PROVO — Aaron Roderick eagerly invited live hits on his quarterbacks Thursday. He had to.
In Thursday’s first day in full pads that featured live hits, Kalani Sitake took BYU football spring drills to a whole new level with full contact. Nobody but the kickers were spared.
Needless to say, this led to several scuffles and fights, an emotional component of any worthwhile football practice with no game in sight as players try to mark their territory and show their wares for new coaches.
Roderick did something before the 11-on-11 team session that ended the practice. It was something I’ve never heard of. It even surprised former players like linebacker Cam “The General” Jensen who witnessed it.
The team went through one-on-one tackling drills and Roderick had his quarterbacks do it too. It’s a drill where two guys go at it like sumo wrestlers trying to take the other down to the ground. It exposes both combatants to hits, pulls, swipes, punches and it drives the team crazy rooting for one or the other.
Beau Hoge clearly was BYU’s king of the hill in the QB duel. Physically, he is extremely strong and athletically he is unique. He is also the fastest.
“I wanted to see how they could handle hits, handling physical play,” said Roderick.
It was especially important in the case of Hoge, who was concussed a year ago and after going down against Utah State in Logan, he never made it back.
“It’s a risk, I know,” said Roderick. “But if I’m going to invest time in a quarterback, I need to know how he reacts right now to physical play.”
He explained very clearly to Hoge that this was something he needed to go through right now.
Roderick gave his quarterbacks about a dozen plays each on Thursday during the team session and skeleton drills, allowing full contact from defenders. And each of them took at least two hits.
As for evaluating the allowable viewing portion of the practice, the offense clearly won the day. The offensive line set the tone with physicality and emotion in a quick-paced attack, and the rest of the offense followed.
The offense ran a series of plays over and over with precision execution and it put the defense on its heels.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The offensive line sets the mood and the rest follow,” said tight end coach Steve Clark. “That’s the way Jeff Grimes wants it to be.”
Grimes praised Roderick for how he’s developing and teaching the quarterbacks. “Aaron is doing a great job with his guys and I’ve been impressed.”
As defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki ran off the field, he asked if he was clear of any interview requests. Smiling, he said, "That's good because we got beat up pretty bad today."