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Buckle up: BYU football will get heavy dose of road work in Big 12 | News, Sports, Jobs

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The BYU football team walks on the tarmac at Provo Airport to board a plane for a road trip during the 2022 season.

Courtesy BYU Photo

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A BYU football player loads his bag onto a bus during a road trip for the 2022 season.

Courtesy BYU Photo

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The BYU football team prepares to get on a plane for a trip to Oregon during the 2022 season.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

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BYU football players walk from the bus to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa before a game with South Florida during the 2022 season.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

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BYU players walk toward the team equipment truck during a road game at South Florida in the 2022 season.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Welcome to borderless, coast-to-coast college football conferences.

The recent realignment madness makes no sense geographically and rivalries are getting shoved into the corner as television executives make the most crucial of decisions about which conferences live or die.

There are a wide range of areas affected by these moves, not the least of which is an increase in travel miles and hours on the road for all athletic programs, stretching budgets and other resources to their limits.

A recent CBS Sports.com story pointed out that UCLA and USC football will each travel more than 15,000 miles round trip in conference play during their inaugural Big Ten season. In 2024, the Bruins will travel to Rutgers (4,800 miles round trip) and the Trojans hustle their way to Maryland and Penn State, each trip turning into a 4,400-mile round trip.

BYU’s move into the Big 12 eased up on travel a bit when Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona committed to join that conference in 2024, but the Cougars have been road warriors even since declaring independence in 2010. Last year, BYU played six road games during the regular season at South Florida (4,622 miles round trip), Oregon (1,646), Notre Dame in Las Vegas (770), Liberty (4,142), Boise State (750) and Stanford (1,610) for a total of 13,540 miles.

This season, the Cougars play six road game during the regular season, including Saturday at Arkansas (2,536 miles round trip), Kansas (2,092), TCU (2,346), Texas (2,494), West Virginia (3,832) and Oklahoma State (2,248), a total of 15, 548 miles.

Preparation and planning for football road trips has always existed in some form but BYU now relies heavily on its sports scientists, Coleby Clawson and Skyler Mayne, to create a program that gives the Cougars their best chance to perform well when they play away games.

“I think when you break down sports performance and sports science, it’s all about stimulus and recovery,” said Clawson, a former BYU linebacker. “With our sports science data we’re trying to track how the players respond to stimulus we’re giving, whether that’s in the weight room, in rehab or at practice and then how we help them recover from that stimulus adequately. We preach the basics: You’ve got to hydrate, you’ve got to have good nutrition and you’ve got to sleep. If you aren’t doing the basics, the little nuances we come up with aren’t going to help them that much.”

There are numerous data collection options for the sports scientists, including GPS, force plates and other tracking technologies that are changing all the time.

“With collegiate players, they have a lot on their plates,” Clawson said. “They have school, they have relationships with their families. Some of them are here along and their families are far away. So there’s a lot on their minds. We try to help them understand that going on the road, some things change. But it’s not much different that playing here. We try to make sure they are peaking at the right time so their legs feel fresh for the road games.”

Clawson and Mayne were hired by BYU in the summer of 2022 and have been slowly building their vision. Clawson said this week his staff spent some time with new BYU men’s basketball strength and conditioning coach Michael Davie, who just finished an eight-year stretch heading up sports performance for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.

“He said it took about three years for them to get everything they wanted in place,” Clawson said. “In terms of our players, we’ve had a huge turnover on our roster and we’re still adding to our team in our department. It’s not complete yet in our sports performance and sports medicine teams. It’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there. We’re really just getting started.”

Clawson added that BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has been supportive of the changes suggested by sports performances.

“They take into account for our travel the intensity of our practices week to week,” Sitake said. “It’s all connected — the weight room, conditioning, practice. The science there is working really well for us. We’ve gotten great feedback on how to handle travel, when to do our workout, when to do our walkthrough, our nutrition, all of that plays into it. We love being at home but it’s also great to see our fans in other places and go to Arkansas to see our fans out there.”

BYU junior wide receiver Keanu Hill said he takes the opportunity on road trips to learn as much as possible about other team members.

“I’m bonding with my teammates,” he said. “I’m going out there and talking to people I haven’t gotten to know as much. I pick their brains. We’re just going out there and having fun. It’s great to get out there and enjoy the moments a lot of people don’t get.”

Junior defensive end Tyler Batty said it takes a certain mindset to succeed on the road.

“It’s just another week of football, right?” he said. “We came through fall camp, we’ve played our first two games at home and then we prep leading up to traveling. At the end of the day, we’re just going out there to play football. You keep that as your main focus and you get locked into it. Once you step onto that field, it’s your home field. That’s the mindset that I take into our away games.”

Are there more or less distractions on the road?

“It depends,” Batty said. “It depends on how much you let some of that outside noise affect you. There are probably more opportunities for distractions on the road than being here at home.”

The goal is to win but the players also realize what it means to put on a Cougar uniform.

“I feel like anywhere we go — SEC, Big 12, wherever — we want to show who BYU football is and represent the brand,” sophomore receiver Chase Roberts said. “We know what we represent and who we represent. We’re excited to go and compete. We’re a tough team and every other team knows that. We just go on the road, do our thing and take it one game at a time.”


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