14 min read

BYU Football Therapy: Let's Cope Together

BYU Football Therapy: Let's Cope Together

First things first, welcome to new subscribers. If you haven't checked out our Discord server, you need to do so. The newsletters are great. The Discord is double great. The VIP deals and discounts that are found on the Discord is triple great. So click HERE and get set up for Discord. If you're a VIP member, send us a DM or something to get you all correctly set up after you join the server. If you're not a VIP member, we still love you. We love you a little less than our VIP members, but we still love you.

Second, it's been a brutal month of October. The Discord server felt like it needed some therapy so it's time for me to dust off my therapist clipboard and tell you all how to live your BYU fan lives. Subscribers have been submitting their questions and feelings and I'm going to provide you answers. We'll get through this together, I promise.

(Side note: Whether you have mental health struggles or not, therapy is great. If you've ever thought about doing, I strongly recommend it. If going to some random stranger and having them charge you to talk isn't something you are keen on doing, at least talk to someone you know and trust for free. Talking is good. Consider this your PSA for the day.)

BYU Therapy is now in session.

The Question: Why do I have an emotional investment in BYU football and how do I quit?

The answer: Stop it. Don't be stupid. You don't quit. You know who quits? (Don't you dare say the 2022 BYU football team you sickos. It's a good joke - a great joke even, but now is not the time for jokes.) The French. That's who.

In 2010, a proud French national team barely qualified for the World Cup. The defending world champions just eeked into the biggest tournament in sports and they were embarrassed in the opening round. How did they respond? The players refused to practice. (French newspapers called it a player mutiny which is somehow the coolest thing France has ever done - not the quitting, but making the quitting seem like a pirate thing is pretty baller.)

Unless you are some kind of soft French pastry, you don't quit.

It's not going to be easy and it probably won't be fun to be a BYU fan for the next little while, but don't you dare quit. Cowboy up and let this team hurt you. Because when this team inevitably turns it around, you will be glad you did.

How do I quit? Get outta here.

Everywhere I look on the field, I see regression vs. level of play in the past. It seems like a full-on meltdown is underway. How can it be stemmed and ultimately stopped?

I talked about something coming into this season that was largely glossed over by readers (and then never discussed again by me because I also glossed over it in my brain). How would this team mentally handle a year where everything going on around them is about the Big 12 and the future?

Eight games into the season I think we know that answer: They aren't handling it well.

External motivation seems like a fluffy-duffy topic, but unfortunately, it's real. And this team has been hearing for the last year about the Big 12 Conference and how to prepare for the Big 12 Conference. Players and coaches have been asked about the Big 12. Recruits are being pitched the Big 12. There are Big 12 logos throughout the field and throughout the SAB. BYU is a Big 12 program and they are proud of it. They should be proud of it.

But, BYU is not a Big 12 program yet. I can't help but think that is causing some motivational issues for this team, this coaching staff, and even this athletic department as a whole.

As much as this year was supposed to be a prep year for the Big 12, why would someone like Jaren Hall care? He isn't ever going to play in the Big 12, so what does a prep year matter to him?

Or Blake Freeland.

Or Kaleb Hayes.

Or Zo Fauatea.

Or any other number of players.

There has been regression, but it didn't start out that way. Regression came once the notion of a special season in the last year of independence went out the window. After that, it seems like players checked out and moved on.

The Athletic Department moved to the Big 12 months ago. Seems like players and performance are just following suit and this year is a walk-through.

It shouldn't be that way, but I can't help but think it is. Hopefully actually being in the Big 12 next year sparks some new life.

Where does the team go from here? How do we get back to winning games? Who is going to save us? Why does the pride cycle exist?

We go forward. We get better.

Who will save us? The very person who led us here, Kalani Sitake.

Why does the pride cycle exist? Because 2020 and 2021 were so awesome. The good isn't as good without the bad. So now, we take our dose of the bad and work to the good again.

Things can change quickly. Think back to 2017. That was a deep, dark hole that we were all in. But, without 2017, Ty Detmer doesn't get fired. If Detmer doesn't get fired, Zach Wilson never comes to BYU. Without Wilson, we never get that 2020 season and a justification for buying a bunch of New York Jets gear.

The sting of 2017 was changed as quickly as Zach Wilson committing to the Cougars.

Just like recruiting saved BYU then, it will save BYU now. Cougars need to go balls to the wall in finding more talent.

How can I find joy and fun in watching/supporting BYU football the rest of the year?

By joining the GEHB VIP Discord and finding a bunch of friends who are there to get through this with you.

Seriously, though, that's the answer. If you're not turning sports into a community of friends, then wins and losses are all you have. GEHB offers a community of friends who are brought together by sports. Regardless of the outcome, that community still exists. It doesn't take away the pain, but it expedites the recovery.

Did Jaren look injured? Or was he just forcing it?

We've learned to not trust any injury news that comes from the players or coaches. They simply don't talk about injuries and when they do, it's usually so high-level that it's meaningless.

BYU says  Jaren is fine but we all saw him go down a few weeks ago. We saw him get hit last week against Arkansas and dangle his arm around by his side. And we've seen all the overthrows against Liberty that  had a distinct look of a player have to slightly change his fundamentals to compensate for an injury that made throwing a ball difficult.

I'm not a doctor and I'm not in the BYU team room, but the circumstantial evidence strongly indicates that Hall is hurt.

How screwed are we next year at QB and at DL?

In the Transfer Portal era, nobody is ever screwed when the season is still 10 months away. Rosters can be transformed in a matter of weeks with the portal and BYU will be very active.

If there were no changes at all to the roster, then yeah, next year looks bleak. But, there is no answer to this question because there are still like 300 days to get things fixed.

Patience, padawan. It will serve you well.

How many years are we going to be the doormat of the Big 12?

You know who else is struggling this year? Houston, who started the season ranked and was the runaway favorite for the G5 autobid in the New Year's Six series this year.

Cincinnati has only lost once, but they are just eeking by opponents, including a two-point win over SMU last week and a four-point win over USF two weeks ago.

UCF... well this is what ECU did to UCF last week.

All of the new teams who are going into the Big 12 seem to be having some level of the same challenges. Everyone they play wants to either prove that they don't belong or that they shouldn't have been invited. All four teams are also looking ahead.

BYU's challenges hurt the most, for sure, but it seems that all four teams are in similar spots.

It's far too soon to declare anyone being a doormat. So much can change in a year.

Why does BYU have such a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome? They are either really good or really bad.

Ilaia Tuiaki answered this question earlier this season when he did an interview and conceded that BYU's coaching staff was disappointed about playing UAB in a bowl that they didn't want to go in last year.

Fans get disappointed by opponents, but you expect coaches and players to prepare the same way regardless of who or where they are playing. But, like Tuiaki mentioned, that isn't happening at BYU.

If they let UAB get them down, who is to say that they aren't letting other 'smaller' teams get them down too?

It's a coaching problem. There is no coaching to kill. There is coaching to win games. When coaches believe that scheme will win games, then they scheme to their opponents. (I'm not talking game plans, I'm talking full-fledged schemes.)

The game plans are softer when the coaches feel they should easily win a game. The game plans are more aggressive when coaches know they have to go all-out. Players aren't idiots. They can see that too.

Why is BYU Jekyll and Hyde? Because BYU's coaches do too much thinking and not enough killing. Period.

How do we emotionally handle being the next old Kansas for a few years?

I've chosen Chinese takeout as my coping mechanism this year.

Why has play calling regressed?

See above. When coaches try to coach their way to wins instead of relying on the talent of their team to win games, weird things happen.

Did I really see Jaren throw over the middle of the field?

Wasn't it beautiful? So, he can do it, he just doesn't do it. Sad.

What will it take to land elite recruits with connections to the program? Recruiting is improving, no doubt, but what can we do to land the big names?

Time. First and foremost, it will take a bunch of time.

BYU fans are justifiably excited about the Big 12. Elite recruits have been courted by Big 12 (and PAC-12 and SEC and Big Ten and ACC) schools forever. So the Big 12 moniker isn't as much a selling point for recruits as BYU fans think it is. It's more about the removal of a negative-selling point that comes along with not being in a P5 conference.

So, time will be required.

The other thing is effort. Kyle Whittingham flies around in a helicopter a few times a year and shows up to high school games. It's flashy and it's something that high school students talk about at school the next day so recruits feel cool.

BYU probably isn't ever going to fly around in a helicopter, even if they have the funds to do so. So, the only way that BYU beats that kind of flash is to just work harder than the guy next to them.

Right now, BYU isn't.

BYU will always get a certain type of player and you can win a lot of games (historically, at least) with a roster full of that certain type of player. Going into a P5 league, BYU needs more of those certain types of players and a bunch of players who are a completely different type of talent too. If the coaches and administration hasn't figured that out by now, they will soon enough in the Big 12.


No more commitments based on kids you saw only at camp. No more 'kids know what we're about and if they don't want to be here then we can't make them.'

No more being soft.

BYU is a destination school for a lot of recruits. But when the destination school doesn't show up and the other school down the road is flying around in a helicopter to tell you how great you are, the dream of playing at BYU fades pretty quickly. BYU needs to recruit harder and they will have immediate success. It sounds simple, but it really is that simple.

Which coaches does the blame fall on the most? Which players does the blame fall on the most? What’s your insight as to why the LBs have been regressing? Is it a Coach Clune or coach lamb issue? In depth look at soon to come DL that could sure up that position.

Trying to pinpoint blame this year feels like a fool's errand. Everything has been bad. The scheme is bad. The execution is bad. The game plans are bad. Linebackers have been bad. Defensive line play has been bad. Safety play has been less bad, but still not great.

It's like going to a restaurant and getting food poisoning. When you're on the toilet shitting out a new hemorrhoid, do you really care if it was the third bite of chicken or the ninth bite of chicken that was the one that made you sick? No. You blame the whole bird.

Such is the case with BYU's defense right now. We're watching the hemorrhoids pop out each week and it's all bad.

As a result, I would expect to see the whole bird get blamed once the season is over.

Hypothetically (for funsies) out of these two options, what do you think would be more beneficial for Kalani and BYU: - Somehow finding a way to win 2 more games & make a bowl game where BYU miraculously wins. However, the bowl victory is taken as a sign by Kalani to make minimal changes to his coaching staff. We’ll assume the bowl game has some positive repercussions for recruiting. - lose 3 games & not make a bowl game. Kalani takes that as a sign he needs to part with many of his coaches and use the extra time to focus on cleaning house.

Hypotheticals are never funsies.

In this very specific scenario, bowl games are always better. Always. You want more practice. You want more reps. You want to say you went bowling to recruits as bowling is synonymous with winning. That scenario is always better.

In real-world life, I think Kalani's decision has already been made, regardless of what happens throughout the rest of the season. Should he dismiss coaches today? Maybe, I guess. But you can't hire anyone new today (I mean you could, I guess, but BYU wouldn't do that until after the season). So, keep the coaches on staff and try to make a run of the rest of the year and make changes after Stanford.

At this point, I would be completely shocked if that wasn't already the plan.

How could Kalani be cool with this sort of roster management that got us in such a talentless void on defense and can we trust him to change his ways and overturn the roster?

I'm going to get a little cynical here and probably talk about things that don't actually matter in reality as much as they do in my head. So, come with me on a ride...

BYU fans, generally speaking, don't understand or care about recruiting. I get it. Missions make it hard to get too excited about a recruit because you won't see them for years after they commit anyways. Every BYU fan remembers Jake Heaps being a bust. Most BYU fans don't realize that Bronson Kaufusi was nearly the same rating as Heaps in that same class and was wildly successful. Everyone remembers the ones like Ross Apo who didn't live up to the hype, but nobody gives credit to the Kyle Van Noys and Fred Warners who absolutely did.

As a result, fans don't care about recruiting. (Until CougarBoard says something is wrong with recruiting and then everyone loses their mind for a day and doesn't care again the next day.)

Then trash-ass articles like this are published and BYU fans gobble it up. This let's coaches off the hook for having terrible recruiting strategies. That article isn't Dick Harmon's fault as he is publishing what will be read. But fans read that, gobble up 'length and speed' and assume that Lamb is a recruiting wizard because he had a few success stories.

And then articles like this are posted where there is clearly an effort being made to give credit to the star system, but plenty of room for the star system to be excused as not perfect so, therefore, doesn't really matter. I was interviewed for that article. You know how much I love the star system and how much it matters to me. If all you read was that article, you wouldn't think I'm THAT sold on it, though.

The general tone - for YEARS - among BYU fans and among BYU media has been dismissive of recruiting. That's why Preston Hadley can say 'we don't chase stars' and Bronco Mendenhall can say 'gotta recruit BYU' and get away with it.

Imagine a world where Nick Saban's assistants said that they aren't chasing stars. I can promise you that coach's badge wouldn't work the next day.

Imagine Kirby Smart saying 'we're Georgia, you gotta recruit us.' His fans would MUTINY even after the national championship last  year. \

But BYU fans hear those comments and dismiss them because 'BYU is different and coaches are coaches for a reason. Keyboard warriors are stoopid.'

I've long said that fans are the thermostat for college football programs. Fans don't win games. Fans don't lose games. Fans don't coach and don't know how to coach. But, fans get to set the temperature of what they expect their favorite football program to be. For too long, fans haven't touched the BYU recruiting part of the thermostat and, therefore, the rest of the HVAC system hasn't had to do a whole lot of work.

How did Kalani let this happen? A lot of reasons. Among them? The general acceptance from fans that 'measurables' were okay and 'stars aren't perfect because look at Heaps' arguments from fans.

Will I ever be able to trust again?

Yes. Be tougher. Get hurt again. You'll be glad you did.

The Atlanta Braves went to the playoffs a billion times between 1996-2020. They went to multiple World Series and lost them all. Every year I trusted, every year I hurt.

But man, 2021 was so great when they finally did it. So great. One of the best sports years of my life.

It was so great in 2021, that having my heart stomped on like a spider in the garage in 2022 was totally okay.

Trust always. Get hurt. Mourn with friends. This is the way.

Are there any ways I as a fan can have some fun watching a team that appears checked out?

More GEHB, obvs.

Do you think we will see anyone decommit because of what’s happened the last few weeks?

There might be some decommitments, but I don't think they will come as a result of the last few weeks. There were always a few who could decommit. That's just the nature of recruiting in 2022. Those could still happen, but I don't think it will be because of a few losses, no.

What changes can be made from the defensive staff to recruit better? Especially highly rated in-state recruits?

Whether it's their head coach, their boosters or their regular fans, the tone of recruiting is soft.

People talk about how 'meh' a recruit is when BYU picks up a two-star player. The conversation is then oriented around that player and how they're not good enough. I've never felt like that's fair.

Once a player is part of the BYU family, we all should be cheering for that player to be great, great, great. They are doing what any of us would have done given the chance to play football at BYU.

Too much of the heat is given to the recruit. Not nearly enough heat is given to the coach. Even worse, there is virtually no heat given to the coach several years later.

Let's go on a quick ride:

Chris Wilcox was great. D'Lo Mandell was good. Isaiah Herron was serviceable and Micah Harper is proving to be great. As such, the 'length and speed' schtick has been accepted as a good recruiting tool for BYU's corners.

You know who we don't talk about? Isaiah Armstrong. Tongi Langi. Tariq Buchanan (ATH). Brach Davis.. George Udo. Caleb Christensen. Eric Ellison. Keenan Ellis (I know, injuries suck.) Dimitri Gallow. Javelle Brown. Luc Andrada (ATH). Jacques Wilson. Quenton Rice.

You know what else we don't talk about?

Harper had 20+ offers.

Mandell had a P5 offer from Vanderbilt and a handful of offers from MWC schools.

The two corners who are actually playing the most this year? Both P5 transfers, not the developmental dudes from high school.

So, sure, Chris Wilcox was a great story. But, for every one Chris Wilcox, how many names are we just accepting of that didn't pan out?

These kids aren't the ones implementing this strategy. These kids aren't the ones who stop pushing for players when competition comes. It's not the recruits that should be criticized here - not by a long shot. And until the conversation turns into holding coaches accountable for this, why would coaches change?

Why should I care about a team that clearly doesn’t care. I think I am going to the Stansbury game instead of ECU this week and it really wasn’t a hard choice.

Because love isn't conditional you monster!

We're nearly 4000 words into this because clearly you all have a lot of problems and needed some therapy today!

We will continue to meet weekly until our problems are soothed.

God speed to all of us.