Independent no more, BYU gets its long-awaited addition to a Power Five conference in the Big 12 this season. Here’s the coaching staff guiding the Cougars into the new realm.
BYU Coaching Staff 2023
Head Coach, Kalani Sitake
The alumnus of the school and former BYU player will enter his eighth season as head coach. The former Cougars running back is the school’s 14th football head coach in school history.
Sitake has been with the Cougars throughout the time they’ve operated as an independent school. And during that time, he’s only endured one losing season in 2017. Since then, Sitake has guided BYU to five straight bowl appearances.
While playing without a conference schedule, Sitake managed to rack up quality victories over Power 5 representatives in Baylor, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Washington State, plus in-state rival Utah. In 2021, Sitake led BYU to a 6-1 record against Power 5 teams.
Now, not much is being expected from BYU in season one as a Big 12 member as preseason rankings have them placed at 11th overall. However, Sitake told The Deseret News on June 26, “I am not really worried about what everybody is predicting. It’s OK. Let’s fly under the radar and figure out what we can do to make some people wrong.”
He also added, “But proving them wrong is not our motivation. Our motivation is to prove ourselves right in how we feel and how we believe. But I have a really good feeling that we are in a good spot.”
Defensive Coordinator, Jay Hill
Jay Hill begins his tenure in Provo this year. He additionally gives Sitake an extra head coach, as Hill spent 2014-2022 coaching Weber State in the Big Sky Conference and went an astonishing 68-39 overall with four double-digit winning seasons.
The Utah grad has his area of expertise in safety play. And one of Hill’s most prized pupils was Super Bowl 56 champion and multiple Pro Bowler, Eric Weddle.
Hill additionally has an area of expertise on offense, having coached the tight ends and running backs at his alma mater from 2007 to 2013.
Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, Aaron Roderick
Roderick is in his second stint with BYU. He first got his start in 1999 as a graduate assistant before being elevated to wide receivers coach in 2000.
He’s now entering season three of running the BYU offense. During that time, he went on to mentor two future NFL quarterbacks in 2021 top-five pick Zach Wilson and 2023 fifth-rounder Jaren Hall.
Roderick led a unit that averaged 31.3 points per game and racked up 426 yards per contest. He’s also been a passing game coordinator for BYU, including in 2020, during the Cougars’ 11-1 campaign that produced a top 10 offense.
His other coaching stops were at Snow College, Southern Utah, and Utah.
Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Ends Coach, Kelly Poppinga
Poppinga returns to his alma mater this year after being with former Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia. But at BYU, he got the chance to produce future NFL starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy and produced another future league defensive cornerstone in Fred Warner. Poppinga first spent 2009-2015 with BYU, going from grad assistant to ST coordinator.
Passing Game Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach, Fesi Sitake
The brother of the head coach has been with BYU since 2018. Fesi recently produced Puka Nacua, who is now turning heads with the Los Angeles Rams as a day three draft pick. Former walk-on WR Dax Milne was another discovery on Fesi’s end as he ranked fourth in the nation with 1,188 yards in 2020.
Running Backs Coach, Harvey Unga
Unga, who is the only BYU player to produce three straight 1,000-yard seasons, begins his eighth season at his alma mater. Tyler Allgeier of the Atlanta Falcons was his most recent pupil, who became fifth on the school’s all-time rushing list. Unga also coached Ty’Son Williams before he went to the Arizona Cardinals.
Tight Ends Coach, Steve Clark
Remaining with the current theme of Cougar coaches on their second stint with BYU, Clark spent 2005-2007 as a grad assistant/offensive line coach while also working with special teams. Now, he’s worked with the BYU TEs since 2016. And during his second tenure in Provo, he produced All-American freshman Matt Bushman in 2017.
Linebackers Coach, Justin Ena
Now we get into another newcomer in Ena, hired on January 2 to coach the LB unit. He was previously at San Diego State in 2022. He is, however, no stranger to the Beehive State as he’s had stops with Southern Utah, Weber State, Utah, and Utah Tech (the former Dixie State). Ena helped produce NFL LB Jared Norris during a time he was with the Utes.
Offensive Line Coach, Darrell Funk
Funk, a veteran of 36 coaching seasons, begins season three with BYU. Last season’s BYU offensive trenches ranked first in pass protection by Pro Football Focus and produced a top 10 unit in limiting sacks. Funk recently coached Dallas Cowboys undrafted free agent signing James Empey. Other notable coaching stops for Funk were Purdue, Michigan, and from 2018-19, UTSA.
Defensive Tackles Coach, Sione Po’uha
Po’uha begins his first season on the BYU staff and will handle the interior defensive trenches. But before his arrival, he turned Leki Fotu into an NFL-caliber DT from Utah, where Po’uha coached from 2018-2021. He also had a brief coaching stop with Navy before Utah.
Cornerbacks Coach, Jernaro Gilford
The Hawthorne, California native Gilford is in his eighth season with his alma mater BYU. During his playing career, Gilford was an All-Mountain West Conference honoree who picked off 10 passes in his career. He previously coached at Southern Utah and got his start at Whittier College as a grad assistant and CB/ST coach from 2012-13.