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How it’s done: Experience of BYU cornerbacks Kaleb Hayes and Gabe Jeudy-Lally key for Cougar defense

By Jared Lloyd - | Aug 10, 2022

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

BYU senior defensive back Kaleb Hayes (left) and sophomore defensive back Gabe Jeudy-Lally get ready for the start of practice in Provo on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

It’s unlikely anyone on the BYU football team has a better idea of what Cougar sophomore cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally is going through than senior defensive back Kaleb Hayes.

The duo share more in common than just their positions. They both started at other schools (Jeudy-Lally at Vanderbilt, Hayes at Oregon State) and needed to adjust to life in Provo.

Plus they are roommates, so that gives Hayes even more insight.

“Gabe is a really good guy, a very intellectual dude,” Hayes said during Wednesday’s photo day at the indoor practice facility in Provo. “Off the field, he’s a great person to hang out with. You can relate to him a lot. On the field, he’s very smart, very poised, very calm. He’s a sponge. He’s really quick to learn things and just soaks them up. He’s an outstanding guy and a phenomenal football player.”

Jeudy-Lally said after practice on Monday that he feels like he is getting acclimated to BYU but that he still has a lot to learn.

“The first couple of days were definitely different,” Jeudy-Lally said. “I feel like I bring experience on the field and off the field. I’ve been through a lot of situations which made me a lot stronger as a player. I think we’ve got a lot of young guys in our room so I’m able to give them little nuggets of information here and there to be able to get them right. After Caleb and (senior D’Angelo Mandell) leave, we’ll be really young but I think it will be good if with the veteran leadership we have now we can get them ready for the next steps.”

His high school coach was former BYU star defensive back Derwin Gray and Jeudy-Lally said Gray had some good advice for him.

“You get out of it what you put in,” Jeudy-Lally said. “I came here and I embraced it. If I came here and I was hesitant towards the situation, it definitely would have been different but honestly, it’s super nice. I mean, when I asked for help, everybody gave it to me. It’s just made the transition really smooth and I’m happy.”

Hayes pointed to the additional experience that Jeudy-Lally brings to the team as one of his most valuable assets.

“He’s going to bring experience and knowledge as well,” Hayes said. “It’s great to have a guy who can speak and knows situational football. Something we were missing last year was some of the situational stuff. Now he’s bringing up the intellectual part of the game and the physical part as well. If you watch his film, you know he is one of those guys who can come up and make those big-bang plays. It’s very hard to throw on him because he is very knowledgeable about where he is at on the field. He’s going to showcase some great things.”

BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Wednesday that he expects Jeudy-Lally to be a big-time contributor and that the team will need him and the others to be ready.

“We’re going to need corners this year,” Tuiaki said. “We’ve got 10 straight games with no bye week. Because of that, one of our messages that we have talked about with our defense is that we’ve got a lot of good players and players might play roles they didn’t expect. But we’re going to need all of them. We’re going to need everybody bought in and contributing, one way or another.”

Hayes believes that that success of the BYU defense as a whole will hinge on how well prepared it is and whether players understand what they need to do.

“It’s about knowing how to play as a team and having everyone do their 1/11th,” Hayes said. “We have to stay within our defense and make the plays that count, like eliminating all explosive plays. We just need to play consistent football. If we do that, we have a great chance to become a really great football team.”

He said he firmly believes in the adage that defense wins games but that means the entire unit has to be ready when times get tough.

“When things don’t go our way and adversity hits us, we have to embrace it,” Hayes said. “That’s what life is about. When you have obstacles in your way, you have to figure out how to overcome them and figure out a way to win.”

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

BYU sophomore defensive back Gabe Jeudy-Lally gets ready for the start of practice in Provo on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

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