BYU Isn’t Concerned With Repeating Last Year’s Success Heading Into Arizona Game

Aug 30, 2021, 3:08 PM
Kalani Sitake - BYU Football hat...
BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake talks with the media following football practice in Provo on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

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 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.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

BYU Cougars

BYU, Notre Dame, Football History...
Mitch Harper

Looking Back At BYU Football’s History With Notre Dame

Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium will only be the ninth meeting between BYU and Notre Dame. But their history of crossing paths spans nearly 100 years.
13 hours ago
Jac Collinsworth, BYU/Notre Dame, NBC...
Mitch Harper

NBC’s Notre Dame Voice Jac Collinsworth ‘Blown Away’ By BYU

NBC Sports' Notre Dame Football play-by-play voice was impressed with the BYU football operation.
2 days ago
BYU/Notre Dame, Jaren Hall, Drew Pyne...
Mitch Harper

Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner Of BYU/Notre Dame Game

Key storylines to watch in the Las Vegas clash with BYU and Notre Dame.
2 days ago
BYU Basketball, Gonzaga, Mark Few...
Mitch Harper

What WCC Coaches, Players Think Of BYU Basketball Leaving For Big 12

BYU basketball enters its final year of the WCC. The iconic coaches of the WCC weighed in on BYU's move to the Big 12.
2 days ago
Kyle Ireland

Week 6: How To Watch, Stream Or Listen To Local College Football

The No. 16 BYU Cougars and No. 11 Utah Utes play on big stages during Week 6 of the college football season.
2 days ago
Ben Anderson

Utes Climb In Week Five Of BIG-PAC Power Poll

The Utes are climbing up the BIG-PAC Power Poll after knocking off the Oregon State Beavers 42-16 while BYU dropped slightly.
2 days ago
BYU Isn’t Concerned With Repeating Last Year’s Success Heading Into Arizona Game