PROVO — Among the many benefits of posting a winning record and qualifying for a bowl game is the 15 extra practices the NCAA allows teams that go bowling.
Because BYU stayed home for the holidays last year, it was denied those much-needed extra practices.
This year, the Cougars, who face Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 21, are taking full advantage of bowl practices allotted to them.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake said his team would practice six times last week, and he’s scheduled six more practices for this week.
With a bevy of young players on the roster, including many taking on prominent roles — and several starting — that’s crucial.
“It’s an opportunity for us, with a lot of time to get ready for the game, to work hard, get better and provide our younger guys to get better and learn the scheme a little more and work on our depth,” Sitake said. “It’s having an extra spring ball, really. We’re going to try to develop our guys quickly and utilize all our time. We’ll practice six days this week and another six next week. We’ll take as much time as we need to get ready for the game. The whole point of this bowl game is to go and win. In 2016, we won our bowl game, and I look forward to trying to get another win next year. That’s the No. 1 goal for us.”
These extra practices certainly will help the Cougars establish a springboard going into next season in terms of player development.
“I want to be able to finish this season in a really strong aspect of how we want our offense to be. We’ve got a lot of time off,” said freshman quarterback Zach Wilson. “I’m hoping that we can use it like it’s a short offseason, where we can grow these next two weeks and build our offense and our team unity as how we want it to be for future years. We’ve changed offenses a couple of different times this year. I hope we find our identity and stick with it and that we really progress on it going into these next couple of weeks. … It will be like a spring ball going into next year. We get those extra practices, extra development. I hope to take advantage of that.”
Sophomore tight end Matt Bushman said newcomers to the program will be able to earn valuable practice time and game experience thanks to these additional practices.
“It’s really big, especially with the new rule of being allowed to play four games and still have a redshirt year. There are a lot of players who have played only three games” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to see what the speed of college football is like, especially in a bowl game. There’s excitement. It will be good. It’s similar to another spring ball. It’s my first go at it. I’ve heard it’s good for a lot of players to develop, hone their skills, learn technique, get more comfortable with the offense and defense, and how we play. I’m excited to see some of these younger players develop. Hopefully, they can make some plays if their names are called during the bowl game.”26 comments on this story
“It’s going to help both our offense and defense to get things polished a little more,” said junior safety Dayan Ghanwoloku. “It’s going to help us in the future with all the young guys we have on defense and offense. It’s another game for us to get better. It’s going to improve us for the next game when we play Utah next year in the first game.”
As much as Wilson wants to win this upcoming bowl game in Boise, he’s got a long-range vision as well.
“We have a lot of growing to do. The offseason is going to help tremendously with all of that stuff,” Wilson said. “I think this bowl game will also help us kick-start us into next year.”