PROVO — Unpretentious hype with a tone of humility.
Those may have been the keys that were played Friday at BYU’s football media day at the Broadcast Building on campus.
Summer football media days are exactly the time to let hopes and dreams soar because nobody’s lost a game. At BYU’s media day, there was plenty of aspiring talk, as expected. But there was a timbre of humility after Kalani Sitake’s team stepped out of the cloud of a four-win season.
In a rare moment where luck provided an opportunity to corner both offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki for a second, they were asked to make their bold prediction about the other and what they expect to see in 2018.
It was one of those moments where you saw Grimes glance over at Tuiaki, the wheels in his mind grinding before he broke out in a smile.
“I think his defense is going to have at least six shutouts this year,” said Grimes. “It’s the boldest prediction I can make. I told them we can get at least three points in six of the games and the other six we can at least get a touchdown and they said that’s good enough.
Tuiaki absorbed the hyperbole and stare and then took his turn.
“I think the offense is going to average 55 points a game and have no turnovers,” said the D-coordinator.
Middle linebacker Butch Pau’u chimed in a little later, putting a crosshair on exactly where the rubber hits the road in BYU’s camp this offseason heading into the opening of camp in August.
“The leaders of the team have to take charge of this team because we’re the ones on the field. The coaches are the ones who call the plays and we’re the ones that have to go out and execute,” said Pau’u.
Ever since the Cougars returned disappointed from Hawaii in their final game of the 2017 season with no bowl game and bruises from an earlier, historic seven-game losing streak, there has been a noticeable sense of urgency.
“I saw the same thing happen as a player after a very disappointing season,” said assistant head coach Ed Lamb. “As soon as that season was over, there was a feeling among all the players that they did not want a repeat of that again. Everyone was motivated and worked harder. We were humbled and to a man we all wanted to make sure that never happened again. The next season, 1996, we won 14 games, the most in school history.”
Sitting around a table before Media Day began, several coaches were working over some continental breakfast plates, waiting for the so-called “State of the Program” report from athletic director Tom Holmoe and head coach Kalani Sitake.
“We can’t go to player-run practices,” said Tuiaki. “But from what the players have talked about, I think this offseason has been very good.”
Safety coach Preston Hadley, a first-year addition to the Cougar staff agreed. “From what I’ve seen there is a lot of ownership of this team among players. I think the players realize there must be a lot of self-accountability and it’s fun to see a lot of player-run accountability going on. The player-run practices, the film sessions run by upperclassmen who are embracing the younger guys – this is what’s jumped out to me.”
Cornerback coach Jernaro Gilford said he’s seen players get more involved in “group chat” and getting themselves together and organized and pushing one another.
“They’re doing two and even three-a-days at times. They call me with some questions and it is just a mindset that has happened with players, that they want to get better and they are driven to do all they can on their own. It is different, I think, than a year ago. They want to be great. That’s what you look for in players, some have it and some don’t. It seems like our whole team is at that stage to want to be great. I think they are doing more this summer than they did last summer. It’s still something we have to wait and see how it works out.”
Quarterback and pass game coordinator Aaron Roderick just kept it simple. “I think we’ll be better than people think we will be.”
The Cougars are 71 days out from the season opener at Arizona where they’ll face new coach Kevin Sumlin, whose doing some historic cloaking of his program from the media, shutting out the public and refusing to do a myriad of interviews this past spring.38 comments on this story
“I’d do the same thing,” said Tuiaki. “Our offense is new and I hope we keep everyone guessing just what those guys are going to do. You have to.”
So, again, it was a hot June day, a time created for hype, chatter and what may be.
Nobody really knows until they know.
For the Cougars, it will be in the desert in Tucson the first day of September.
And it can’t come soon enough.
Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated there are 38 days until the Cougars' season opener at Arizona. There are 71 days until that game.