After an off-season of realignment and preparing for next year’s move to the Big 12, BYU will actually play football in Provo this week.
And here’s the weird thing: Despite all the headlines in recent months, this camp may be one of the quietest for the Cougars in recent memory.
BYU is bringing back the most production in the country this year (almost 85% from a season ago) and there aren’t even many open battles for positions.
The biggest questions can’t be answered until the games start next month. Can BYU chase another 10-win season? What kind of year can Jaren Hall put together?
But fall camp will provide some more answers before September 3 arrives.
Here are some of the biggest storylines heading into fall camp.
Can a young man steal a defense job?
Much attention is paid to the Cougars’ secondary side. After Malik Moore, Kaleb Hayes and D’Angelo Mandell, BYU has more questions than answers back there.
But considering the overall defense, it would be unfair to single out the secondary. There are many questions for defense coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki’s group.
The defensive line brings back almost every starter and they expect to be better than they were a season ago – but they have to prove they’ve made that leap. Looking at the depth chart, it appears Tyler Batty will be the guy BYU will be counting on to put pressure on the quarterback. But Batty, outside of a four-sack game in 2020, hasn’t been proven either.
In theory, the strength of this defense is the linebacking core of Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili. However, even those guys are question marks now because of previous injuries.
So this Fall Camp could be an opportunity for some players to make a big difference in Week 1. More than any other spot on this squad, this is an opportunity for a young man to come in and win a job. Newcomer Logan Fano probably would have deserved a big role this spring if he hadn’t torn his cruciate ligament. Can we see another Fano-like climb this fall? It’s certainly not out of the question.
Look to guys like Aisea Moa or Fisher Jackson, both underclassmen, to make a push. And don’t overlook real freshman Korbyn Green from Oklahoma, either. It will be his first time with this team this fall.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds
Do you remember the wave of injuries last year? Well, they’re not all healed.
There is still plenty of lingering injury news from the 2021 season, as BYU saw more than half of its starters fall victim to a lack of time on Opening Day.
Linebackers Wilgar and Pili are still working their way back from last year’s season-ending injuries. Both are expected to be healthy for fall storage, but it will be interesting to see how much they are actually used. Neither played in spring training.
The same goes for tight end Isaac Rex, who is recovering from a gruesome leg injury in November. He’ll likely be on a pitch count, so to speak, to start the fall with the expectation that he’ll head to the season opener.
The good thing for BYU is that all the guys still dealing with injuries know the playbook and there aren’t big changes to the game on either side of the ball. But it will still be interesting for BYU to keep those players healthy and ready them for opening week in Florida, a place known for penalizing players who are out of shape early in the season.
Perhaps that would be less of a concern if the opening game was a warm-up in Provo. But in a wet opener at 4:30 p.m., two time zones away, BYU needs to be at their best health-wise.
view in the future
Quarterback Jaren Hall is BYU’s starter. But what about the backup?
Usually, a backup quarterback fight isn’t that interesting. But this fall could be. Hall is expected to move to the NFL after this season, exiting the program with an opening at QB for the start of BYU’s Big 12 era.
BYU needs to make a decision as to whether the guy set to replace Hall is currently on the program or if a look into the transfer portal is needed.
That’s why this fall is so important for backup quarterback Jacob Conover. This could be his last time he actually auditions for the role of the next BYU quarterback in front of the coaches. If BYU wants to get on the portal, it probably needs to do so in December before the next spring camp. And during the season, it’s all about Hall. So if Conover wants the job, he needs to make a name for himself now that he has the attention of the staff.
Conover’s spring was better in every way. He was a key recruit who has since looked into BYU bringing other transfers to compete with him. But he won the backup position from spring camp and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said he was a lot more mature this time.
Can he build on that this fall?
New arrivals to watch
Anton Olsen: Olsen, a favorite walk-on, joins the tight ends group after flipping his signing from Utah. With Rex’s status being monitored, there’s a good chance Olsen will score significant snaps in his first training camp. If there’s a spot on offense for a freshman to break in, it would be a tight end.
Parker Kingston: Another real speed newcomer, Kingston may not be an immediate factor in a loaded wide receiver room. But he’s already one of BYU’s faster players on offense. Could Roderick find a role for him in first year?
Corbyn Green: On the secondary side, BYU could use some reinforcements. Kalani Sitake is ranked high for the Oklahoma freshman, both as a recruitment win and as a player who could make an immediate impact.
Aisea Moa: While Moa made his debut in the spring, this will be his first lengthy stint with the team. As a former four-star recruit, BYU expects Moa to be a big part of the defensive line at some point. With a sharp fall, the timeline for his posts could be pushed up.