PROVO — BYU's spring football practice provided a glimpse to where the team is headed collectively — particularly on offense. Many players rose up, others faded, but all will have a chance to compete anew for spots this coming August when fall practices begin. Many positions, such as weakside linebacker (Kyle Van Noy), strong safety (Daniel Sorensen) and the two starting outside receiver spots (Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo), are stocked with returning starters who will almost assuredly reprise their roles. Other starting positions, however, will be battled over intensely this fall. Here's a look at what looks to be the 10 most competitive position battles come fall and the developments at each of those positions coming out of spring.
Spencer Hadley missed spring due to injury while Alani Fua emerged as a potential big-time playmaker. Both players will likely have significant roles on the defense this coming season, but how each will be played, and in what capacity, is something we'll keep a close eye on.
Mendenhall mentioned at the close of spring practices that he’d be using three outside linebackers (Van Noy, Hadley and Fua) extensively and in the same formation due to Fua's emergence during March practices.
Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills will both fill the starting safety spots, but who makes up the two-deep at safety is yet to be determined. As mentioned, coaches would like to have Hague as a backup option, but he may have to start at boundary corner.
Drew Reilly missed spring due to injury, but will be competing this spring along with transfer Michael Wadsworth who earned praise for how he competed in practices from coach Howell. Other options at either safety position include Skye PoVey, Blake Morgan, DJ Doman and incoming freshman Dallin Leavitt.
Jamaal Williams has only improved and will almost assuredly start at running back, but who rotates with him? It's imperative for any offense, and particularly a hurry-up offense, to have at least two options at running back and who rotates in with Williams will be battled over this fall.
It was well assumed that Michael Alisa would fill this role, but a strong spring performance by Adam Hine put a wrench in that assumption. Both players will work to further establish themselves this fall along with Paul Lasika, who like Hine, showed great strides in spring.
Once again the team will enter a fall camp without much clarity at the tight end position. Coaches indicated that they're still looking at all options without anyone clearly emerging as the likely starter this spring.
The same names are there, including Kaneakua Friel, Devin Mahina and Richard Wilson, but the most intriguing option coming out of spring may be Brett Thompson. He was moved from outside to inside receiver and thrived as a result — earning praise regarding his progress from the coaching staff.
Ryker Mathews sat out spring due to injury, but is almost assuredly poised to start at left tackle again this coming season. Who starts opposite from him at right tackle is yet to be determined, though.
Michael Yeck showed great strides this spring and should see the first look as the starter come fall, but the competition should be a good one. Players such as Brock Stringham and Brad Wilcox will push Yeck and incoming players such as JUCO transfer De’Ondre Wesley will join them this fall.
Solomone Kafu appears to have a stranglehold on the starting left guard spot out of spring, but the right guard position remains open. Kyle Johnson emerged as a primary option at guard in spring, but will be pushed this fall by players such as JUCO transfer Tim Duran, Keegan Hicks and both Kearsley and Fusi, who could easily be switched to guard.
Manaaki Vaitai appeared poised to lockdown the starting spot, but his struggles with his conditioning paved the way for Terrance Alletto to overtake him at the starting spot coming out of spring. Both players will battle again for the spot come fall, but will be joined by incoming freshman Brayden Kearsley and JUCO transfer Edward Fusi, who are both intent on grabbing away the starting spot.
If the season started tomorrow, Eathyn Manumaleuna would start at nose guard and provide Romney Fuga-like play there with his ability and experience. Coaches would strongly prefer to use Manumaleuna at defensive end, however, and will continue to look for viable options at nose guard into fall camp.
Tuni Kanuch and Marques Johnson both showed decent progress at nose throughout spring and should have a leg up in their bids to start at the position this fall, as a result. They'll be joined by players such as Merrill Taliauli, JonRyheem Peoples and Kalolo Utu in what looks to be a fierce competition for the starting spot come fall.
Mike Hague is a seasoned veteran who can play the position, but coaches would greatly prefer to have him reprise his "utility role" at all defensive back positions this coming season.
As a result, other players — primarily incoming players — will see a lot of looks this fall as coach Nick Howell was roundly unimpressed with other potential options that competed for the spot this past spring. The incoming players include JUCO transfers Sam Lee and Robertson Daniel along with Jacob Hannemann, who spent the spring playing baseball.
Finding an adequate option besides Hague at boundary corner will go a long way in solving the overall depth problems the team currently has in its defensive backfield.
The hope was that spring would produce greater clarity and subsequent confidence in the kicking game with either Justin Sorensen or Tyler Jackson emerging as the starter.
It didn't happen.
Despite the extra reps, neither player emerged and the kicking situation appears to be as muddled as ever coming out of spring. Coach Bronco Mendenhall commented that the team will likely be going for it more on fourth down due to neither kicker inspiring much confidence through practice sessions.
Both players will continue to battle in fall, but don't be surprised if at least one other name is added to the mix as neither Sorensen nor Jackson indicated much promise in spring.