Last week Vakapuna was on the sidelines because he was deemed academically ineligible to participate during the season opener against Northern Iowa. For Vakapuna it was the height of frustration, as he's worked hard to regain some of his form he showed his sophomore year.
"I hate standing on the sidelines not able to help," said Vakapuna about last weekend's game. "It's the worst thing ever for a football player and I let my team down by not taking care of my business, and that's the worst thing. But, I'm good to go now."
When Vakapuna returns to the field this Saturday he'll be out there filling a new role in the Cougar backfield. While he spent his sophomore and junior years rotating at tailback with Curtis Brown and Harvey Unga, respectively, he'll spend this year logging most of his time at fullback.
And Vakapuna's team really does need him after the subpar outings for Wayne Latu and J.J. DiLuigi a week ago. Even should Latu and DiLuigi rebound and have nice games, neither of them really have the physical makeup to effectively play effective fullback.
Unga is at least as excited as Vakapuna to have his friend and teammate back on the field.
"I love Fui," remarked Unga. "Anytime you have Fui on the field it's a good thing. He loves to hit and he's been great at lead blocking for me this fall, and if he gets the ball I'll be anxious to lead block for him. We need him and it's going to be great to have him back."
As someone who seldom shies away from contact, Vakapuna is excited for his new role of lead blocker for Unga out of the backfield.
"I love hitting guys and overpowering them, and you get to do that a lot playing fullback," said Vakapuna. "I want to run it too, of course, but every time Harvey gets the ball I'm going to be giving it my all in making sure he makes as many yards as he can."
In BYU's offense the fullback is also required to catch the football with great proficiency, which is something Vakapuna has worked hard on since the end of the 2007 season.
"I'm doing a lot better in catching the football now and I've really worked on it," said Vakapuna. "You have to do it all in this system and I feel that I've really worked hard to be a complete back, which is what my team needs me to be."
While neither Latu nor DiLuigi had the most impressive outings last week, the team remains high on their prospects and eventual contributions. The Northern Iowa game was the first college game ever for DiLuigi, and the same could nearly be said for Latu, as it was his first significant action since the 2005 season.
"Both those guys are going to be fine," said Unga. "They had some rough starts last week, but that's not going to hold them down. They both work hard and they'll be fine. They're going to help us a lot this year."
Much has been made this week of Jake Locker and his overall speed, which gives opposing defenses headaches. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall himself expressed on Tuesday that he wasn't sure if his team had anyone faster than Locker, which could lead to some big gains by the Washington quarterback if he were to ever break containment and get out to the open field this Saturday.
Enter BYU cornerback Brandon Howard, who is widely considered the fastest player on BYU's team. Howard showed some of his wheels this past Saturday when he tracked down Northern Iowa's quarterback, who had a 15-yard head start, from behind on a long run to prevent a touchdown.
Howard is confident he can keep up with Locker this Saturday.
"If [Locker] gets into the open field, I'll be ready," said Howard. "My team needs me to get it done tracking him down if he ever gets to the open field, and I'm confident that I can get that done. He's fast, but I'm fast too, and I'll be working hard to track him down every opportunity I get."
Matt Reynolds was told by offensive line coach Mark Weber that he was bound to make two or three mistakes his first game. Regardless of the strides Reynolds has made, the first game for anyone is rarely if ever mistake-free. Reynolds exceeded Weber's expectations by only making one error, but it was a big one.
"Yeah, the only time I really screwed up everyone was able to see it," said Reynolds. "It was tough because I was totally in the wrong stance and they got me. They were able to cause a turnover and a touchdown because of that one mistake."
Indeed, some positions are more exposed than others on the football field. Reynolds plays the crucial left tackle position, which is often very visible, and if even the slightest mistake is made from his position it often leads to a big play, as evidenced by Saturday's one error.
"I'll fix it and it won't happen again," said Reynolds. "I can't let that happen in that situation especially, and I've worked hard this week that it won't happen again."
Being the son of a former offensive lineman and having two older brothers who either played or are currently playing on the offensive line at BYU, Reynolds is never short of instruction.
"Yeah, I get enough instruction, that's for sure," said Reynolds with a laugh after practice on Wednesday. "After the game, the next day at Sunday dinner and even today my dad was telling me how to do things better. He stopped me during practice today and showed me how to fix my technique. I told him that I did it right and then he told me that he wasn't talking about what I just did in practice, but what happened on Saturday, so yeah, it never ends."
With his first game under his belt, Reynolds will most assuredly make strides this week in practice and throughout the season to reach the vast potential he has as a left tackle.
"It's good to have that one game out of the way, to be sure," said Reynolds. "I now know what it's like out there and I can improve on certain things that I did. I'm confident that I'll improve and have a better game this week against Washington."