PROVO — If Kalani Sitake has done just one thing during this BYU fall football camp to improve his squad, it’s that he has created spirited competition. And that’s not just hype.
Speculation, hopes, projections, prognostications, opinions, stated goals and passionate guesses are all agenda items during collegiate fall camps and, because BYU draws big media numbers, they easily become part of the daily story diet.
There can be such a thing as hype fatigue during the fall, however. No games have been played. But the information demand is there, and BYU seems to answer it with more media coverage than any school in the region, even with limited availability.
With more than 30 blogs and dozens of podcasts dedicated to coverage; a campus TV station producing multiple shows for a national audience that joins a cadre of full-time newspaper beat reporters, campus newspaper staff, athletic department website reporters, myriad internet reporters and local network TV affiliates, it’s a jungle out there. I’d wager there are more sports radio talk shows about BYU than any market its size in the country.
This week BYU’s athletic department announced its own Twitter handle, @byucougarspr, a launch pad for its 21 sports programs that will pile drive press releases, announcements, notable statistics, accomplishments, quotes, personnel news and what its debut post calls “more.”
So, what exactly is knowable in a camp that’s halfway done before the season opener at Arizona on Sept. 1?
I’d say it is a competition. The QB duel between Tanner Mangum and Zach Wilson is neck and neck. Veteran receivers Aleva Hifo, Neil Pau’u, Micah Simon and Talon Shumway are being pushed by newcomer Dylan Collie as well as Akile Davis and freshmen Brayden Cosper, Dax Milne and Gunner Romney. At tight end, Matt Bushman is seeing many faces making plays, including that of Lehi freshman Dallin Holker.
It’s the same with most positions on defense.
“It’s really competitive at tight end and receiver,” said pass game coordinator Aaron Roderick. “We’ll play with multiple receivers and tight ends but still, it’s not just equal reps going around so they’re competing. There is also competition going on between position groups.
"Because we’re such a multiple team, if one position group is stronger than another then that group gets featured more. So, you aren’t just competing in your position group but you are going against cross groups to prove you are among the best 11 players. There is competition everywhere.”
Receivers coach Fesi Sitake said freshmen are absolutely pushing veterans.
“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “I’m in a great position. I have seven or eight guys who know the plays and I feel comfortable that on any given play they know the offense. If it stays that way, on any given week, I’m going to play the guys I feel comfortable with and who fit the role better.
"But right now we’ve got two weeks and guys can still separate themselves, but I’m in a good spot. The competition is driving itself right now.”
Why is this important in fall camp?
One example: dropped passes.
If it becomes a pattern with any one guy, it opens the door for another to prove himself. The focus should get better, the motivation more intense.
There were too many drops a year ago, quite a few in crucial situations.
Up until Saturday’s scrimmage Fesi said his receivers were pretty consistent in holding onto the ball, but in the created-game situation he saw a few more drops than expected. He was both surprised and disappointed. But that gives him a tool to challenge and emphasize.18 comments on this story
“I’ve been pleased, but we took a big drop Saturday. We had more drops in that one scrimmage than we had in any individual practice up to that point and that includes seven-on-sevens and one-on-ones. We had more attempts than any other practice, but we had more drops. I can’t pinpoint why, if it was just lack of focus in the moment or lack of preparation.
“I’m not pressing the panic button yet. It was just one day,” said Fesi.
“We are out here correcting it and guys are staying after practice working it out.”
Is this an important piece of minutiae?
Of course, it is fall practice.