Day 1 @ BYU Summer Camp: TidBits & Pieces

It was a good turnout for BYU's first day of football summer camp with high profile players and new names few had heard of before.

Head coach Gary Crowton was sighted driving in a familiar golf cart greeting old and new faces alike. Assistants Steve Kaufusi, Barry Lamb, Lance Reynolds and Paul Tidwell were also present and accounted for.

All player participants were split up into groups based on positions and supervised by coaches and volunteers.

Local Orem prospect Justin Soi also showed excellent form running routes and catching passes with his soft hands. The 6' 4" tight end hopeful ran routes and performed skill tests under the barking command of coaches.

Elder brother Brian Soi, BYU's top defensive signee this year, was on hand to watch Justin and other up-and-coming talent. He said he felt comfortable with his performance on the final ACT test that would qualify him to play this fall for the Cougars. Test results will not be known for three weeks or so, he said.

A little-known wide receiver that caught the attention of many was a newcomer named Joseph Sawyer, referred to as "Joe Joe."

Sawyer, a 6' 3" African American athlete from Logan, Utah, was arguably the best receiver of the day with a quick first step and soft hands. He did not drop a pass all day.

Meanwhile, some BYU team players stopped by to check out the emerging high school talent on display. Offensive lineman Jake Kuresa, wide receiver Bristol Olomua, defensive linemen C.J. Ah You and Shaun Nua and running back Fui Vakapuna liked what little they saw.

Olomua said he was excited and could not wait until the season gets underway. Vakapuna, with sculpted arms and calves, has obviously spent the last few months in extensive weight room workouts and was simply ripped and "ready to roll."

Even Athletic Director Val Hale stopped by and briefly chatted.

One particular standout athlete that passed the eye test was Samoan safety/linebacker prospect B.J. McKenzie from Bethel High School in Washington state. McKenzie, winner of the top Linebacker Award at the USC and Utah summer camps last year, ran his drills under the watchful eye of Cougar linebacker coach Barry Lamb.

At first glance, it was easy to evaluate McKenzie's athleticism by the speed and fluid manner in which he performed various drills. He passed our eye test with flying colors.

Running high steps and zig zag routes over bags, McKenzie was very fluid while running solid and crisp patterns. It was apparent why he won the junior Linebacker Awards at the USC and Utah camps last year: He possesses a solid build and was heads above other participants in body control and athleticism.

In an earlier interview with, McKenzie indicated BYU was #1 on his choice of colleges. Once very high on the USC Trojans, McKenzie said he has made an about face and is looking hard at BYU.

His father, Bret McKenzie, noted: "B.J. always wanted to play with his first cousin, Brian Soi. He always said that wherever Brian plays, that is where he wants to play. I told my son he can play anywhere he wants to as long as he honors his Priesthood, so I didn't mind if he went to a school like USC.

"I always told him, if you honor the Priesthood and do what is right, you will be successful. If you don't, then you won't be. So I didn't push him to go to BYU. I'm glad he wants to go there now, though."

McKenzie said he thought Soi would commit to USC and tentatively planned to follow his cousin there. However, when Soi committed to BYU, things quickly turned for him.

"Ever since Brian committed to BYU, that is who B.J. wants to play for now. So I've talked to coach Kaufusi about him and have sent all the information to him," his father added.

McKenzie noted "my cousin Brian Soi is going to be attending that school (BYU) as well, so that is also a major influence for me wanting to go there."

"I know that I have the talent and skills to play anywhere around the country, but Brigham Young University is the school I would prefer playing and attending.

"I also plan on going on a full-time mission so that will not be a problem if I go there. I am highly interested in attending BYU and becoming a part of their program. If offered, I would commit on the spot without any hesitation. It's a place I want to play for."

Here are a few of McKenzie's awards and accolades over the past few years:

* Voted team captain last season * Honorable Mention Linebacker (Seattle Times), leading the team with 72 tackles his sophomore year * Leading tackler as a sophomore for Spanaway Lake Varsity football * Only sophomore to start on Spanaway Lake Varsity football * Impact Newcomer and Key Returner (Seattle Times Newspaper) * Scholar Athlete Award GPA: 3.833 * Varsity football Defensive Player of the Year (as a sophomore) * Awarded Rookie of the Year for Varsity Football * Baseball MVP * Basketball Most Inspirational * Most Valuable Player Linebacker Award at University of Utah Football Camp * Honor Roll Student * Won Linebacker Award as a junior at the University of Southern California football camp

Recruited by USC assistant coach Kennedy Pola, also a Samoan, McKenzie said he seriously considered accepting an offer to play free safety for USC if a scholarship was offered. They pictured him as the next Troy Polamalu, the Trojans' All American free safety who lead USC vaunted defense last year.

"The coaches want B.J. to come in and play free safety or strong side linebacker on the defense. Everyone is looking at him to come in and play either the safety or linebacker spots," said his father.

McKenzie has received lots of attention from Pac10, WAC and MWC schools. He was also awarded the Best Linebacker Awards at the University of Utah's summer camp as well.

At 5' 11" and 190 pounds, McKenzie has made a name for himself as a punishing hitter on defense and an elusive hard-nose runner on offense.

"He currently holds a 3.8 GPA and I've sent his transcripts to BYU coaches along with some pictures and film," his father added.

In all, the day was primarily an initiation day for camp participants. Look for it to heat up tomorrow in intensity and talented displays now that camp is under way.

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