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Experience in BYU football’s favor as fall camp begins

By Darnell Dickson - | Aug 3, 2022

BYU junior defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner celebrates after his team recovered a fumble during the 66-49 Cougar win over Virginia at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

Football can be defined by many numbers, but here’s one that is a difference maker for BYU in 2022: 326.

That number represents how many cumulative starts this year’s roster has logged over the past four years. By position its 90 on the offensive line, 73 at linebacker, 67 in the defensive backfield, 41 at tight end, 33 at wide receiver, 12 at quarterback and 10 at running back.

The Cougars report for fall camp on Wednesday and practice on Thursday. There won’t be the need for name badges or get-to-know you activities because the roster is filled with experienced players who have lived in head coach Kalani Sitake’s “love and learning” environment.

Experience is helpful in a number of ways.

Players have “been there, done that” enough where adversity doesn’t phase them as much. The plays and play calls are familiar and the coaches don’t have to teach as much as they need to fine tune. Experience also allows the coaches to have flexibility in deciding on a rotation for keeping players fresh and healthy.

“If they’re experienced guys, they are also your best players on this team,” BYU offensive line coach Darrell Funk said. “Some year’s I’ve had experienced guys that we getting passed up and that can be an issue sometimes, guys not playing. He’s just sitting there but it can be a distraction. We don’t have any of that here with our experienced players. Everyone is what I would consider a wily old vet and have started a lot of games.”

Throughout the roster, BYU has many players will multiple years of experience in the system.

On the offensive line, the projected starters are sophomore Connor Pay, redshirt junior Clark Barrington, sophomore Campbell Barrington, junior Blake Freeland and redshirt junior Harris LaChance, but senior Joe Tukuafu and Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia will figure into the rotation.

Wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake likes to keep his rotation tight and junior Puka Nacua, senior Gunner Romney and redshirt sophomore Keanu Hill figure to receive the most reps But others such as redshirt junior Brayden Cosper and redshirt freshmen Chase Roberts and Kody Epps should also push for playing time.

At running back, Cal transfer Christopher Brooks emerged as RB1 after spring ball and he’ll be backed by senior Lopini Katoa and redshirt sophomore Jackson McChesney, with junior Hinckley Ropati and redshirt freshman Miles Davis waiting in the wings.

The tight end position features redshirt sophomore Isaac Rex and junior Dallin Holker and will be boosted by experienced h-backs/fullbacks Masen Wake, a junior, and grad transfer Houston Heimuli from Stanford.

There are only 12 starts at quarterback, all from incumbent Jaren Hall, but Hall is starting his fifth season in Aaron Roderick’s offense.

The defensive line brings back nearly a dozen players who got reps last season and due to injury, the linebacking corps has plenty of options with the return of redshirt juniors Keenan Pili and Payton Wilgar from injury.

There are a dozen defensive backs who have significant reps and the Cougars added SEC veteran Gabe Jeudy-Lally from Vanderbilt during the offseason.

Clark Barrington said his redshirt year was very beneficial to his growth as a player.

“Just being able to observe was helpful,” he said. “How things worked out, my first season, I was just on the scout team. During my time there I was trying to learn and get better, get bigger and stronger. I feel that helped me a ton going against the starters on defense and learning from the older guys in the room as well.”

Like many college teams, BYU plays more than just 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense during a game. Everyone needs to be ready for their opportunity to step into a key role.

“Your time will come,” Barrington said. “You’re going to continually grind away and do the best you can. Then you’re time will come and you have to be ready for that time. If you’re ready for it, they maybe you’ll be able to keep that spot. We all want to do a really good job of helping each other out, coaching each other up and wanting the best for each other, then wanting the best for the team as well.”

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