ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel, one of the special guests at Tuesday’s BYU football media day, has covered college football across the country and been around a lot of coaches.
He said he doesn’t know Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake, but added that he appreciates anyone who has a self-deprecating sense of humor.
Sitake’s approach has never been about bravado or promoting himself.
It’s always been about finding ways to make the BYU football team better — and that has extended into his own growth as a coach.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Sitake said Tuesday. “I’ve loved every moment of it but it’s kind of like how you feel being a father. I remember reading all the books and being ready to be a dad — and then your become a dad and it’s like this is way different than I thought. Luckily I have a wonderful wife who made that transition easier but some things you just have to go through. As familiar as I am with BYU, I feel a lot more comfortable now going into this season. But I still enjoy every second of it.”
The rest of the Cougar staff also believes in personal development and evolving individually and as a group.
“I’ve talked about players having experience,” BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said. “We have so many guys coming back who have played for a year or more and on top of that they have experience within our system. I think the same is true of me. Those guys have a greater knowledge of the game of football, of their ability and of our system. I have a greater knowledge of the game, of our staff and the same thing with our players. All of that hopefully will make me better at what I do.”
He explained that since taking his current job in Provo he feels he has gained insights and knowledge that aid him in all assets of the game.
“There are hundreds of ways to approach scheme and strategy in the game of football,” Grimes said. “I love the strategic part of the game but there are a lot of ways to do it and have success. One of my strengths is having been at so many different places and been exposed to so many different offensive styles. We said when we started this journey that we wanted to build a versatile offense. I think our strategy has changed but by making the change at quarterback last year that quickly spoke volumes about our staff. I’m glad to be in a position where we are not starting over again this year.”
The Cougar players rely on the coaches to mold their own improvements on the gridiron, so they also see elements of the growth of their mentors.
“I don’t think the coaches were expecting to have to have a quarterback change midway through the season or switch up the entire offense,” BYU junior tight end Matt Bushman said. “That’s a hard job. It’s been interesting seeing the adjustments that have been made and see the offensive staff come together to find ways to put the players we have in the best positions possible.”
One of the biggest advantages the Cougars have right now is the fact that the coaching staff only made a single change in the offseason (adding offensive line coach Eric Mateos to the group).
“I think people may have failed to realize that there is a huge learning curve when you put a bunch of football minds together,” BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake said. “Everyone is trying to put different ingredients together to make a great recipe. I think some of the highs and lows last year were because of that, with us figuring each other out and the players out and the players figuring us out. There was a lot happening at once. In terms of the learning curve, I think moving on to Year No. 2 we have a much better feel now.”
The Cougars are now at a point where they feel like they have come together and are all on the same page.
“We all knew each other,” BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark said. “There are no egos in that room and that’s the best thing about it. We just want to put a good product out there. The best part of coming to work is that it’s about how we are going to get better today. It’s a good group to work with.”