"We kind of knew what to expect coming into fall camp because of what we experienced over spring," said linebacker Tyler Beck. "It wasn't as big of a shock to us because we already knew of the expectations. We were ready for it."
"I felt like it went really well and it was a good day as far as effort," said defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi. "We've got the guys willing to put forth the effort, and today it really kicked in. I don't feel like there was a drop-off in our performance and it feels like we just came in right off of spring. I feel like our effort is even better than before because we're all in a lot better shape than we were in spring."
The offense came out firing on all cylinders – although there was some rust in terms of execution – and seemed to pick up the expected pace. It was the same on the defensive side as well.
"Being able to see our offense in spring and then work on stuff over summer really helped us," said Kaufusi. "The biggest thing was conditioning. We're not exactly where we need to be, but being able to be above where we were in spring is a good place to be."
One of the two biggest question marks on defense is the nose guard position. Marques Johnson was the starter at nose guard on Saturday.
"Oh, Marques Johnson did a great job," said Kaufusi. "I mean, he put in a lot of time during the offseason to be where he's at right now. Being able to see where he's at … having seen him take big strides over the summer is very helpful for us. Having him doing well in the middle makes our job easier for us [in that] that we're not scrapping up errors that he would maybe make. He's been able to eliminate those errors just with overall practice during summer."
This is big news for the defense. Johnson playing well frees up Eathyn Manumaleuna to play right defensive tackle instead of nose, and BYU's defensive line has the potential to be very good this season.
"I felt like the coaches did a really good job of telling us where we are at and were we need to get to," said Kaufusi. "When the coaches see that gap, we're able to get there by them teaching us how, so the effort was there today by the big guys."
The second-team defensive line consisted of Logan Taele at left tackle, Tuni Kanuch at nose, and Remington Peck at right tackle.
The second big question mark on defense is the boundary corner spot. On Saturday Dallin Leavitt took primary boundary corner responsibilities with the first-team defense while Jordan Johnson played field corner.
At the middle linebacker positions were Tyler Beck and Austen Jorgensen. Beck shocked the defensive coaches over spring camp by taking over the first-string position over Manoa Pikula.
"I'm feeling as healthy as I can right now," said Beck with a smile. "I'm just grateful that I get a chance to be out there and try and make the team better. I'm going to give it my all this year. I'm just going for it and I trained super hard this summer, and I'm just excited to play to my potential and be able to have fun playing football this year."
Kyle Van Noy didn't practice Saturday due to a hamstring issue. Joey Owens was in his place along with Jherremya Leuta-Douyere. At the field side, Alani Fua got quite a few reps as well with the first-team.
"I'm excited about the quality of talent we have because it just makes you a better overall player," said Beck. "Kyle wasn't playing today but we had other guys come in and really step up their game. I feel like the expectations are much higher and today was a good first day for our defense."
Because of the offense's speedy tempo, the players didn't do much switching around in terms of alignment. Oftentimes boundary corners played the field side and vice versa. The first touchdown of fall camp came from an Ammon Olsen pass to receiver Mitch Mathews. Mathews also made a one-handed grab during practice to the cheers of onlookers.
"That one-handed catch was some luck," said Mathews. "I've been blessed with some big hands. I can't take credit that I can do that all the time, but I'm hoping I can do that more than once. I made sure [Taysom Hill] knew that I did that so he could give me some love! Coach Holliday said I was lucky, so I have to do that again to show him that it wasn't luck today."
Overall Saturday was a very productive first day of fall camp with lots to cover. From an offensive perspective, the players seemed to respond well to the fast-paced tempo for the most part, and the team seemed more in tune with the expectations of the coaches.