Sam Houston Coach Sees BYU As Example Of Today’s College Football

Aug 31, 2023, 2:55 PM

PROVO, Utah – BYU welcomes FBS newcomer Sam Houston to Provo on Saturday night. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

Sam Houston, who doesn’t want to be known as Sam Houston State for their athletic programs, has jumped from the FCS ranks to Conference-USA. They redshirted many players with experience on their national championship team in 2020-21 to compete immediately at the FBS level.

Some players to watch for Sam Houston are JACK linebacker Markel Perry and middle linebacker Trevor Williams.

For BYU, the Cougars have a lot of new faces this season. Nearly 60 players on this year’s roster were not part of BYU’s 2022 squad.

Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler, a two-time FCS National Champion coach, whom Kalani Sitake has referred to as “one of the best coaches in college football.” He was asked this week about the challenges of facing a BYU team with so many new faces.

K.C. Keeler on BYU having so many new players

“Welcome to college football,” Keeler said. “It’s just changed so much with the transfer portal and all the movement that now takes place; it’s almost like a common theme. I think almost every team that you play opening day is going to have a lot of moving parts.”

From August 1, 2022, to May 1, 2023, 8,699 NCAA football players entered the portal. So, to Keeler’s point, any team will have many changes courtesy of the transfer portal.

BYU landed 21 transfers, ranked by 247Sports as the 20th-best transfer portal class in the 2023 cycle.

Sam Houston has two transfers worth monitoring on Saturday night. One is quarterback Grant Gunnell from North Texas. Gunnell is competing with returning starter Keegan Shoemaker for SHSU’s starting QB job. Then, on the defensive side, Akeem “Meatball” Smith transferred in from Georgia State to handle the defensive tackle spot.

Keeler sized up why he believes BYU made so many changes.

“They might have a couple more than most because they really weren’t satisfied with the season they had. Even though there were a bowl team and I believe they won that bowl game,” said Keeler. “You know, I think they felt they needed to do some upgrading. It looks like on paper, and just watching a little bit of their spring game and just watching the clips that come out via Twitter and those things, sounds like they feel pretty good about the team they have going forward.”

BYU/Sam Houston poses some unknowns

Week ones are always a crapshoot in college football. Unlike high school or the NFL, college doesn’t have preseason games to sort things out. You find out in week one when the games matter. So it causes many unknowns. Both coaches in the matchup acknowledge that.

“Every team can go through that,” said Kalani Sitake. “You wonder if [Sam Houston] is going to do a lot of what they’ve done last year. They hired a new offensive coordinator (former Virginia Tech OC/QB coach Brad Cornelsen), a veteran, a guy who has called games before. There’s this mindset of being ready for everything. But you have to have that mindset going into game one. Everyone’s doing that.”

“We have a new offensive coordinator. So, you know, I’m sure they’re looking over Virginia Tech tape, and they’re looking at Memphis tape and doing all those kinds of things. Just like we’re looking at FCS tape from where their defensive coordinator came from,” Keeler said. “So again, it’s gonna be a great challenge. There are going to be some things that are going to surprise you that you maybe didn’t realize the caliber of players they got or some different schemes based on the players they go. Opening day is always a mystery.”

The mysteries between BYU and Sam Houston will be revealed on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. on FS1 and KSL NewsRadio.

BYU vs. Sam Houston

Date: Saturday, September 2, 2023

Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo, Utah)

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.


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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X (Twitter) and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Sam Houston Coach Sees BYU As Example Of Today’s College Football