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Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News
Head coach Kalani Sitake talks to his players during the BYU Cougars' first practice of the season in Provo on Thursday, July 27, 2017.
We’re demanding a little bit more. But that’s how it’s going to be every year. There are things we are trying to do as a program that‘s going to take us to the next step as far as our preparation. —BYU coach Kalani Sitake

PROVO — One year ago during fall camp, Kalani Sitake was entering his first season as a head coach, Ty Detmer was going into his first year as an offensive coordinator on the college level, and quarterback Tanner Mangum was headed into a season as Taysom Hill’s backup.

As the Cougars opened fall camp Thursday, perspectives, and some roles, have changed.

“We’re a lot more familiar with the players and we’ve developed a great relationship with all of them,” Sitake said. “It’s a lot more comfortable for all of us. We can focus on some other things now with the foundation set. Let’s get this thing going.”

BYU opens the season Aug. 26 at home against Portland State.

Sitake has higher expectations for his players now than he did last year.

“It’s a little bit easier to demand more from our players. It’s kind of a fine line between how much you demand and how much you expect,” he said. “I think we’re good at that. We’ll find a way to get these guys to perform better and utilize all of our strengths on our team.

“We’re doing some things differently this year than we did last year. If we do the same thing again this year, it’s not going to really work,” Sitake continued. “We’re demanding a little bit more. But that’s how it’s going to be every year. … There are things we are trying to do as a program that‘s going to take us to the next step as far as our preparation. We’re going to be different every year depending on who’s returning.”

Detmer said he enjoyed being back at practice Thursday.

“It’s great to be out on the grass with the players. It’s been a long time since spring ball and have been able to work with them and get out hands on them,” he said. “It’s fun to be out there with them and seeing how far along we are from year one to year two. … Overall, the guys are enthusiastic, the recall’s been great. They’ve been working hard all summer with their player-run practices. I feel like we’re ahead of the game and we can progress a lot quicker than we did last year.”

Mangum, the undisputed starter, was happy to be leading the offense during the first practice.

“It’s good to be back. There’s a lot of excitement and a little bit of nerves. There are new guys and it’s their first fall camp,” Mangum said. “It could have been a little bit sharper, but it’s the first day. We have to learn from the good things that we did and try to sharpen up (Friday). Overall, it’s a good feeling. It was a beautiful day. It’s good to be out here playing football.”

Mangum feels comfortable in his role as the starting QB.

“It helps a lot with confidence (from) January through July, knowing that I’m the guy,” he said. “You’ve got the full support of the coaching staff and the guys. It gives you the confidence to go out and play your game. It’s been a huge offseason for me. I’ve been working really hard. To come out here and put it on the field is exciting.”

The Cougars may not scrimmage as much during fall camp as in past seasons, but they'll focus more on different in-game scenarios, Sitake said.

“We have to do a lot of two-minute situations. We had a lot of close games last year. We’re trying to generate opportunities for our guys to perform when there’s a lot of pressure. It’s hard to do that when you’re just having a game-like situation the entire time. We want to get to all of the stressful parts of the game.”

Fans are invited to watch BYU during a public practice at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 17 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Amid all the work that needs to be done over the next few weeks, Sitake wants his players to have fun and enjoy the fall camp experience.

“I know I’m having a blast,” said linebacker Fred Warner. “I’m probably having more fun than anybody because it’s my last time and I need to squeeze everything I can out of these practices.”

Sitake liked what he saw from his players after offseason conditioning and strength training.

“I’m really pleased with the way our guys look and how they got really big and a lot more athletic and a lot better as a team,” he said.

Though the calendar still says July, Sitake is always ready for some football.

“I love it. Football should be year-round anyway,” he said. “Whenever they tell us when we can go, we’re going to go. I’m glad we have a game in (week zero).”