Let’s get one thing straight: it is very difficult to learn anything of value from a football team’s spring scrimmage. Many key players play very little or not at all, there are still players that will join the roster in the summer, and coaches are still in the early stages of planning what they want to do with the team. All of those things apply to BYU, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have any fun! So, with that in mind, let’s look at some things that could possibly mean something moving towards football season.
First, let’s go over some of the key players who did not participate: Troy Warner, Zach Wilson, Lopini Katoa, Beau Hoge, Aleva Hifo, Moroni Laulu-Pututau, Zayne Anderson, Langi Tuifua, Isaiah Kaufusi, Matt Bushman, and Bracken El-Bakri. Many of these are all returning starters that will have a big impact on the team.
We have heard reported that Jaren Hall has begun to solidify his position as the #2 quarterback, and that was made clear in the scrimmage. He took all the reps with the first team and looked very poised in the pocket, with some stellar throws to Dax Milne and Gunner Romney.
Without Katoa, Tyler Allgeier (R-Fr.) was the first team running back. If BYU does not land a grad transfer or a Junior College transfer at RB, we can expect Allgeier to be Katoa’s backup, followed by Kavika Fonua and Sione Finau (R-Fr.). Allgeier looked solid, finding holes created by the offensive line and needing 2-3 defenders to bring him down at the end of a lot of runs.
The first team defense didn’t play all that much, maybe 2-3 drives at the beginning of the scrimmage and that’s it. Fans, expect to feel a little Kaufusi Deja-Vu this season. Devin Kaufusi wears #90 on his big 6-7 frame and lines up at defensive end AND linebacker right in the middle, just like Corbin did last year. It looks like the coaches want to use him as a spy on opposing mobile quarterbacks, and then line him up on the defensive line when they want 4 down linemen. The other 3 DL that started alongside Kaufusi were Lorenzo Fauatea, Khyiris Tonga, and Zac Dawe. Reports from practice is that Zac Dawe could be the best pass-rusher on the line, but expect Langi Tuifua to make his presence felt in obvious passing situations.
Jake Oldroyd is back!!!! The freshman phenom has returned from his mission and looks to take his spot back (sadly, without his magnificent green cleats). Skyler Southam underachieved last year, but we as fans probably had too high of expectations for him. Oldroyd looked every bit as good as I remembered him as he nailed a 48-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare. Now that Rhett Almond has graduated, Danny Jones, our favorite Aussie, looks to be the guy at the punter position. He has a rugby-style punt, rolling to his left before punting to give the gunners plenty of time to get down-field and prevent returns. Not always the prettiest, but effective. He’s also a lefty, which puts the reverse spin on the ball that many returners are used to, which could prove to cause a few turnovers.
While we didn’t get to see too much of the starting defensive backs, we can still expect the same play-style as last year. In college, defensive backs are allowed to hand-check up until the quarterback throws the ball. BYU, however, follows the NFL rules that say you can only hand-check for the first 5 yards. Because of that, their focus is mainly to keep things in front of them and they are slightly less aggressive. This was shown when multiple WRs found plenty of holes downfield and were able to make 10-15 yard completions. But remember, it’s still spring, and they have a lot of time to figure that out.
Gunner Romney, after a promising freshman year, looks to have moved up the ladder and has become the biggest outside threat for the offense. I expect Aleva Hifo to still be a dynamic slot receiver, and Micah Simon and Talon Shumway are both seniors, so they’ll be out there a lot as well. But, Romney has the best hands on the outside and can go up and get it. We saw this as he made a nice diving catch down the sideline.
Many pundits around the state are saying that BYU could have the best offensive line in the state this year, and they have every reason to think that. Freshman All-American James Empey returns to lead a line with 4 returning starters. Brady Christensen, Kieffer Longson, and Tristen Hoge all return, and new OL coach Eric Mateos has plenty of choices for that final spot, including Harris LaChance (R-Fr.), Chandon Herring (R-Jr.). Hoge left the scrimmage after sustaining a right knee injury on the first possession. He needed help off the field, before icing his knee on the sideline. After a while, they brought a knee brace out for him and he stood on the sideline for the rest of the scrimmage. So, I doubt it was anything serious.
Those are the biggest things that stood out at the BYU Spring Scrimmage, and after a rough basketball season for BYU, it’s nice to have some promise surrounding the football team.