PROVO — Squally knows football camps.
Squally Canada has experience in one Washington State fall camp and three BYU spring practices. The differences are measurable.
And Canada, a junior running back, is better for it.
Canada has rushed for 315 yards on 73 carries for a 4.3 yard average with a pair of touchdowns in his BYU career. So far, he’s spent most of his time as an understudy to Jamaal Williams, who just finished attending the NFL Combine and is the school’s all-time leading rusher.
Upon leaving Pullman, Washington, and a spot on the Washington State roster, Canada arrived in Provo and participated in spring drills in 2015.
“My first spring camp with Bronco Mendenhall was kind of like a fall camp. We were running around everywhere. If you didn’t get through the warm-up, you had to redo the entire warm-up. It didn’t really matter to me, I enjoyed it.”
At the end of 2015, BYU hired Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake to replace Mendenhall, who left for the University of Virginia.
“When Sitake came in, we had to learn a lot because of the offense, so practices were longer. Still, with Sitake, he’s not big on contact and he doesn’t try to let us kill each other. He’s big on technique, form, and making sure of making people know what they’re doing and where they are supposed to be.”
Friday is Sitake’s second spring as BYU’s head coach and for 2017, he’s adjusted his spring drills.
“This spring is the same as last year’s but practices are shorter because we already know the offense. It is more about inserting certain plays and making some changes,” said Canada.
“So far this is the best spring I’ve had. They aren’t out here to kill us, they just want to make sure we have our technique down and know what we’re doing.”
Canada said he had different experiences in the Pac-12 North Division school before transferring to BYU and moving to Provo.
“There is a big difference between BYU and there, and I mean that in a positive way,” said Canada. “I like it here at BYU a lot more football-wise in how they run the program than at Washington State under Mike Leach. I don’t want to shame Washington State. I have great respect for coach Leach and his staff. I have a lot of friends over there and it is a great program, but for me, it’s a better fit at BYU.”
During an interview on Wednesday, BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer walked past Canada.
“He’s a character,” said Canada of Detmer. “He’ll tell you how it is. I know that much. He told me I need to learn how to catch the ball out of the backfield. In the weight room, he’ll come out and just joke and get a few laughs. He pulls a lot of jokes, but not on me. He pulls his pranks with the quarterbacks. He gets them all the time.”
Canada said he’s had a productive experience with running backs coach Reno Mahe. “He’s used his experience at the next level to show us technique, how to make reads, block better and track the ball. He’s chill, he doesn’t come out to kill us.”
Canada said this spring the Cougar offense is getting the backs out in passing routes more often.
“Working with Tanner (Mangum), we spend time after practice getting our handoffs down and catching balls. We work on the exchanges. We have a statistics class together so we have an off-the-field relationship. Tanner is really smooth, he’s funny and real lively. When the music comes on in the weight room, he gets his little dance going on. He’s a funny guy.”
Canada is trying to get to 210 pounds, up from 198.
“I’m having a lot of fun, I’m actually having a blast this year.”
He does miss Williams, however.
“I won’t lie, there is a void. He was my locker room mate, his locker was right by mine. We were roommates when we traveled on the road the whole season. We kicked it when not playing football. We had our video games,” he said.
Where Williams had everything “down” in football, Canada said he’s tried to get involved helping other running backs, just like Williams did with him.
“The graduate assistants here keep me busy and on my toes. Manase Tonga is from the Bay Area, where I’m from in California. There’s also Harvey (Unga), who is great to be with and keeps it real and he’s funny.
“When I first came here I kind of kept to myself a lot, but that’s not the case now. I have friends, I find myself putting myself out there. I’m known as the clown in the locker room. I love being out here with the guys.”
If Canada were to describe how he feels now compared with two years ago when he first came on campus, he says it’s a night and day difference. “I finally feel very comfortable, not tense, not uptight. It feels like high school football all over again.”
Yes, for Canada, this is a different spring.