PROVO — In Year Two under BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, how he wants to run the program is well known among his players and staff.
Sitake’s second spring in Provo as head coach has been about continuing to improve while figuring out which players are going to be key contributors this fall.
As the Cougars get ready to go camping this weekend in St. George, they’ve hit the midway point of spring ball. So, which players have stood out thus far? Here are five who have been making waves:
Tanner Jacobson, safety
One of the bigger storylines entering the 2017 season for BYU is the tall task of trying to replace do-it-all safety Kai Nacua. Jacobson is name that continues to be mentioned by Sitake when discussing possible replacements.
Jacobson, the younger brother of former BYU receiver McKay Jacobson, is a transfer from Texas Tech who saw time last season coming off serving an LDS mission. Jacobson was once a starter for the Red Raiders, and he has the inside track right to start at free safety alongside Micah Hannemann.
Akile Davis, wide receiver
Davis’ athleticism has earned high praise ever since he signed with BYU out of DeSoto, Texas. Last year during fall camp, he was a standout at cornerback before the coaching staff ultimately decided it was in his best interest to redshirt.
Midway through last season, Davis switched back to wide receiver where he was originally expected to play when he signed with the Cougars, and he was a star of the scout team. With the depth at cornerback, wide receiver looks to be a permanent stay for Davis, who has had made some spectacular grabs throughout practice, including a diving grab over the middle on a pass from Tanner Mangum earlier this week.
Tuni Kanuch, offensive guard
Kanuch entered spring ball in the best shape of his BYU career. Plagued by back injuries in the past, he is healthy and, along with Tejan Koroma, anchors the interior of BYU’s offensive line.
Sitake always mentions that his team is lifting weights and is stronger than ever before, and look no further than Kanuch as an example. The 6-foot-3 South Jordan native is now 315 pounds and is a force that not many defenders would want to line up against in the trenches.
KJ Hall, running back
Who replaces BYU’s all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams at running back? The message has been clear from Sitake and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer that this 2017 backfield will be a running back by committee, but there are still some players emerging at the top of that committee. One is walk-on KJ Hall, who, according to Sitake, “has done everything he can to earn a scholarship. It’s just a matter of finding a scholarship to give to him.”
Hall, the son of former BYU running back Kalin Hall (who attends most practices), has impressed in camp with his speed and his ability to always earn positive yards whenever he touches the ball.
Tevita Mo’Unga, defensive tackle
Last season, Mo’Unga capped off his sophomore campaign with the best performance of his career against Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl where he had three tackles. Entering spring, Mo’Unga has emerged as a leader of the defense along with linebacker Butch Pau’u. Once a quiet giant of a man, Mo’Unga is now a vocal leader and leads the defense in many drills and other activities off the field.
Mitch Harper is the publisher of CougarNation.com on the Rivals network and is the host of the Cougar Center Podcast available on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.