BYU Isn’t Concerned With Repeating Last Year’s Success Heading Into Arizona Game
PROVO, Utah – The 2020 season for the BYU football program was a massive success on many fronts. From wins on the field (11), a high national ranking (No. 11; best since 1996), and sending a dozen players to the NFL, BYU was one of the big stories in college football last year.
Now the question becomes, can they follow up with another successful year?
You look around the college football landscape right now, and many preseason projections instantly assume BYU takes a massive step back. Without Zach Wilson, a tougher schedule, it’s easy to say BYU slides back to its role of being a six or seven-win team under sixth-year head coach Kalani Sitake.
Continuity with staff gives BYU football optimism in 2021
But Sitake isn’t fazed by the prognosticators or critics as he gets ready to face an Arizona program that’s currently on a 12-game losing streak (Saturday, September 4 at 8:30 p.m. MT on ESPN and KSL NewsRadio).
“I don’t think they’re worried about last year. We’re going on this year right now,” Sitake said on Monday. “I think the guys feel really comfortable with the scheme, having the carry-over that we had with A-Rod and not really having that much shakeup on the staff. I think has been really key for our players.”
BYU’s only new face on the coaching staff this year is offensive line coach Darrell Funk. Funk replaces Eric Mateos, who took the OL job at Baylor to continue working with Jeff Grimes. But Roderick, who was elevated officially to the title of offensive coordinator this January, has been with the program since 2018. He’s comfortable in his role and has emphasized that barely anything has changed within the offensive philosophies and scheme for BYU on numerous occasions throughout camp.
Defensive staff saw only change from last year
That should be music to the ears of Cougar fans, as BYU’s offense last year was the third-best scoring offense nationally, averaging 43.5 points per game in 2020.
Defensively, BYU added one new full-time coach in linebackers coach Kevin Clune. But he was part of the program last year as an analyst and even had the chance to participate on the staff with a headset during BYU’s win in the Boca Raton Bowl over UCF last December.
The experience and continuity of BYU’s staff could play in favor of the Cougars in week one. Arizona, who hired Jedd Fisch from the New England Patriots, is a first-time head coach in college football (aside from his interim stint at UCLA). He overhauled the entire Arizona staff as they look to get the Wildcats back to respectability after a disastrous three years under former head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Familiar names, now stepping into larger roles
BYU’s comfort with the coaching staff is a great foundation heading into a schedule with seven Power Five opponents. But ultimately players make all the action happen on the field. There are many BYU players who will take on elevated roles this season that weren’t in the spotlight during the Cougars magical 11-win campaign a year ago.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the new players get their opportunities, specifically the quarterback. You know, with Zach being gone, see what Jaren [Hall] can get done. But I feel really good about the rest of the group. I don’t think there’s anything to prove from last year. We’ve moved on to this year already, and guys are just focusing on trying to perform at their best against Arizona. That’s the focus.”
The focus turns to action coming up on Saturday night under the bright lights of the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium in Vegas.
BYU vs. Arizona
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. (MT)
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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