearly 2,000 people for open practice and sneak onto that balcony.
Here is an overview of some notes I took from the first day of Camp Kalani. I hate to say fall camp because nothing about these practices feels like fall. Either way, it’s time to unload the notebook.
Big news on any opening day of camp will be the players who aren’t on the roster. Notable names not on BYU’s slate to kick off camp in 2022 were Chaz Ah You, Caleb Christensen, Chris Jackson, Atunaisa Mahe, Hobbs Nyberg and Quenton Rice.
Kalani Sitake said that 90% of absences from the list are due to health. I saw Ah You, Mahe and Rice during practice on the sidelines. Players could also finalize some academics this summer before signing up for camp.
NCAA teams can carry 110 players on a roster during fall camp. BYU had 109 players on its day one roster. So for players who are still bumped or recovering from injuries, it allows young players who might be candidates for redshirts or grayshirts to take a look past the coaches during fall camp.
Players back from injury
While some players might not be on the roster, others have returned because they are coming back full strength. Tight end Isaac Rex and linebackers Keenan Pili and Payton Wilgar were all back in action in Thursday’s practice.
Each of the three players is on a “throw count”, meaning they only participate in a specific number of games. Sitake said scientists and athletic trainers at BYU are tracking every rep and output intensity of the three recovering players.
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When asked by KSL Sports what the specific pitch count was for Rex, Sitake didn’t give an exact number. Instead, he noted that Rex is still limited, but added that the fourth-year tight end had done more than he thought Rex would be able to do, based on the leg injury. he suffered last November against USC.
BYU Football Quarterbacks
Starting quarterback Jaren Hall had a productive day during the observation game. Many of his passes during the media session were checks for running back Jackson McChesney.
Jacob Conover had a nice through pass aimed at Chase Roberts. The ball just sailed a little above Roberts’ outstretched hands near the touchline.
Conover completed a flat ball to Mason Fakahua, who showed his athleticism, being a former high school quarterback, as he broke free for what looked like good enough for a first down.
The media has seen work from Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan. Fennegan has been limited in spring training due to injury. He had a pass that was intercepted after cornerback/nickelback Jakob Robinson tipped the ball, and linebacker Michael Daley created the turnover.
We saw no work from Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters or Nick Billoups during the media-watching portion of the practice.
New training uniforms
White training uniforms are new for this season. Instead of navy blue numbers, BYU football practice leads featured royal blue numbers.
We saw a pair of dropped passes during the observation window. First, Jaren Hall threw a pass to Keanu Hill that hit the SAB training ground.
Hill is battling for third wide receiver after Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney with Kody Epps and Chase Roberts. Last season, Hill became one of BYU’s top receivers. Coming into camp, he is listed as the third receiver on the depth chart.
Then Cade Fennegan threw a pass to tight end Ethan Erickson who was dropped.
Erickson, a redshirt freshman from Kahuku, Hawaii, stood out during spring training in March as he had a high role as Rex was sidelined.
Chris Brooks continues to grow in his role
Transfer from Cal Christopher Brooks has the daunting task of replacing Tyler Allgeier, the school’s single-season running leader. But, he has a great chance of succeeding behind one of the best offensive lines in college football.
Brooks is an underrated wide receiver out of the backfield, which is one of the things that has stood out about his game since joining in January.
He is also a good dancer. So when Juice WRLD’s “Feline” started banging on the speakers, Brooks broke out a little dance in the backfield waiting for the next play.
Bigger, faster, stronger
Next to “guys flying,” players getting “bigger, faster, stronger” is a classic cliché for any fall camp. But a few players had a noticeable change physically. One of them is a newcomer whose stature alone stood out.
Third-year redshirt freshman Miles Davis is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. He has seen gains in his development within the BYU football program while maintaining his speed. An attribute that made him a sought-after rookie in Las Vegas by BYU’s offensive staff.
From a first impression perspective, Arizona State transfer Sione Veikoso took home this award. Veikoso is listed at 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Veikoso participate in any shots during the training window that the media could watch. Still, if BYU football is considering who a future tackle might be if Blake Freeland leaves for the NFL after this year, Veikoso has the stature to give him a shot at success on the road.
Versatility along the offensive line
Seeing the different personnel groups along BYU’s offensive line was interesting. BYU hasn’t messed around with guys like Blake Freeland. When the potential first-round pick was on the field, he was at left tackle. Same with Connor Pay in the center. But Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia saw snaps at right and left tackle positions.
Harris LaChance took reps at right tackle and right guard, along with Campbell Barrington.
BYU offensive line coach Darrell Funk has plenty of options in the trenches.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.