BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake said in a conference call Tuesday the main goals for the Cougars right now are to take care of themselves and each other while we go through the efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But that doesn’t mean he and his staff are just sitting around.
There have been some recent staff changes, including expanding the roles of Jasen Ah You and Jack Damuni in recruiting.
“Jasen has done a great job,” Sitake said. “We’ve modified the position to put Jasen and Jack Damuni to be a heavy part in the responsibility of recruiting on our staff. It was an adjustment we were going to do anyways but I think it fits perfectly. They are going to organize everything. The assistant coaches and I will have a big part but they are going to be the organizers and coordinators of what we are trying to accomplish.”
The recruiting efforts have moved even more online as a result of the limitations of this time.
“I’m not much of a social media guy but I have to now,” Sitake said. “It’s about connecting with recruits there. I think we have a good bead on everything. It is staying in touch, checking in on them, but then it is also giving them a little insight into what we are doing as a program and the connections we have with our players. I think you can’t force-feed a relationship with recruits. You have to let it happen organically and fortunately for us we have a lot of time to allow that to happen.”
There was also the official hiring of Harvey Unga as BYU’s new running backs coach, which was announced last week.
“I’ve seen Harvey really grow as a coach in the last four years,” Sitake said. “He’s had the experience of being involved in so many different positions. We knew Harvey was a special coach and that he could transition into a full-time spot. You go through a process in hiring but we were able to give him an opportunity as an interim coach, allow him to work the room and do some things in recruiting. You kind of know what you have when you are interviewing people but seeing them in action is really important. Giving him that role solidified what we had.”
He explained that he spends a lot of his days in communication with coaches, players, recruits and the BYU administration.
“I’m checking in with all the coaches,” Sitake said. “I’m talking with (Cougar director of athletics Tom Holmoe) and the leaders in the athletic department. Then it’s about taking the information we are getting from the administration and working with that, educating our players on it. Every day we’re doing a lot of Zoom, texting and calling people. I’m kind of old school so this isn’t really my most comfortable moment but I can work with it. It’s nothing that is too hard for us to adjust to.”
He credited Holmoe for organizing the athletic department and keeping everyone up-to-date on developments, as well as spreading positive messaging.
“He’s done a great job getting some of the BYU alumni to help keep our players and our coaches and our staff focused and keep a high level of optimism,” Sitake said. “We heard from people like Andy Reid and Danny Ainge. They’ve done a great job shooting video specifically for BYU athletics. It’s been really cool.”
Not having a full spring camp was “disappointing” but Sitake explained that the emphasis for the players at this point of the year is on the basics.
“Right now we are more focused on the fundamentals than we are on install or scheme,” Sitake said. “For the players, the strategy will depend on what happens in the next few weeks and then we will figure it out.”
The coaching staff, however, has a very different mindset.
“Coaches are planning for the season,” Sitake said. “We were going to do that anyway and I think every coaching staff is doing that now. But that started back in December. You are doing it on your own and then connecting with the staff. As much as we love being with our families, there is work that needs to be done as well.”
He added that being with his family during this time has taught him an important lesson.
“I’ve started to realize that it is more important to be happy than it is to be right,” Sitake said with a grin. “Considering the circumstances, I’m just really lucky that I get to be around my family a lot and still get to do this job.”