After upset wins over Power Five programs such as Tennessee, Wisconsin and USC the past five years, BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake praised his strength and conditioning staff, saying the guys in the weight room were getting the Cougars to the Power Five level themselves as they prepared for entrance into the Big 12.

But after a couple of seasons marked by a plethora of injuries and continued struggles to stop opposing rushing attacks, Sitake conceded Monday that he has released his two top strength and conditioning coaches, Nu’u Tafisi and Justin McClure.

“We need a change.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake on his strength and conditioning staff

Tafisi was director of football strength and conditioning and McClure was associate director of football strength and conditioning.

“We need a change,” Sitake said, after thanking both men for the “hard work” they put into the program.

“They have done a great job. … (We are) looking at a different direction of what we are doing with our players in the weight room, and also with what we know about sports science and the training room. We are trying to bridge that together from our training room to our weight room with what we have and the vision we have of our players being healthy but being strong at the same time and still keep that level of physicality that we have on the field.”

Sitake said as the Cougars prepare for the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday against SMU in Albuquerque (5:30 p.m. ABC), Spencer Reid is the interim head strength coach. Reid was added as an assistant strength and conditioning coach last February, along with Dalton Elliott, who is also helping out.

Reid is the son of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

Former BYU linebacker Coleby Clawson, now the school’s director of sports performance, is helping in the transition, along with Dr. Skyler Mayne.

“We have guys that are running the program right now,” Sitake said. “They are doing just fine.”

In November, a BYU football spokesperson said the Cougars had started 42 different players due to injuries, which was tied for third-most in the country behind New Mexico and Texas A&M.

In 2021, the Cougars started the season well and ended up going 5-0 against Pac-12 teams and 6-1 against Power Five teams, but injuries weakened them significantly in November and by the bowl game they were missing nearly half of the starters that began the season.

Tight end Isaac Rex, who returned from a devastating injury a year ago against USC, said the revamped staff has helped the past few weeks as the Cougars prepared for SMU.

“I feel like they are focusing more on agility and flexibility, stuff that will help us … translate to the game, which I appreciate,” Rex said. “… They are listening to us and they are always willing to help.”

Sitake partially addressed BYU’s injury situation on Monday, saying starting quarterback Jaren Hall hasn’t been “eliminated from contention to play,” but hasn’t been practicing as much as coaches would like.

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“This week will tell,” Sitake said regarding Hall’s status, noting that the fifth-year junior is a fierce competitor who wants to play if at all possible.

Sitake said senior running back Lopini Katoa will not play, but the others RBs who have been playing this season — Chris Brooks, Miles Davis and Hinckley Ropati — are expected to be available.

Sitake said linebacker Payton Wilgar, who has missed the past five games due to injury, has also been ruled out of playing this week.

New Mexico Bowl on the air

BYU (7-5) vs. SMU (7-5)

Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. MST

University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM