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Why Fesi Sitake is so in awe of this BYU receiver

The BYU assistant coach is settling into his new role as the Cougars’ passing game coordinator, and is looking forward to all it entails

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BYU receiver Neil Pau’u got a second chance after legal issues in 2019, and is making the most of it.

BYU wide receiver Neil Pau’u, right, celebrates a touchdown against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. When it comes to route running, his position coach thinks Pau’u is in a league of his own.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Fesi Sitake isn’t going to wrestle with his new title as BYU’s pass game coordinator now that Aaron Roderick passed that baton to him on his way to offensive coordinator.

Nobody said he would. He’s cruising along just fine this fall camp in Provo.

If anything, he’s going to have more choices, more say and extended flexibility in how BYU’s receivers, backs and tight ends will appear in the Cougar offense.

Color him fine. Get him to game week as soon as possible.

This all fuels the former Weber State offensive coordinator, who was BYU’s receiver coach the past few seasons.

He still is in charge of the deepest, most talented receiving room in recent BYU football memory.

And that’s just fine, too.

Now, if a deliverer, a starting QB, can be named.

“I’ll have a lot more of a role during the week, where before I helped Monday and Tuesday in a game plan situation,” said Sitake.

“I’ll have a much heavier role. Last year I worked on third-downs situations. I would look at phase passes with A-Rod on first- and second-down passes, which may be good, but I really put most of my energy into third downs.”

This year Roderick expects Sitake to give his input and research and in-game observations into every pass situation, be it third down, red zone, base passes or anytime the Cougars are looking to throw.

“It’s going to be a role helping to decide whether certain concepts are good. I write those down. Obviously, everything stops at A-Rod. I present things to him and get his thoughts.  That’s really the biggest change from last year. I’m going to look at everything with the pass as opposed to just certain segments (third down).”


BYU passing game coordinator Fesi Stiake, center, listens into a conversation with BYU coach Kalani Sitake, left, and standout BYU quarterback Zach Wilson prior to the 2021 NFL draft in Cleveland.

BYU Photo

On game days, Sitake expects Roderick to have him track if defenses are doing what was expected, give a report of what he sees on the field (coverages, weaknesses, matchups, personnel). “He’s going to ask me what the feel of our guys is, what the morale is, what the vibe on the sidelines is; bringing all the guys together on the sideline, quarterbacks, receivers, perimeter players and talking to them, asking what they saw on the last drive.”

Sitake says Roderick has created an atmosphere where conversations from all the coaches is welcomed during the week and inside of a game. “He may require something more of me as it gets closer to the game, but he is great at asking for feedback, if we can attack a person or part of the field or anticipating me telling him if I think a certain pass play will work.” 

Sitake is known for having a talent for observation and quick reaction. He is a student of the passing game and has worked hard to make himself a commodity on a staff.

Now to the nitty gritty.

Sitake lost a remarkable talent in former walk-on Dax Milne. He was an Austin Collie-type playmaker who delivered huge plays for No. 2 NFL draftee Zach Wilson.

Milne was unique. He was a crazy good route runner.

Asked if he had any receiver on the team right now who could run routes as good and precise as Milne, who is now fighting for a role with the Washington Football Team in the NFL, Sitake’s answer was surprising to outsiders. 

“Neil (Pau’u) is. But he’s different than Dax. Neil is the best route runner I’ve ever seen at the college level. That includes opposition we’ve played against. I now look at a lot of guys on a daily basis, so I get it that comparing him to players on other teams is hard to do. But this guy is as good at running routes as anyone. He gets it. He’s so smooth. Dax won a lot because of his speed and quickness and he definitely has a good understanding of the game and could get in and out of his breaks quick and hit full stride.

“Neil also has a great understanding of the game. He’s able to get to his top speed very fast and has unbelievable spatial awareness. He is very cerebral with what’s around him. He doesn’t panic and is very athletic. You combine that with his size and he’s such a weapon, like a tight end in a receiver’s body.”

Sitake said his group, and the offense as a whole, is executing better at this stage of camp than any group since he’s been coaching at BYU.

Sitake also said the addition of transfers Samson Nacua (Utah) and his younger brother Puka Nacua (Washington) has given his receiver corps immediate help. 

“They have great size, toughness and give us a physical presence that is welcomed for sure. I’ve been rep counting Puka, bringing him along slowly because of his recovery from a foot injury. I held Samson out on Monday due to a sore hamstring.

“They are assimilating in our offense and with our group just fine. They are a good problem to have.”