Everyone talks about how great a recruiter Kalani Sitake is.
I don’t know. I suppose a lot of people could look like great recruiters coming in after a perfect season capped by a Fiesta Bowl win and when your chief rival is a school with an honor code.
But maybe Sitake really is as great as everyone says he is and I’m just an overly skeptical person. We’re about to find out.
Sitake was introduced as Brigham Young University’s 14th head football coach Monday afternoon at the BYU Broadcasting Building.
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There’s no doubt Sitake has a lot going for him. Although he wasn’t around for Utah’s first BCS bowl victory, he was for the second. Most importantly, he’s a BYU guy. Not just a church guy who understands and appreciates BYU like Bronco Mendenhall was and like Ken Niumatalolo would have been, but a true BYU guy.
Sitake played at BYU in 1994 and then again from 1997-2000.
But there’s also no question that BYU is a very difficult place to recruit to. That challenge became even tougher when Utah joined the Pac-12 and tougher still now that Utah is having success in the Pac-12.
Sure, there will always be the players who have bled blue since they were old enough to watch a game and would play at BYU if it was 4-8 (you’d be lying if you didn’t think that was a serious possibility next year, given the schedule), but what about the players who simply like BYU but also really like the thought of playing for a successful Pac-12 team?
Admittedly, it’s hard to not to be impressed by Sitake’s pitch.
“There’s a lot of young men that go through this place and it changes their life,” Sitake said. “There’s a lot of guys here and throughout the world that have experienced what I had and so I’m going to build on that. This is a special place, it’s unique and good things can happen for you if you come to this school… I played here, I lived this life, I met my beautiful wife here, I made great friends – brothers for life – here, and so this is a great place for you if you want to be part of that.”
For Sitake to be successful, he won’t just have to be good on the recruiting trail, he’ll have to be great. According to scout.com, BYU hasn’t had a Top-25 recruiting class since 2010, and only once since then has BYU had a recruiting class ranked better than Utah’s. Also, only once since 2010 has BYU’s recruiting class even been ranked in the Top 60.
Obviously you can only base so much off of how many stars an athlete has, but Mendenhall talked about double-digit wins and Top-25 rankings being the benchmark and in his last four years at BYU he didn’t accomplish either. The Cougars didn’t finish the season ranked in the Top 25 in each of Mendenhall’s final six years. How BYU has recruited can’t be ignored as a serious factor.
Sitake certainly seems like a great human being, and listening to him talk it’s clear that players are going to love playing for him and be passionate about playing as well as they can.
Getting the great athletes to BYU, though – the ones that would turn BYU from respectable to dangerous – well, we’ll see.