There’s one thing BYU fans should know about Kalani Sitake, He is extremely loyal to his head coach and assistant coaches. It took a lot for him to leave Kyle Wittingham- who promoted him to defensive coordinator at Utah after Gary Andersen planned to take him and do the same at Utah State. Despite that fact, Sitake stayed loyal to Wittingham. Even Steve Sarkisian approached Sitake a number of times to be the defensive coordinator at Washington and possibly at USC. Still, Sitake stayed with Whittingham. It took athletic director Chris Hill declining to follow an established pattern of extending contracts to certain assistant coaches to break that loyalty.
Many might not also know this about Kalani Sitake. Many also might think that while he was the defensive coordinator at Utah he didn’t run the defense by calling the plays out on the field. Rather he was the defensive coordinator in title only under the shadow of Kyle Whittingham. This is far from the truth. Kalani Sitake ran Utah’s defense and called the plays out on the field; the results bore great success for Utah’s defense during those years. Often times Sitake would overrule Whittingham when calling defensive plays during games stating he had watched the film and knew what calls were best given the situation. Sitake was Utah’s defensive coordinator in every sense of the title much like Nick Howell was for BYU during the 2014 season. In fact, Whittingham would ask Sitake concerning the game plane for their upcoming opponents and Sitake would lay it out for him. Sitake planned, schemed, and helped develop Utah’s defense under Kyle Wittingham who spent more time concentrating on the offensive of the ball.
While at Utah, Sitake learned how to grind long working hours under head coach Kyle Whittingham. From 7:00 in the morning to 11:30 at night, Whittingham had his assistants working. On Sunday, the assistant coaches went to church and were back in the office by 1:00 to continue with the grind. Many assistants simply slept in their office on air mattresses. So if there is one thing Kalani Sitake understands about preparing for opponents is putting in the work, and there is no doubt his efforts produced success on the field. While in Corvallis under Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen, Sitake has learned many other aspects that might resemble more that of Coach Mendenhall. Mendenhall was more about quality rather than quantity, and this is what Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen is about. His assistants are home by 5:00 p.m. with his program geared more towards quality of time and efficiency. From a implementation perspective, Sitake has an understanding of two different program structures in which to pull from when building his own.
As a recruiter there is no doubt that Kalani Sitake was one of the more successful at the University of Utah. In fact, when Sitake was hired on as the Oregon State defensive coordinator many of those recruits he successfully won over for the U followed him over to Oregon State, which speaks volumes to how well Sitake recruits. Sitake not only can recruit Polynesians successfully, but his track record of recruiting African Americans to his defensive program is also outstanding.
One thing a head coach must understand at BYU is planning and building a program around recruits leaving and coming home from missions. While at Utah, Sitake became very familiar with juggling scholarships, planning for those losses, and scheming for returned missionaries coming home from the mission field. Of the remaining head coach candidates, Kalani Sitake is probably the only coach out there that fully understands this dynamic at the college football level. In fact, it was Sitake who convinced current BYU middle linebacker Harvey Langi to serve a LDS mission.
When it comes to defense there is no doubt that Kalani Sitake understands the ins and outs of the 4-3 defense run both at Utah and Oregon State, but does he know the 3-4 defense that BYU runs? Definitely not like Coach Mendenhall, who has spent many of his years developing and recruiting players currently in the program and for the 2016 recruiting class for this specific scheme. BYU is not defensive line heavy but linebacker heavy, and so it would be interesting to see how he manages the defense based upon his current and future players more fit for a 3-4 than a 4-3. It’s certain that Sitake would adjust his defense to suit the skill set of his players like any good coach would.
Now that BYU must replace four offensive coaches and at least three on the defensive side of the ball, the question is what kind of assistant coaches would Sitake bring? It’s a tough question to answer on the offensive side of the ball, but Sitake would have his hands full sorting it out. However, on the defensive side of the ball, we are hearing that if Sitake does come he could bring current Oregon State linebacker’s coach Iliasa Tuiaki who spent the 2012-14 seasons coaching Utah’s defensive line where his players led the nation is sacks (55) in his final season there in 2014. It’s almost certain that Tuiaki would follow Sitake back to his hometown of Provo, Utah. There is also whispers that if Sitake is hired at BYU that returned missionary, and former New York Jets defensive lineman, Sione Pouha, would join his staff as well. It’s hard to say at what position Pouha would coach if that is the case.
When it comes to the heart of Kalani Sitake, one thing is certain. He truly bleeds blue. Many may not know this but even when he was a defensive coordinator at Utah, he bled blue. While both BYU and Utah were in the Mountain West Conference he cheered for BYU every game except for one, and that’s when BYU played Utah for the obvious reasons. If Kalani Sitake came to BYU he would feel as though he has basically come home. He more than likely wouldn’t leave for a more lucrative contract at a different college, and, in fact, the only way he would leave BYU is by being driven out on the proverbial rail by boosters and fans. If his loyalty to head coaches Whittingham and Anderson were rock solid, his loyalty to BYU would be even more so.
Next up we’ll take a look at the case for Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo.