The culture of what Jeff Grimes wants and the emphasis in what coach Kalani Sitake is expected from them is something that has stood out to me. —BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki
PROVO — By the time the rain-soaked Ilaisa Tuiaki hit the locker room after the grand finale of BYU spring football at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, being indoors for a dry respite wasn’t the only thing he was grateful for.
Tuiaki is glad nobody got seriously hurt in the annual spring game, also known as The Final Scrimmage.
“Wet, but we got things done,” he said.
“Honestly, the biggest thing I hoped for today was that none of our players got seriously hurt, and we accomplished that,” said the defensive coordinator.
The day saw quarterback Joe Critchlow hook up with receiver Micah Simon for a couple of spectacular catches, and running back Squally Canada ran for three short-yardage touchdowns during a slick, sloppy, rain-drenched affair before an estimated 3,800 fans.
Both sides played vanilla schemes, but the defense protected proven veterans as quickly as possible.
“I pulled some guys,” said Tuiaki. “We shrunk the menu but got a lot of good looks at players who needed it.
“The guys taken out early didn’t need to prove anything today.”
Those players included linebackers Sione Takitaki, Zane Anderson, and Butch Pau’u, safety Dayan Ghanwoloku, tackle Khyiris Tonga, corner Chris Wilcox, and linemen Corbin Kaufusi and Trajan Pili.
“We pulled all our defensive tackles,” he said.
Tuiaki said that this spring he wanted to get a new coach on board, bring everyone up to speed on terminology and make some personnel changes that ultimately he predicts will give him greater speed and the best athletes on defense.
“I think we did that. It’s now all about fine-tuning things, making tweaks, getting people stronger and guys like (safety) Troy Warner healthy again," he said.
“Takitaki made the switch to linebacker, and it’s a position he can play at the next level. He isn’t going to the NFL to be a defensive end, so I think it will work out great for him and for us.”
Kalani Sitake’s third spring football session in the post-Bronco Mendenhall era was about a lot of things after a four-win season.
What got the most attention was the offense with four new coaches, a new coordinator, and installation of a multiple pro-style offense that seeks balance with attention to detail and discipline.
Saturday, that was on full display. Coordinator Jeff Grimes saw no turnovers, no pre-snap penalties, and solid execution in bad field conditions Saturday.
From the other side of the line, Tuiaki had high praise for the new offensive staff his guys faced through 15 practices this spring.
“We all know it’s kind of the nature of the business that turnovers happen and there are both good and bad things that can happen. I think the guys who have come in are all phenomenal, professional guys. Not to say anything about what’s happened in the past, but from what I can tell from my side of the ball there is a lot of professionalism and pride in their work and they are doing a great job.
“They have four coordinators in the offensive room and a lot of experience. Even Fesi (Sitake) has been a coordinator before.”
Tuiaki said observers can get a better glimpse into the new offense and its staff from the players on that side of the ball, but, to him, they are “really good” at what they do.
“The culture of what Jeff Grimes wants and the emphasis in what coach Kalani Sitake is expected from them is something that has stood out to me.”
Tuiaki said changes he’s made on the defensive side are moves he believes will really help the defense this fall.
“Zane can still play safety for us, but he gives us a great answer for losing Fred Warner," he said. "We feel we have more speed on the field with Dayan moving back there with Austin and Troy when he’s back, and that gives us a chance to put speed-proven guys at corner. As a group, we will be faster and that will enable us to do more things with this defense. I’m excited about it.”
So the curtain dropped on this session, and, when it ended on the field, rain pouring down, players took a knee at midfield after celebrating loudly for nearly two minutes. The squad then broke out their rendition of the school fight song and it ended.
“I think we got a lot better and this offense fits us well,” said freshman quarterback Zach Wilson. “We didn’t have any turnovers today.”
No turnovers, Simon explained, is what BYU’s offense ”has been harping on” all spring.
“It was big. To come out and stay poised and on point and focused in bad weather was very important for us.”
Simon said BYU’s offense made great steps but has a long way to go.
“I’m really excited for the fall. I wish it was here next week.”