PROVO — While there are a bunch of starters that are limited during spring practices as they recover from injuries and surgeries, BYU coach Kalani Sitake is making sure that those guys take on a different role — as player-coaches.
Quarterback Zach Wilson, tight end Matt Bushman, safety Austin Lee, wide receiver Aleva Hifo and linebackers Isaiah Kaufusi and Zayne Anderson are among those that are healing up from injuries and helping younger players as well as honing their leadership skills.
As a result, leaders are emerging this spring, Sitake said.
“There’s a bunch of them. Actually, we’re putting them in positions to speak up a little bit more and be more involved with the teaching part of it,” he said. “We’re trying to get more peer teaching and learning on our team. We have a lot of guys that are hurt but they’re involved with coaching individuals and even in our drills. We have a lot of guys out there with experience that are helping the young guys. I think that’s why it’s a lot cleaner than we’ve seen in previous springs. And it’s also an offense that they’re familiar with now. It’s going really well.”
RUNNING BACKS STEPPING UP: Sophomore running back Lopini Katoa, who missed much of last season due to injury, has been impressive during spring practices and has made a big jump over the past year.
“He’s a lot more comfortable with the offense and he has a lot more experience now,” Sitake said of Katoa. “That’s going to be a huge benefit for him. We’re looking at him being a leader now. He’s kind of in the same position now that Squally (Canada) was last year. He just has a lot more years left to play.”
Meanwhile, senior Kavika Fonua, who hasn’t played much the past two seasons due to injury, is healthy and getting reps.
“He looks great. He’s trimmed up a little so he’s a lot faster than we what remember him. Seeing that speed on the field has been really nice,” Sitake said. “We’re focused on him getting to the fall.”
What about the overall talent at the running back position?21 comments on this story
“I like the talent. I think we’ve developed some really good players there. That’s a huge credit to our conditioning program and the type of offense we’re running,” Sitake said. “Not expecting too much from those guys. There’s talent. The key is experience. We’ve just got to see how they function when things are live.”
ROMNEY REVIEW: No doubt, Sitake has high hopes for sophomore wide receiver Gunner Romney, who was hampered by injuries last fall.
“He’s a great player. We just need to find ways to get him the ball because he can separate,” Sitake said. “I like our wide receivers a lot as a group. He’s a guy that we didn’t get to see much of at 100 percent last year. If you are able to watch some of what he’s done during the spring, that’s what we expect this fall — a lot of big plays.”