COUGAR TRACKS

Connections To BYU Football On Virginia Cavaliers Staff

Oct 25, 2021, 9:48 PM | Updated: 9:49 pm
BYU Football - Mark Atuaia...
1 Jan 1997: Running back Mark Atuaia of the Brigham Young Cougars moves the ball during the Cotton Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. BYU won the game, 19-15. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport

PROVO, Utah – All of the headlines for this week’s BYU football game will center around Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall making his return to Provo. But Bronco isn’t the only one with a homecoming back to BYU.

There are many within Mendenhall’s coaching staff and Virginia Cavaliers program that have connections to BYU.

“I invited 14 families or people, and all 14 accepted, and we have, from the statistics given to me, the most stable staff in college football, and at that time we had the most little kids in college football, so it was the giant reverse Lewis and Clark migration. Man, there were some hard transitions,” said Mendenhall when reflecting about his move to Virginia in 2016.

Mendenhall added, “I’m thankful they all came. I have a pretty simple principle, as you guys know, that I just won’t work with anyone I don’t like. These are my friends, and I think that’s pretty rare in college football, that you get to work with people that you are friends with, and I consider myself lucky.”

Kalani Sitake recognizes strong connections to BYU Football

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake recognizes all of the connections on the staff he will be going up against on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPN2 & KSL NewsRadio).

“I have tons of respect for Bronco Mendenhall and what he’s done here at BYU. The type of the man that he is, the leader that he is. He produces great people in his football programs and it’s been a pleasure for me to be here and take over as a new head coach in a program that he established and laid the foundation for and was able to do some really great things. So I have a deep appreciation and gratitude for him. But, you know, we still consider all those guys, BYU guys. We support Virginia and we want to see them win.”

Here’s the complete list of current Virginia coaches who have ties to the BYU football program.

Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia Head Coach

Mendenhall was hired to be the head coach of BYU in 2005. He was selected over longtime LaVell Edwards assistant Lance Reynolds Sr. Mendenhall went on to win 99 games in 11 years as head coach at BYU.

From 2006-2009, under the direction of Mendenhall, BYU had four consecutive seasons ranked in the final Top 25 polls and posted 43 wins in that four-year stretch as members of the Mountain West Conference.

Robert Anae, Offensive Coordinator

Anae was both a player and coach for BYU football. He was an offensive lineman on the Cougars National Championship team in 1984. His father, Famika Anae Sr., was one of the first Polynesian players to ever play at BYU in the mid-1950s.

Dr. Anae, who earned his Ph.D. in sociology in 1999 from BYU, had two coaching stints as BYU’s offensive coordinator from 2005-2010 and then again from 2013-2015.

Nick Howell, Co-Defensive Coordinator

Howell joined BYU’s staff under Mendenhall as a defensive intern in 2007. He rose up the ranks becoming a full-time assistant coach in 2010 as BYU’s outside linebackers coach. Three years later, Howell was promoted as defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Howell is a brother-in-law to former BYU defensive back Skye PoVey.

Kelly Poppinga, Co-Defensive Coordinator

Poppinga transferred from Utah State to play for BYU in the early years of Bronco Mendenhall’s coaching tenure. After his playing days were over, he joined Mendenhall’s staff as a defensive intern in 2009. He became a full-time assistant in 2011, BYU’s first year of Independence.

Poppinga was often viewed as one of BYU’s top recruiters when he was on the staff in Provo. He was elevated to Special Teams Coordinator in 2013.

Mark Atuaia, Running Backs

Atuaia was a star recruit out of Kahuku High School. He was teammates with BYU head coach Kalani Sitake for one year in 1994. Atuaia was a running back for the Cougars from 1991, 1994-1996.

He began working for BYU in 2011 as an assistant to the dean of student life in 2011. Atuaia applied to be the running backs coach with Brandon Doman as the offensive coordinator, but the Cougars went with Joe DuPaix instead. Two years later, Atuaia joined the BYU football program under Robert Anae’s revamped offensive staff as the running back coach in 2013. He coached up Jamaal Williams for two seasons.

Jason Beck, Quarterbacks

Beck signed with BYU as a JUCO transfer from College of the Canyons. He was a backup QB to John Beck (no relation) in his three years with the Cougars. Ja. Beck did get one start in relief of Jo. Beck, against Utah State in 2006. Beck passed for 305 yards in the 38-0 win over the Aggies.

After playing for BYU, Beck was an offensive intern for Mendenhall in 2007 then at LSU for Gary Crowton. He later became a quarterbacks coach at Weber State, then an offensive coordinator at Simon Fraser in Canada.

Joined the BYU football staff as quarterback coach in 2013 and has been working with Mendenhall ever since.

Shane Hunter, Safeties

Hunter was a linebacker for Bronco Mendenhall at BYU from 2008-2010. The Snow College transfer piled up 85 tackles in his senior year, which was good for second-most on BYU’s defense that season.

Hunter was hired to join Mendenhall’s staff at Virginia after Shaun Nua backed out of the defensive line position coach role to stay at Navy (currently at Michigan).

Garett Tujague, Offensive Line

Tujague was part of the offensive lines at BYU that protected Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Ty Detmer. The Chabot Junior College transfer played at BYU from 1989-1991. Then, he returned to the JUCO scene to cut his teeth into coaching. He was at College of the Canyons from 1997-2012. Then, from 2007-12, he was the head coach at Canyons.

Then in 2013, Robert Anae hired Tujague to be BYU’s offensive line coach.

Matt Edwards, Director of Football Analytics

Matt Edwards, the grandson to BYU legend LaVell Edwards, was a tight end at BYU out of Woods Cross from 2008-2011. He caught only one pass in his BYU career, and it was a memorable one, resulting in a touchdown grab on senior night against New Mexico State in the stadium named after his grandpa.

Pat Hickman, Director of Player Development

Hickman was a fixture behind the scenes of Mendenhall’s tenure at BYU. From 2006-2015, he was the director of player development and high school relations, focusing on recruiting. In 2015, he became the director of football operations after Zach Nyborg left to take the same role at Oregon State.

Justin Anderson, Director of Player Personnel

Anderson played at BYU as a wide receiver from 2000-2002. He began his coaching career down in Florida at Harmony High School, home to former BYU WR O’Neill Chambers. Anderson joined Mendenhall’s BYU staff as Director of Player Personnel in 2015 after Geoff Martzen left for Colorado State. He’s been working with Mendenhall ever since at Virginia.

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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