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As transfer portal chaos begins, here is a shopper’s guide for BYU

Having a plan and sticking to it should be top priority for Kalani Sitake and his staff this month

SHARE As transfer portal chaos begins, here is a shopper’s guide for BYU
BYU coach Kalani Sitake reacts as he walks on the field before a game vs. Sam Houston State, Sept. 2, 2023, in Provo, Utah.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake reacts as he walks on the field before a game vs. Sam Houston State on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Provo, Utah. Sitake and his staff will be busy this month mining for talent in the transfer portal.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

How many of us have walked into a Costco without a shopping list and walked out with a cart full of items we didn’t really need, attached to a price tag we really didn’t want to pay? If that includes you, congratulations! You are qualified to pass on expert advice to BYU’s Kalani Sitake and the college football coaches of America.

Monday represents the college football equivalent of Black Friday. It’s when the transfer portal opens its doors to a myriad of talent seekers. Only this store is offering quarterbacks, running backs, offensive tackles, linebackers, safeties and every position in between — and for a limited time only (Dec. 4-Jan. 2, April 15-30).

Every holiday shopping guide has tips for eager consumers, and many of them can also apply to how BYU should approach the special season of acquiring.

Create a plan

It’s vital for the Cougars to know the parameters of what needs to get done. Are there a certain number of kids BYU needs to sign? A plan will also help keep things realistic. There is no need to keep chasing kids the Cougars have little chance of landing. A plan will save time too.

Using this past season as a case study, BYU must consider whether signing 20 players out of the portal was too many. Another question — was the dysfunction on offense a reflection of all the newness that came in, including a quarterback with one year of eligibility? If so, then shop differently.

Make a list (and stick to it)

Just as walking into Costco without a shopping list can be a recipe for disaster, the transfer portal requires the same kind of preparation. Santa makes a list and checks it twice. BYU should do the same and then stick to it, with an emphasis on underclassmen unless a one-and-done player is a potential game-changer.

Quarterbacks: (SHOP) Find one or two who can execute Aaron Roderick’s preferred run-pass-option offense. If they don’t run it, don’t give them a second look. Taking a passer like Kedon Slovis and trying to turn him into a runner didn’t work and it wasn’t fair to Slovis. Know what you want and get someone who fits that.

Running backs: (PASS) So long as Aidan Robbins returns for his final year of eligibility and with the emergence of freshman LJ Martin, BYU doesn’t need portal help at running back. The current group will benefit most from the new offensive line coach and running-game coordinator.

Receivers: (LOOK) Keelan Marion, Darius Lassiter, Kody Epps, Parker Kingston and Chase Roberts could all be back next season and BYU has some younger talent in development. If there isn’t a game changer in the portal that will give the Cougars a look, just move on.

Tight ends: (LOOK) With Isaac Rex departing as BYU’s all-time touchdown leader for a tight end (24) and a new tight ends coach being hired, there is an opportunity for fresh blood and a new approach. This is an area to consider any potential options.

Offensive line: (SHOP) BYU loses Kingsley Suamataia, Paul Maile, and possibly Connor Pay. There is need for a rebuild under the direction of the Cougars new offensive line coach. When it comes to linemen, shop ’til you drop.

Kickers: (PASS) BYU returns place kicker Will Ferrin and the Cougars already grabbed a portal commitment from Pitt transfer Sam Vander Haar to replace veteran punter Ryan Rehkow.

Defensive line: (SHOP) This is an area needing major work. When pundits say BYU needs to get “bigger, stronger and deeper” they are referring to the defensive front. The Cougars suffered a blow midseason when they lost defensive tackles Caden Haws and John Nelson. They will get Nelson back next year and defensive end Tyler Batty, but they could use a few more just like them.

Linebackers: (SHOP) BYU loses Max Tooley and AJ Vongphachanh and possibly Ben Bywater. There is some good talent behind them, including Harrison Taggart, Isaiah Glasker, and Ace Kaufusi. The Cougars need to use the portal to add depth but if they find a seasoned starter or two, like Vongphachanh, grab them.

Cornerbacks: (PASS) While BYU loses Eddie Heckard and Kam Garrett, they retain Jakob Robinson and a deep bench of prospects. Unless there is another player like Heckard willing to give the Cougars a look, BYU can spend its portal time elsewhere.

Safeties: (PASS) The return of Micah Harper, Talan Alfrey, Crew Wakley and Ethan Slade has BYU deep at safety. However, considering what happened this year with injuries to Harper and Alfrey, it’s never a bad idea to keep an eye open for others.

Don’t panic

There is no shortage of YouTube video clips showing Black Friday shoppers running through a store in a mad panic, fearing they might miss out on a particular deal. BYU needs to be cautiously aggressive, but there are plenty of players in the transfer portal, with many more to come as teams work through the bowl season and into the spring.

Hidden fees

Monday’s transfer portal shopping carries a sales tax in the form of NIL dollars. The bigger the player, the higher the name, image and likeness costs. The details may be buried in the small print, but they loom large.

It’s not going to be easy, but BYU must make early judgements on whether to pursue a top-dollar prospect. The Cougars won’t win a bidding war with Alabama so there is no need to get into one. However, BYU has plenty of NIL support to meet their needs.

Yes, the shopping season begins Monday for Sitake and the Cougars. It’s a critical time. So much of what BYU wants to get done on the field next fall will be influenced by what they do in the transfer portal.

Create a plan, make a list, and stick to it no matter what everyone else may be doing.

The same advice applies to holiday shoppers. The only time my wife let me meander through Costco without a list, I came home with a giant flat screen television that is mounted, like a trophy, on the upstairs wall.  

Lesson learned.

Cheerleaders wave flags at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo before a BYU football game on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Cheerleaders wave flags at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo before a BYU football game on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is a play-by-play announcer and show host for BYUtv/ESPN+. He co-hosts “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com and is the author of the children’s book “C is for Cougar” available at deseretbook.com.