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By Brandon Gurney
PROVO — BYU football is coming up on its first full month of spring practices with narratives for each position group being set or at least emerging as coaches look to present their best personnel come fall.
Today we take a glance of the position groups on the offensive side of the football with regards to the underlying storylines and who is standing out, according to coaches and by our own observations.
Over the radar: It’s fun listening in on how close coaches and players can say Kedon Slovis is the No. 1 quarterback without, you know, actually saying it. Throughout practice sessions the Pittsburgh transfer has seen every rep with the 1s while receiving constant praise from everyone. Oh yeah, he’s also looked very sharp and ahead of the curve during most open practice sessions.
“Kedon is playing really well,” said BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “He’s a veteran player and he shows it out here every day. Each day there are new things that happen within our offense — that are new to him with our system, so there’s growth there each day. But as far as his ability to run the team and make the plays that he needs to make at this level, he shows us every day that he’s a good quarterback.”
Under the radar: Sophomore Cade Finnegan has quietly gone about seeing reps behind Slovis and has acquitted himself nicely, moving the offense effectively during most team drills.
Jake Retzlaff was assumed by many to assume the backup quarterback role, but the Riverside College transfer has seen limited practice reps due to emergency tonsil removal issues, and isn’t likely to see a full practice regimen until fall. Finnegan has taken every advantage of Retzlaff’s absence and stands as the odds-on favorite to assume the No. 2 spot.
Over the radar: Both senior Hinckley Ropati and sophomore Miles Davis have roundly impressed so far this spring. Sure, UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins is looming large on the sidelines, but due to being held out of most drills due to a thumb injury, his contributions are only assumed at this juncture.
In Robbins’ absence, both Ropati and Davis have shown well, with Davis particularly coming on strong of late with several long runs gained during open sessions.
Overall Running backs coach is confident in his group.
“We’re definitely the most well-rounded we’ve been in a long time,” Unga outlined. “I feel like with Miles (Davis) and Folau (Hinkley Ropati) that you have some guys with experience that can do everything…and then you add Aidan (Robbins) into it…he’s done some amazing things at UNLV and you see glimpses of him doing it here.”
Under the radar: Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters has transitioned very nicely to his new position after spending his prior two years competing at quarterback. The sophomore has seen the most work behind Ropati and Davis during open sessions and has impressed.
Over the radar: Chase Roberts is looking like Slovis’ top target during most open practice sessions. With Kody Epps sitting out spring due to injury, the former American Fork standout is seeing a lot of targets and producing strong results.
Roberts showed flashes of his potential last season, and is standing out among a relatively new group of receivers looking to earn a spot this spring.
“There’s a lot of new guys,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of new freshmen coming in and a lot of guys left last year — a lot of star players. So I do feel a different level of expectation.”
Under the radar: It’s hard not to notice the production of freshman Dom Henry during open sessions. The 5-foot-11,175 pound Florida native has run solid routes and shows good ball skills as he vies for a spot in the regular receiving rotation.
Over the radar: This one’s easy. It’s Isaac Rex. The 6-foot-6, 255 pound senior has been limited, but due to his experience, taking spring reps aren’t exactly paramount as he prepares for his final season.
Rex entered the 2022 season coming off of a shoulder injury, but looks to be fully healthy come fall, which should provide a big boost to his overall production and to the Cougar offense, in general.
Under the radar: Freshman Anthony Olsen has received some early praise, but the true under-the-radar player in the group is sophomore Ethan Erickson. The 6-5, 240 native Hawaiian is making a strong bid to not only become Rex’s primary backup, but as a regular rotation player who could see his share of targets come fall.
“I’m excited about this group,” Rex said. “They’re hard workers and they’re excited to be in that (tight end) room.”
Over the radar: Sophomore Kingsley Suamataia has made a seamless transition to left tackle after starting at right tackle last season. This should be a surprise to no one given the Oregon transfers’ play last year on top of his overall skill set and vast potential.
Under the radar: There’s a lot of promising newcomers to the offensive line, but the one coaches are perhaps most confident in his Weylin Lapuaho, and for good reasons. The 6-4, 310 Utah State transfer has begun to see a lot of reps with the 1s and is making a strong bid to start at one of the offensive guard positions come fall.
“There’s a lot of new faces in the room, so there’s a learning curve, but I’ve been really happy with how things are going,” said junior Connor Pay, who is the most-experienced returning BYU offensive lineman. “…We’re confident and I relate it to the (2021) year for us — we all were that backup unit, and no one thought we were going to do very well.”
“We have guys who have been doing the work as backups,” Pay continued. “We also have guys who haven’t been doing it, and need to step it up, but overall, as a group, I think we’re progressing and getting to that point where it won’t look like we’re a fine-tuned group in the spring, but…we’re on track right now.”