Ask A Coach- Kalani Sitake Interview

The Utah defensive coordinator answers your questions

*Note- Some questions are modified for an interview situation.

stretchiute1 Question- How is the recruiting going so far? What differences and surprises have you seen in recruiting since you've moved to the Pac 12?

I haven't seen much of a difference. I think everyone knows of our school and knows of our program so I don't see it being that different, especially with everyone knowing about the announcement last year. Where it has done well is places like Florida. They know about the move now and there is a lot of excitement. There's a lot going on about the Pac 12 and with the TV deal. I don't know if it's anything more than pure excitement. For us recruiting wise, I think it has been about the same. I think we've had some time to get used to it going back to June.

You mentioned going down into the South and into Florida. Is it going to be a process getting those kids out of Florida and getting more interest in coming out to Utah?

We've always had players from Florida in our program. If you look at the numbers and you look at how many people leave the state of Florida to go play football. It's a crazy amount. Look at the junior colleges in California. You can find Florida high school players all over the place. If they're willing to go to California, they'll be willing to come to Utah. Currently right now we have Conroy Black. We got those kind of guys from the JC route. We figured it would be better for us to go and intercept them earlier and try to get them when they come out of Texas. There's a lot of talent here and a lot in Texas. Our main philosophy is to take care of our in-state players first and then find some speed. There's a lot of speed in Florida, Texas, and California and we want to go find those players. Even if it is only one guy out of the state of Florida, you have to start somewhere.

Your defense this past spring was very impressive, especially in the front seven. Will there be any philosophy or schematic changes going into the Pac 12 with there being bigger stronger and faster players?

I don't know. The main thing for us is to just do what we do. There are always going to be adjustments you make during the season and during games. but our foundation has been set for a long time. Kyle Whittingham set the foundation for our defense. It's exactly what we need going into a new conference. There's enough flexibility to change things a few things here and there according to your defensive strengths, but at the same time pattern it to what you're going to see in the Pac 12 and their offenses. We've seen a lot of different types of offenses throughout the years. RIght now it is no different. Your going to be playing a tougher brand of player, but our mindset is not going to change. We'll make a few adjustments at from the defensive coordinator and in game plan type of situations, but nothing from the foundation. Our scheme is pretty much set.

What are the strengths of the defense right now?

The defensive line is our biggest strength and the depth at linebacker. We have a lot of guys that have had a lot of reps at the d-line and linebacking corps. What a good time to have it when you're breaking in four new DBs. We have a lot of guys in our defensive backfield that have played a lot as well, but for the majority of it, you've got to get some new starters, and that's just part of football. You have to break in new guys in football It's exciting, but I would say the defensive line and the depth at linebacker are our strengths right now. We have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball and We have a lot of talent in the backfield, but we need to get those guys more reps.

JamisonCore Question- Is there anything you'll do to mask their inexperience and make them more comfortable until they get their feet wet and gain that experience?

You just throw them in and let them go. I don't think you ever try to hide or mask anything. We recruit these guys for a reason, and that's to cover guys at corner and cover a lot of ground at safety. I think the more you try to help them out along the way, the better. It's like swimming. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it. We're preparing them and we have a lot of good coaches. I'm confident in Coach Hill and Coach Scalley in getting them ready. There's nothing more than you can really do than play football. We're looking forward to scrimmaging against our guys in the fall after a great spring. We'll get them in there in live situations where they're going to get cut and they're going to get guys coming up on them and going to have to tackle. The only way to do it is simulate a game, put them in there, and let them go.

Is there a player on your defense that is maybe under the radar that will surprise people in fall camp and into the season?

I don't know if I can name one specific guy. There are a lot of guys that are ready to break out. I think Joe Kruger is going to be one of those guys. I think James Aiono and Star Lotulelei on the defensive line. If you just look at the D-line, you an pretty much name any of those guys as being under the radar. As a unit they are really strong, but they'll make a name for themselves in the fall. We've got solid guys at linebacker. Wykie Freeman is a special guy at corner. Conroy Black and Ryan Lacy. All those guys that we have aren't the big names, but they'll show up and do well. And then we'll see how some of the new guys come in and how they work.

Any newcomers that you think will make an impact?

The safety is a definite spot that we feel we have to get more speed and I think with Eric Rowe and Keith McGill we'll be good. We have a fast defensive backfield. Quade Chappuis can move. We've had to move some guys over there. I'm excited to see what Mo Lee can do also. We're still trying to see if we should put him at corner or safety and he has a lot of speed. There are a lot of guys that are going to contribute to what we're trying to accomplish in running our scheme. I can't say for sure which ones will have an impact. It might be a lot easier for me to tell once we start practicing in the fall. There's a lot of talent, we just have to make sure we find the right guys.

1stDownUtes Question- Is this one of the better defenses you've had and where would you rank them against the best defenses you've been a part of?

I don't know. I hate to sit there and try to predict what is going to happen. It's weird how people rate defenses according to the stats and rankings. All I care about is winning games. The stats don't really matter to me. Our goal is to get our team in the right position to win games If we win a lot of games, that will go a long ways to and that's all we base it on. I don't know anything other than that.

You're a hot name at defensive coordinator, as you consistently put up solid defenses and gain more experience but you seem happy at Utah. Is a head coaching position something that you're looking at in the future?

It has always been in the back of my mind and I've always wanted to be a head coach. There's are steps you have to make along the way. I've learned from the best. I've learned from Kyle Whittingham how to be a defensive coordinator. I'm taking notes and learning how to establish a program. My goal is to do one thing at a time and be really good at it. When I first got hired to be an assistant, I just wanted to be the best assistant I could be. I also remember a lot of the guys I've learned from in my career. I've learned form great coaches like Lavell Edwards, and Norm Chow who coached me when I was in college, and Gary Anderson at Utah State, Ron McBride, and Gary Crowton. I'm still willing to learn more. I think there are a lot of quality coaches in this business. I think you're crazy if you get into this business and don't want to be the head man. Whether or not it happens, who knows. I've been very lucky and blessed with the guys I get to work with. So who knows what the future brings. I'm excited to be a Ute and excited for the season in the position I'm in.

Coach Sitake is in Florida hitting the recruiting trail.

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