While BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki very well may be a DC in name only the past two weeks, he has not been “demoted,” head coach Kalani Sitake said Monday in his weekly press briefing with reporters in the wake of last Saturday’s disastrous 41-14 loss to Liberty.

Sitake also said there won’t be any in-season dismissals of his staff, because that is not his way of doing things.

Tuiaki, hired as Sitake’s defensive coordinator in 2016 when the twosome came from Oregon State to replace Bronco Mendenhall and Nick Howell, respectively, is now working “full time” with the defensive line, Sitake said when asked what Tuiaki’s role is now that the head coach has taken over defensive play calling duties.

“I have a number of guys in that room that have been defensive coordinators before and have a lot of experience. It would be really wise for me to listen to what they say, but at the end of the day, I am coming up with the menu and deciding on the plays, and I decide on the personnel.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake

The Cougars, who gave up 52 points and 644 yards to Arkansas two weeks ago — which prompted Sitake to replace Tuiaki as the defensive play caller — made several changes last week, but were still shredded by Liberty’s heretofore mediocre offense. The Flames racked up 547 yards, and didn’t punt until midway through the fourth quarter.

That was the first punt against BYU since the first quarter against Arkansas.

Friday, BYU (4-4) hosts 5-3 East Carolina, which is coming off an upset of Central Florida and looks far more explosive offensively than Liberty did. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“As a defensive staff we work together on game planning and everything. That is the entire staff — with our analysts and GAs, we are all in there working hard, and going through the film, and talking scheme,” Sitake said after being asked about Tuiaki’s role. 

“I have a number of guys in that room that have been defensive coordinators before and have a lot of experience. It would be really wise for me to listen to what they say, but at the end of the day, I am coming up with the menu and deciding on the plays, and I decide on the personnel.”

BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, center, watches the action with other coaches at BYU’s scrimmage Thursday at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake told the media Monday that Tuiaki is now working full time with the defensive line. | Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News

In other words, Sitake plans to call plays the remainder of the season.

“It is not about the plays or the calls, it is just about executing better,” he said, echoing comments made immediately after the Liberty game that seem to call out players for not performing better.

After discussing what ECU brings to the table offensively and how Pirates quarterback Holton Ahlers is similar to Liberty QB Johnathan Bennett, but with far more experience, Sitake said it is an “opportunity” for BYU’s defenders to “show a lot better than they have, especially in the last couple of weeks.”

Then he paused a second and said, “Ilaisa Tuiaki, he is working full time with the D line.”

Sitake confirmed that senior linebacker Chaz Ah You, who made his season debut against Liberty, will only appear in four games so he can retain his redshirt year and return next year with a final season of eligibility.

Meanwhile, multiple sources told the Deseret News that Tuiaki offered to resign last Monday after the Arkansas debacle, but Sitake would not let him and the good friends worked out the current arrangement.

“I have never done in-season dismissals,” Sitake said Monday. “We need all hands on deck. I know I have a responsibility here as a head coach, and that is keeping in mind what our fans want and what are players need. I am aware of everything. 

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“What I am really focused on right now is the adversity that is happening and the growth that can happen from it,” Sitake said. “We can become better because of this, and I think it is going to make our program better, and that is the approach I have.”

Regarding other personnel issues, Sitake said center Connor Pay, who started the first six games, is not injured. Senior Joe Tukuafu has started at center in the last two games.

“We are going through competition in every position,” Sitake said. “So that is it. I will leave it to (Aaron Roderick and OL coach Darrell Funk) and those guys to get the (right) guys on the field.”

Asked about other injuries, Sitake mentioned that they are “hoping” receiver Gunner Romney will be ready to return after having missed the Arkansas and Liberty games.


Cougars on the air

East Carolina (5-3)

at BYU (4-4)

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Friday, 6 p.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

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