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BYU football seniors have proven willing to do whatever is asked

November 15, 2018
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BYU kicker Rhett Almond goes to kick a 46-yard field goal during a game against Fresno State on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Almond made the kick, the longest of his career.

Few sports require as many guys to be a cohesive unit as is necessary for a football team.

BYU, for example, lists 30 different players as starters at various positions with more than twice that many listed as backups on the depth chart.

That’s a lot of spots that need to be filled effectively for the overall team to have success.

Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake has emphasized repeatedly his objective of getting the best 11 guys on the field, which has resulted in players moving from position to position, sometimes from one side of the ball to another.

Is that what those guys always want? No — but being part of a team means being willing to sacrifice.

BYU’s 2018 senior class has a number of guys who have evolved into various roles throughout their careers.

Sometimes, that means being a starter or a backup at a given spot. Often, it has meant learning to do something else entirely.

Consider these examples:

Matt Hadley has played safety, linebacker, running back and kick returner.Sione Takitaki went from linebacker to defensive line back to linebacker.Rhett Almond has been a placekicker, a punter and a holder.Corbin Kaufusi has played defensive line and linebacker.Tanner Jacobson has been a running back and a safety.Michael Shelton has come in at cornerback, nickelback and punt returner.Austin Hoyt has played a variety of roles on the offensive line.

For some, the changes have been a lot of fun.

“It comes down to mindset,” Almond said after practice on Wednesday. “I came in technically as a punter but in my mind I was a specialist. I could’ve done kicking or punting or field goals or holding. At any of those positions where I could get on the field, I knew I would be ready. I was hoping to be able to have my shot. I like doing everything. People may think it is tough to go position-to-position, but for me, it was enjoyable to be able to say I played three positions on special teams and say that I’ve done a pretty good job too.”

For others, the demands have taken a toll as they have struggled to find their place, but Almond believes the most experienced guys have understood why they made the various changes.

“Seniors are the leaders on the team with how they work and have a team mindset,” Almond said. “Football is the furthest thing from an individual sport. Some guys just want to be receivers or quarterbacks or linebackers or whatever, but it’s not an individual sport. Coaches may see things that players don’t see. I’ve seen coaches move players around and it might’ve been tough on them at first, but every guy I’ve seen has jumped right into the role. Everyone is excited to help the team. I think that is what makes great teams.”

Hadley has been one of the most high-profile multirole players with his performance on both offense and defense. He said he hopes the precedent that is set by the seniors who have moved around is one of trust.

“Sometimes, players feel like they would be better in another position,” Hadley said Monday. “But they need to be able to trust themselves, but also trust the coaches. If the coaches think it is the right move, then you have to put your confidence in that.”

There is also the trickle-down effect on a team. If the leaders are willing to do it, then younger players see that.

“If seniors aren’t willing to do it, I think the younger guys aren’t going to be willing to do something that the team wants or needs them to do,” Hoyt said. “Seniors set the tone of putting the team over our own personal agendas.”

But while the challenges might be clear, there is also the potential positive of a guy being able to find a niche where he can get on the field.

“I think it’s a good thing for all the all the young players and the players coming in because the coaches are looking for the best guys to play,” Takitaki said. “If they feel like you’re going to be better at safety than wide receiver, then they’ll give you that chance, so they have to be ready to move and be ready to play right away.”

Sitake has seen his guys go through a lot of changes — both in terms of shifting positions and adjustments to new coaches and schemes. He said those are situations where guys discover what they have inside them.

“When you are going through change and it gets a little uncomfortable, you really find out the type of individuals they are,” Sitake said. “I can tell you they are great young men, with how they have dealt with it. The success we have, a lot of it is going to be because of the hard work and sacrifice of the seniors.”

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