PROVO — BYU football didn’t break the huddle with an end to fall camp or the start of Week 1 game prep Monday at the on-campus outdoor practice field.
The official end to fall camp will come shortly after a scrimmage Wednesday. But even so, the Cougars have already begun looking ahead to the 2019 schedule — which starts next Thursday, Aug. 29, against in-state rival and No. 14-ranked Utah.
That BYU doesn’t set a specific time to end the camp and begin game week is a credit to the Cougars’ leadership, head coach Kalani Sitake said.
“We’ve basically been prepping for the game anyways and had a good jumpstart at it,” the fourth-year head coach added. “We’ve got a mixture of what we’re doing in camp and also scouting Utah.
“I don’t know if there’s an official bell to be rung when you break camp, but we’re transitioning now to getting ready for the game.”
BYU has spent 2 1/2 weeks in fall camp, including position battles at middle linebacker, right tackle, kicker/punter and running back. But as those position battles start to come into focus — no formal announcements were made by Monday, but Sitake and his assistants agreed that the depth chart is becoming more clear by the day — the Cougars can begin turning more attention to the Utes.
After the rivalry game, the schedule doesn’t get much easier, either.
It’s a murderer’s row in the opening month of the season, with a road game at Tennessee before hosting Southern California and No. 13 Washington. The Cougars will also face the likes of Toledo, South Florida, Boise State and Utah State before finishing a more manageable November schedule.
But that’s exactly what they signed up for — and it has the players excited to see where they measure up.
“We can’t wait,” said linebacker Zayne Anderson, a senior who recently got a second chance at his final year of eligibility. "We’re playing for each other, for ourselves and for our families. Looking at this season, everyone is talking about how hard our schedule is — but what an opportunity! Our goal at the end of the season is to go undefeated; we want to make it to a bowl game, even a New Year’s Six (bowl). We wouldn’t be able to accomplish that with some average teams.
“This schedule is not average. It’s really exciting, being able to face the teams we face this year.”
Unlike in past years, the Cougars were able to move from last season into the current one with almost sheer continuity. A few seniors left, most notably at the running back position, while the only coaching change has been Eric Mateos, the new offensive line coach replacing now-Troy offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh.
But that’s only half the explanation for the Cougars’ increased workload — and gains — during training camp.
“I also give a lot of credit to the players and the leadership we’ve seen in these guys since the beginning — since January, when the bowl game ended,” Sitake said. “We went through our winter conditioning, spring ball, summer conditioning, and it’s been all about football. The leaders have been showing us the way and taking ownership of this team.
“I think that’s been a big part of it.”
Moroni Laulu-Pututau returned to practice Monday after reaching an accord over the summer school academic process. The senior-to-be tight end was in a helmet and shorts while going through conditioning drills as he undergoes the NCAA-mandated heat acclimatization, meaning he should be in pads Wednesday with full participation later this week.
“I don’t know officially, but I’m excited to see him soon,” Sitake said.
Kavika Fonua also returned to practice Monday, having missed much of the last week of fall camp with an ankle injury. The Syracuse High product will battle for the middle linebacker job left vacant by the departure of Sione Takitaki and Butch Pau’u, but coaches have yet to name a starter amongst Fonua, Payton Wilgar, Jackson Kaufusi and Keenan Pili.