BYU football seeking right amount of contact during spring camp | News, Sports, Jobs

A BYU ball carrier gets stopped during practice at the indoor practice facility in Provo as part of spring camp on Thursday, March 10, 2022. (BYU courtesy photo)

Thud.

Those in attendance at BYU football’s spring camp practice at the indoor practice facility on Thursday heard that sound over and over as pads crunched together.

While not exactly the same as the tackling that goes on during a game, it nevertheless is hard for elite athletes to not hit each other with some violence.

“Practice was very tiring,” Cougar senior defensive back Malik Moore said after practice. “It was very fast-paced, plus the offense got a lot of new tools in the shed they are ready to use — and they for sure use them during spring ball. It’s way more physical now. It was cool but it was tiresome.”

He explained that while the players may mentally understand the need to limit the injury risks by not running into each other at full speed, it’s hard to avoid getting carried away sometimes.

“The goal is to keep everyone safe but when you are on the field, your competitiveness comes out,” Moore said. “If you are competitive, there is nothing you can do to stop it. They may say to keep everyone safe but it’s not going to happen. They say that and the next thing you know in a one-on-one someone gets tackled. Then it’s like, well, it’s go time.”

BYU junior wide receiver Puka Nacua said he feels that the Cougar defense pushes the offense to be physical as well.

“They are definitely a physical group,” Nacua said. “We pride ourselves on being one of the strongest and toughest teams in college football. We feel it every day when we come to practice. It’s something that we don’t take lightly. They learn our tendencies and we learn their tendencies, but you can try new things and see if the old things still work.”

Nacua said he feels like the team should be careful but that it can’t be afraid of taking a few risks.

“The coaches do a good job keeping us limited because some of those thuds are more physical than you think they would be,” Nacua said. “At the same time, I think about how we only get so many times to play football. We have spring ball, fall camp and then the season. Whether it is a little thud or a big hit where you are taken to the ground, that’s what football is all about. I love it. You only get so many opportunities and you have to take advantage of every one of them.”

But while guys may get dinged up when they get aggressive like that, Moore said it also pushes the team to be ready for when the games roll around.

“If you practice just tagging everyone off, what are you going to do in a game?” Moore said. “On defense we want to be better tacklers and the only way to get better is to chest and face up on everybody you see, even when the play is over. It is definitely benefitting us more. There can be injuries but you can have injuries running against air.”

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said he feels like the athletes struck a good equilibrium on Thursday.

“It’s fun to bang around a little bit,” Roderick said. “You try to find the right balance. I thought the level of contact today was just right. We were banging a little but everyone was staying on their feet. I didn’t see any piles. We are learning how to practice against each other.”

He did add, however, that he thinks limiting tackling in practice also skews the offensive production downward.

“As an offense, you always wish they had to tackle you,” Roderick said. “The whistle gets blown and most of those plays would go for a few more yards in real games than they do in practice. But if you tackled all the time, you’d get a lot of guys hurt and we’ve got to be smart about that.”

Nacua said he loves seeing everyone come with a little edge “because that’s when you get everyone’s best.”

BYU offensive and defensive players battle during spring camp at the indoor practice facility in Provo on Monday, March 7, 2022. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

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