COUGAR TRACKS

Who Should BYU Football Pursue To Be The Next Defensive Coordinator?

Nov 27, 2022, 9:01 PM | Updated: 9:13 pm
BYU Football, Kalani Sitake...
BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake will be looking for a new defensive coordinator. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)
(Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – For the first time since 2016, BYU football needs a new defensive coordinator.

Ilaisa Tuiaki announced on his personal social media channels that he is moving on from the position. He held that role since he arrived in Provo during Kalani Sitake’s first year.

A lot has changed for the BYU football program since Kalani’s first season. Most notably, a Power Five conference. The Cougars will be joining the Big 12 in 2023.

First football hire in the Big 12 era for BYU

It’s the first coaching hire BYU will be making since they accepted an invite to the Big 12 in 2021.

Along with going to a new league, a rule is in place now at BYU that adds an interesting wrinkle to hires. If BYU pursues a candidate who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they are required to hold and be worthy to hold a temple recommend.

BYU is a private university, so salaries are never made public. But the financial commitment has to be greater than BYU has ever provided before for coaches that aren’t the head coach as they move into the Big 12.

So the days of doing more with less need to go out the window, and instead, needs to be met with finding the best coach possible for a position.

This will be Kalani Sitake’s third coordinator hire since his first season. He did an excellent job hiring Jeff Grimes as offensive coordinator after firing Ty Detmer in 2017. Sitake hired Grimes without ever working with him, but the current Baylor OC did have previous experience at BYU. Grimes set a standard in the trenches along the offensive line that produced NFL linemen for the first time in nearly two decades.

After Grimes left for Baylor, Aaron Roderick was elevated to offensive coordinator, officially. Roderick has had tremendous success at the quarterback position developing Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall.

What will Sitake do with the defensive coordinator spot?

Who should Kalani Sitake pursue for BYU football DC?

Here are some targets Sitake and BYU should consider.

Listed alphabetically

Kevin Clune | BYU Linebackers

Could Kalani Sitake make it easy on himself and hire from within? Out of all the defensive coaches remaining on his staff, Kevin Clune has the best resume to be considered for the defensive coordinator post.

Clune was a defensive coordinator at Oregon State, Utah State, Hawaii, and for a brief period at Memphis.

Heading into the Big 12, BYU’s defense might need a complete overhaul and a fresh start. We’ll see what direction Sitake goes with the position.

Jay Hill | Weber State Head Coach

Jay Hill has done an outstanding job as head coach of the Wildcats. Weber is still playing this season in the FCS Playoffs. But every coaching carousel season, we hear Jay Hill’s name surface as a potential candidate for Power Five head coach spots. He hasn’t landed one of those coveted positions yet.

To one day become a Power Five head coach, if he wants such a title, does he need to jump to a coordinator spot in the power conference ranks? Hill was considered for the Arizona head coach job before the Wildcats hired Jedd Fisch in the 2021 carousel.

Sitake worked with Hill on Kyle Whittingham’s coaching staff at Utah. Hill held a variety of positions in his time at his alma mater, including at cornerback, the spot he played during his playing career with the Utes in the late 90s.

Jason Kaufusi | Arizona DEs & OLBs

The former Utah star defensive end continues to climb in the coaching ranks. A decade ago, Kaufusi was a graduate assistant on Bronco Mendenhall’s staff at BYU. Now after stints at Weber State, Nevada, and UCLA, Kaufusi is the defensive ends and outside linebackers coach at Arizona.

He doesn’t have any defensive coordinator experience, but what he lacks in that area, he makes up for in recruiting. Kaufusi could be an ace on the recruiting trail for BYU and he already has experience recruiting at Power Five programs that have to identify the gems and develop.

Rocky Long | New Mexico Defensive Coordinator

At the age of 72, Rocky Long is the defensive coordinator at the University of New Mexico. Long, who was born in Provo, would be the type of hire that steps in and has a proven system that works. He’s a coach that would allow Kalani Sitake to hand the keys over to Long and let him operate.

Long wasn’t always the most cuddly towards BYU when the two programs were in the Mountain West Conference, but to this day, his defenses have success. At lowly New Mexico, Long had a defensive unit that was 47th in total defense.

Frank Maile | Boise State Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line

One of the areas where BYU needs to improve on defense is along the defensive line. Maile has a lot of experience coaching up that spot from his days at Utah State, Vanderbilt, and now at Boise State.

Along with coaching the defensive line position, Maile has also been a defensive coordinator along with an interim head coach at Utah State.

This season, Boise State boasts one of the top defenses in the nation. The Broncos are top 10 in total defense and scoring defense.

Shaun Nua | USC Defensive Line

A former BYU and NFL defensive lineman, Nua began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Bronco Mendenhall’s staff in 2010 and 2011. Over the past 12 years, Nua has worked with defensive lines at Navy, Arizona State, Michigan, and now USC.

Nua coached former Michigan star Aidan Hutchinson in Ann Arbor.

He has no experience as a defensive playcaller, but the potential is there for success because his foundation is in the trenches. Similar to what Grimes brought to BYU when he was hired as offensive coordinator.

Derrick Odum | San Jose State Defensive Coordinator

Odum has a history of working with Kalani Sitake. The two coaches were on the same staff at Utah from 2005-07 and at Oregon State in 2015. Odum is the defensive coordinator of a San Jose State defense that is No. 25 nationally in total defense and No. 23 in scoring defense.

What might be even more exciting to BYU fans is that Odum’s San Jose State defense is fifth nationally in team sacks with 36 this season.

Odum might have the resume and the career arc that fits the best for this vacant BYU defensive coordinator position.

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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s BYU football coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Who Should BYU Football Pursue To Be The Next Defensive Coordinator?