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How Kalani Sitake found his ‘LaVell stride’

Sitake’s personality, one of personal relationships and love, has deeply impacted his BYU football team and those who coach with him

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Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake gives the fans a shaka prior to the BYU-Virginia game.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake gives the fans a shaka prior to BYU and Virginia playing at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The popular BYU coach has found a way to channel the stadium’s namesake.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

Pope adds 6-11 transfer with range

BYU basketball got a big addition this week with Detroit Mercy’s Noah Waterman. At 6-foot-11, he can play center, stretch forward, shooting guard or small forward. He has 3-point range. Here is our story on Waterman’s commitment to sign with the Cougars.

In other recruiting news, BYU football received a commitment from a running back from Texas who has some folks comparing him to Curtis Brown, a onetime all-time leading rusher for the Cougars. Here is the skinny on Landen Chambers.

Also joining the football team is a JC cornerback named Mory Bamba. 

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: What was your biggest takeaway from this summer’s BYU football media day? (Jay Drew is on vacation this week.)

Dave McCann: I have enjoyed hosting the annual “State of the Program” broadcast and other media day programs on BYUtv since the day BYU went independent in football in 2011.

In each of the previous 10 media days (2020 was canceled due to COVID-19), there was a consistent undercurrent of self-preservation for BYU football, with the need to quantify and justify the Cougars’ very existence as an independent.

Not this year. With Big 12 membership on its way, the 2022 media event was coated in confidence and liberation. No one spent any time forecasting the sustainability of independence or bemoaning the absence of access to all of college football’s greatest prizes.

The Cougars have arrived. The coveted P5 status is coming.

The players are busting to get to September as a top-25 program facing a top-25 schedule. This final run as an independent will be a celebration of life for Cougar Nation, knowing that the long-term goal of joining a power conference is just one season away.

In that context, BYU football media day 2022 was unlike any other.

Dick Harmon: It was very evident there was an air of excitement with players and coaches over the final year of independence and the urgency to give the seniors who will never play in the Big 12 a chance to go out with a special independent season.

But I’ll take another angle with this question, and it is about Kalani Sitake. He is finding his stride as a head coach, and it shows in the way he recruits, and how players and coaches are reacting to his style and culture. I have found Sitake’s personality, one of personal relationships and love, has deeply impacted his team. He has found his LaVell stride. His assistants love working for him and respect how they are treated. He has made it very hard to leave the program because they want to work with him because it is fulfilling, both personally and professionally.

I hear the critics over his defensive challenges and I believe if you look at the staff additions (full-time coaches, analysts, graduate assistants, and other additions) you will see a theme to get the defense more help intellectually and in strategy. I’d expect this to pay off.

Wearing the Big 12 badge, Sitake has established a platform for recruiting, and so far he’s had more four-star recruits interested in making visits and learning more about the program than at any time in the past decade. This is fun to see and it should pay dividends down the road.

Cougar Tales

BYU finished its last football media day in the independent era this past week. Here are a few of our stories from beat writer Jay Drew and my columns.

Coaches clear on biggest challenge in 2022: Defense (Dick Harmon)

Striking a balance with new NCAA workout rule (Dick Harmon)

Sitake hires Jan Jorgensen, new recruiting coordinator (Jay Drew)

How healthy are Cougars before fall camp? (Jay Drew)

Expectations for offense “sky high” (Dick Harmon)

Keeping a chip on their shoulders is priority (Jay Drew)

Recruiting with Big 12 badge killed anti-BYU tactic (Dick Harmon)

Five takeways from BYU football media day (Brandon Judd)

From the Archives

BYU’s Courtney Wayment earns spot on the U.S. world championship team

There are few women in college sports more marketable right now than Shaylee Gonzales and Grace McCallum

From the Twitterverse

Extra Points

Former BYU kicker TKOs his MMA foe (Deseret News)

Fred Warner marries TV series alum (Deseret News)

Greatest year in BYU women’s sports? (Daily Universe)

Jaren Hall finding balance through sharing (Provo Herald)


Comments from Deseret News readers:

2022 schedule will be tougher than 2021. Baylor, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Boise State and Oregon all look like potential Top 25 teams, and are listed as such in at least one of the many Top 25 preseason polls. BYU has the 13th toughest schedule according to Phil Steele. Utah is at 107 (for all U followers of BYU).

9-3 or even 8-4 would be a very good year against this challenging schedule.

— CougfaninTex

The reality of playing a really hard schedule from teams all over. Still, 5-0 over a neighbor conference is impressive. But it was nice to hear them say during the media days how much they have learned from playing these tough conferences and what it takes to complete with them. That first year in the Big 12 might not be as bad as everyone thinks.

— RR

Up Next

Aug. 13 | 5 p.m. | Women’s soccer | @North Carolina

Aug. 18 |  6 p.m. | Women’s soccer | @Cal State Fullerton


Members of the media attend BYU football media day in Provo on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News