Saturday was the first chance BYU coaches and players got a first-hand look at what running back Ty’Son Williams can do against a live defense.
The grad transfer from South Carolina obviously made an impression during a 107-play scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium, as did fellow backs Lopini Katoa and Emmanuel Esukpa, another grad transfer.
“I had him (Williams) break the team (huddle) because he stuck out today,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “He’s really starting to feel more comfortable in the program. He did some really good things today. Lopini, Ty’Son and Emmanuel all did some good things today. From what I can tell and how I can evaluate, I think the guy is a special player.”
Williams played down his coach’s praise — “Nah, don’t believe him,” Williams said when told of Sitake’s comments — but was grateful for the chance to go against real defenders.
“I missed spring,” Williams said. “Just getting back and getting the feel for everything, going to the ground, it was good. I feel like we did well as an offensive unit, so that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes gave his evaluation of Williams’ performance.
“He’s exactly what we’re looking for in a back,” Grimes said. “He’s an all-purpose back. He can run, he can catch, he can block and he’s a willing blocker. A lot of tailbacks don’t like that. He showed the ability today to break a tackle or make a guy miss. You think you have that in a back but you don’t really know until you go live. A couple of the other backs did the same thing, but he (Williams) certainly did a nice job.”
The scrimmage — which was closed to the media — had 75 live reps, according to Sitake and several players were held out, though they practiced and did the non-contact action. On offense, junior tight end Matt Bushman was held out and senior receiver Aleva Hifo played just two series in the scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said senior defensive backs Dayan Ghanwoloku, Sawyer Powell and Austin Lee were held out, along with linebackers Zayne Anderson and Isaiah Kaufusi and defensive linemen Zac Dawe, Bracken El-Bakri and Trajan Pili.
“Then there were a couple of guys we wanted to give two or three series to,” Tuiaki said. “That was Devin Kaufusi, Lorenzo Fauatea, Chaz Ah You, Payton Wilgar, Max Tooele and Malik Moore. “Coming out, the main thing was to stay healthy. We have some competition at some spots and we wanted to give the opportunity for those guys to show in real tackle football what they can do.”
Grimes — who said the offense had six penalties on the day — explained the process as finding out who some of the “next best guys” might be on the depth chart. He also said the completion percentage for incumbent starter Zach Wilson was “pretty high” during the scrimmage and singled out freshman wide receiver Keanu Hill as a player who has made big strides in camp.
“Keanu is a guy that has really showed an ability to make plays,” Grimes said. “Sometimes when you call it a scrimmage and we come into LaVell Edwards Stadium, some guys get a little bit nervous and don’t perform as good as they could. Other guys maybe step up their game even a little bit more. It looks to me like he’s that kind of guy. He’s not overly nervous. He’s played in some big games at a really good high school program (Cyprus Woods in Texas). He’s a guy that I don’t think the moment will ever be too big for him.”
Wilson finished a radio interview and approached the media horde after the scrimmage, joking “I’m only here so I don’t get fined.” He also responded to a question about how many points BYU put on the board with, “I think we had 54 points, but I don’t know. I don’t even know if that matters. We had different guys in, different situations and different things we’re working on.”
His take on the scrimmage?
“I think we’ve got some stud running backs all around. All three of those guys taking one reps today were really good. I think that’s going to open our game up. I think we’ve got a lot of reliable receivers. I know a lot of people doubt us as a team, but personally I feel like doubt is the No. 1 reason why people should be motivated to do better.”