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How BYU is striking balance with new rule that allows summer workout with coaches

Kalani Sitake is taking advantage of the new rule in June then let players, staff off in July

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BYU coach Kalani Sitake hugs running back Sione Finau after practice in the Indoor Practice Facility at BYU in Provo.

BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake hugs running back Sione Finau after practice in the Indoor Practice Facility at BYU in Provo on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

For the first time ever, college football coaches can gather with players in the summer and actually coach them. The rule allows two hours a week in June and July.

Kalani Sitake directed his staff to utilize that time in June but will not use sessions in July — giving players and coaches a break to have some fun before camp begins Aug. 3. Then, he wants players to be hungry and eager to step into the hard work necessary to face South Florida and Baylor on back-to-back weekends.

Pass game coordinator Fesi Sitake said the time with the players has been huge.

“I love it because once spring ball is over and we go recruiting there are times we just don’t see the players until fall camp,” said Fesi Sitake. “So to be able to get those couple of hours a week with them — that’s the most important thing. We’re not trying to take off with our offense right now — that’s what spring ball was for and what fall camp will be.

“It’s more of an opportunity to remind them we are here, we are your coaches, we’ll get you what you need, teach you certain techniques and things to get better at and talk about struggles of life. Being around the guys is the most important thing.”

In July, Kalani Sitake wants players to be on their own right before they report to camp.  “We’re not going to use it to the max,” said Fesi Sitake. Players have had player-administered practices since spring practice finished in April, plus weightlifting sessions.

For tight ends coach Steve Clark, it has been very useful to get a firsthand look at Isaac Rex who is recovering from an ankle fracture suffered in a win over USC last November.

“In our workouts, he’s been great,” said Clark. “He’s done everything. He’s not on any kind of restrictions right now. It’s just, can he practice and will it feel OK the next day? Structurally he is just fine. I have to be careful with it. Isaac thinks he can go, but I have to look out for him. If it were up to Isaac he is 100%.

“We’ve been out there and he’s been running routes and looking as good as ever. The thing is, how does he feel the day after and the day after that?”

Clark said the hands-on coaching in June is giving him an opportunity to gauge where his players are and can improve come fall came. Going against air — not a team with pads — things look very good, he said. “We can say we look good just throwing the ball around.”

Compared with a year ago, he sees all kinds of improvement in his tight ends. 

“Absolutely. Details are better. Steps are better. Hand placements are better. Routes are better. Reading coverages are better. Depth of routes are better. With quarterback Jaren Hall, it’s like they never stopped after last year,” said Clark.

Fesi Sitake declared offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and BYU’s two top quarterbacks are lucky that during the summer they have been able to work out with former Cougar and NFL player John Beck, a personal QB coach.

Said Fesi, “Privately, you have a guy like Beck. It is one thing to have a private coach in the offseason. It’s another to have a coach like Beck who knows our system and knows our plays and terminology. He played here and knows our expectations and the depths of our routes. It’s nice having kind of a second coach away from here and our field that our quarterbacks can go to and improve their individual play, but also stay brushed up on our overall scheme.”

Hall and Jacob Conover have used weekends to work with Beck.

Beck’s group in Southern California is 3DQB and that group has worked with the top college quarterbacks in the game past and present (Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Kyle Trask) and NFL talents like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Dak Prescott.

Roderick said this new NCAA rule is not that big of a deal as far as the execution of the offense goes. “It’s just nice to be around the guys. We used to go three or four months not being around the players, having very limited contact. It’s just nice to be out there with them. We’re not out there killing them, it’s not fall camp and we aren’t burning them out with demands before we get to fall camp.

“It’s just nice to interact with them. We’re just trying to point them in the right direction and get them to have good habits so when they’re in their individual workouts they aren’t repeating bad habits.”

The light use of the June and July time with coaches is by design, said Roderick.

“For coaches and players, you need a break. You have to work hard all summer and get ready for the season. There is a level of intensity that comes with a football season and it’s a long year. There are highs and lows and the lows are really low. When you lose a game it is devastating to the players and coaches. Fans think it hurts and I promise it is way more devastating to our players and coaches. If your summer is like that (intensity), it doesn’t bode well for your season.

“We’re trying to enjoy our time with the players, reconnect our relationships and reinforce good habits,” said Roderick.

Some coaches might use that time to get out the whip and lay it to backs, blow the whistles and be macho control freaks at every given summer moment.  

But like a racehorse, you can only get so much out of the straightaway. Timing is everything.


BYU football coach Kalani Sitake looks on during practice during spring camp in Provo, Utah.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo