BYU Spring Football common themes: Clean slate, playing the best players

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After the first week of the BYU Cougars Spring football, there were two common themes coming from the coaching staff: they were giving the players a clean slate, and they wanted to play the best players.


Providing a clean slate is especially common with the new coaches on offense. Much of that has to do with new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes specifically asking that of his staff, according to the Deseret News.

"Jeff said he wanted to come in with a clean slate, he didn’t want to watch a lot of film because he wanted players to come in and get to know who they are," tight ends coach Steve Clark said. "If they’d been in the doghouse before, he didn’t want them in the doghouse now."

That should have all of BYU's receivers happy. This position group was, possibly, the most disappointing last season. Even those who were the statistical leaders had flaws in their play that a new coach could use against them.

"I didn't know much about any of them at all, and that was an intentional thing heading into this spring," wide receiver coach Fesi Sitake said, per a Deseret News report. "I didn't want any preconceived notions. I didn't want to come in looking at a guy with the thought he was a certain way — capable of this, but not capable of that. I think that would have been unfair."

The position group that was the strongest and deepest in 2017, running backs, also has a clean slate for each of the players. New position coach AJ Steward was the last man hired, and came to Provo as a complete outsider. That has forced him to make a fair assessment of each back on the roster.

Quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick will have the hardest job with the clean slate approach.

“By the end of spring, I’d like to have it down to two or three guys that have separated themselves to compete with Tanner in fall camp,” Roderick told reporters. “That’s the ultimate goal. We’ll get to fall camp and have a really heated competition when Tanner’s healthy. I’m really interested to see this battle play out.”

It would be very easy for him to list Beau Hoge, Joe Critchlow as one and two, since they have starting experience, but words like "separated themselves" and "play out" show Roderick is committed to following Grimes' orders. As does another quote from Roderick.

"As soon as there’s some separation, I’ll start divvying up the reps."


The desired outcome of giving everyone a clean slate is to identify the best players and get them on the field. That is a goal that applies to both sides of the ball.

The defense is using position changes to achieve that goal.

Speaking of position changes on defense, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was quoted by the Deseret News as saying, “The goal is to get the best 11 on the field.”

New offensive line coach Ryan Pugh is taking a similar approach with the offensive line, also quoted by the Deseret News.

“We have good, quality depth. We’re going to try to find the best five offensive linemen to put on the field, regardless of position,” Pugh said. “That’s been my philosophy everywhere I’ve been prior to here. It doesn’t matter if you played left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle. We’ll put the best guys out there, and we’re going to battle for the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth spot, and we’ll go to war with that.”

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  1. "The position group that was the strongest and deepest in 2017, running backs"

    Hahahaha, hahahahaha. That's funny, if in a depressing sort of way. Funny because the running backs really struggled for most of the season, only finding significant success near the end against some of the weakest teams in college football. Sad that BYU's team was so bad that someone could actually believe that BYU's RB were their best position group.

    Here are the groups that were definitely better than the RBs in 2017: LBs, DL, Special Teams, TEs,
    Here are the groups that were probably better: OL, CB, S
    Here are the groups that were worse: WR, QB.

    That being said, right now, the RB position looks a lot stronger than it did last year. Canada has appeared to have gotten significantly better and following blocks and hitting the holes opened up by his OL. El-Backri is a very good FB. Canada has 2 decent backups in Hall and Tolutau (though both are hurt).

    If I had to rank the position groups, RBs would probably be behind TEs, DL, LBs and possibly special teams.


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