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Kalani Sitake Discusses Depth On Roster, Position Battles In BYU Fall Camp

Head coach Kalani Sitake addresses players on the first day of BYU Football fall camp. (Photo: BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake enters his fourth season as the lead man of Cougars.  This is a critical year for Sitake and his program to show progress and continue building after last year’s brief moments of success.

One of the areas where Sitake’s program is growing is the depth on his roster.  Back in June, I wrote that Sitake’s scholarship athletes one to 85 was the deepest the Cougars have had in the Independence era. The 2019 roster boasts proven names such as quarterback Zach Wilson, defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga, and center James Empey.  But many believe their best football is still ahead of them.

With young proven commodities on the roster, Sitake isn’t having to bank on newcomers this fall to take over starting roles and that excites him heading into the season.

“I think now we have to get to a position where those guys can enter the game and not miss a beat from what they’ve already done,” said Sitake on the Cougar Tracks Podcast powered by KSLsports.com.  “Even the guys that are backing them up and providing depth can step on the field and do the same.”

Sitake continued, “We’re providing competition which makes everyone better.  The only way we can really get better is that these guys keep competing but also know that there’s a chance they may be on the field.”

When going up against four Power Five programs to open up the season -the only team in the country that is doing that- BYU needs depth, and they need competitive depth in order to navigate that tough path.

“I’ve always said that we don’t just want 11 starters on offense, we want as many as we can.  The starters end up being the ones that just take the first snap,” Sitake said.  “It would be nice to have double that or even more to pick from.  As a coach that’s done that before, it’s a lot easier when you’re scheming and planning week-to-week to know that you can change up personnel and match-up what you’re going to see on the other side.”

Position Battles

What are some position battles that Coach Sitake would like to see rounded out in fall camp?

“I think the defensive backfield is all of them.  When we have swing guys like Dayan (Ghanwoloku) I think that gives us an opportunity to kind of look at what we can do with mixing and matching with personnel,” said Sitake.

Ghanwoloku is going to play cornerback to open up the season and that’s where he feels most comfortable, but he’s versatile enough that coaches believe he could be an NFL player at either corner or safety.

“Austin Lee has done a great job of being a leader. So you’re seeing young guys step up and provide more depth for us and that’s a matter of getting the best 11 out on the field,” Sitake said.

Other position battles include the running back spot where the Cougars added two new graduate transfers in Ty’Son Williams and Emmanuel Esukpa.  Lopini Katoa, Ty’Son Williams, Emmanuel Esukpa, and Tyler Allgeier appear to be the top four players but Sitake also mentioned good things from former Kearns High product Sione Finau who is a speedy back out of the backfield.

Finau has looked to add weight this off-season to withstand contact at the FBS level.

For the full interview with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, listen to the Cougar Tracks Podcast.

You can subscribe to the Cougar Tracks Podcast on AppleGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, and any other major podcasting platform.  After you subscribe to the podcast, feel free to leave a rating and a review of the show.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.