Losing is not fun. BYU has lost five straight. Now we have to chew on those losses until August 31, 2024 when the Cougars take on DeLane Fitzgerald and his pre-game comments.
It's going to sting for a while, friends. Might as well buckle up. And while we're buckling up, I'm going to word vomit about a whole bunch of things that are being said about the state of affairs and the future of the program.
Why talk about this now? Because it's officially the offseason for BYU and talk is all that we have.
"This better be the last time I see A-Rod!"
If you believe A-Rod should be fired then nothing I say is going to convince you otherwise. So, I'm not going to try to do that.
A-Rod was limited by the talent of his team this year - particularly along the offensive line. Kingsley Suamataia wasn't the dominating left tackle that BYU has grown accustomed to with Brady Christensen and Blake Freeland. Connor Pay, Weylin Lapuaho and Paul Maile played positional musical chairs throughout the season. Caleb Etienne disappointed (though kudos to him for looking significantly better against his former team). Brayden Keim played about as well as anyone could hope for. It was a bummer.
The OL couldn't do two things at the same time. When Kedon Slovis was in the game, there was no run blocking to be spoken of. When Jake Retzlaff was in the game, BYU struggled protecting him.
The offensive line was bad and that hurt A-Rod's ability to do anything.
Quarterback play was also too inconsistent to really know what to count on from week to week. Slovis struggled. Retzlaff was a mistake waiting to happen. It's really hard to coordinate a successful offense when your line can't block and the your quarterback can't lead the offense.
Obviously, all of this falls up to Roderick and that seems to be what most people point to when this argument comes up. That's an accurate statement.
One of the benefits of being the boss, though, is that others get fired before you do. Roderick won't be fired this year. It wasn't his fault that things turned out the way that they did this year, but it is his responsibility to fix it. That's how he will be judged in 2024 - his fixing. If he can't fix it then he's toast. If he can, then onwards and upwards everyone goes.
Is that the right or wrong call? I think it's the right call but I won't argue long with anyone who disagrees. Ultimately, it's all about how Roderick fixes things right now. That's where I'm going to put the bulk of my concentration going forward.
"How many 2017s will Kalani get before he's not the guy?"
Well, this wasn't 2017, so let's start there. BYU lost to UMass in 2017. That's not in the same realm as getting blown out by Texas and West Virginia. That's important to realize.
But how many bad years does Kalani have? It depends on what you think bad is.
5-7 this year sucks and the blowout losses to TCU, Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia really suck. But I think BYU can go 5-7 again next year and BYU will probably keep Sitake right where he's at. Why?
Part of that is BYU - the pool is only so deep and BYU will always be a little more patient with their head football coach than, say, Texas A&M.
The other part of that is the way that his team responded and played against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The guy hasn't lost the locker room. This team will still rally and play for Sitake. That's a big part of what a head coach needs to do.
He needs to improve his staff. He needs to stop losing his team and allowing them to get to the point they have to rally. He needs to fix a bunch of organizational things. None of those things are lost on me - they all need to get better.
But as long as his team continues to play hard for him, Sitake is going to have a little bit of a longer leash than people think he should have.
"How did A-Rod get the quarterback so wrong? Can he not evaluate the position?"
Candidly, I think we're asking the wrong question here. I'm less concerned about his evaluations than I am with his recruiting to get HIS guy. Hear me out...
First, let's concede that Slovis was a miss and an exception. His skill set was unlike any other QB that Roderick has signed. I believe Roderick either overestimated how athletic Slovis was or underestimated how badly his system needed athleticism. A miss. A problem. But also kind of an exception.
Now let us move to the rest of quarterback room.
Clearly, Jake Retzlaff is a long, long ways away. While I don't personally think he has what it takes to get there, that's not really what we're talking about. He's not that guy right now and looks like I would standing at the base of Mt. Everest.
What did A-Rod see? How did he get it so wrong?
Did he get wrong or did he just miss on a whole bunch of other dudes? BYU hosted Jaden Rashada and had a chance there. He ended up a near five-star QB. Nico Iamaleava WAS a five-star QB and also LDS... he's at Tennessee. He missed on Myles Jackson after some early optimism that BYU had a shot there.
He missed on Jaxson Dart - twice. He missed Devin Brown. Those two both went to big time programs, but those are the same big time programs that BYU will have to beat out in order to have sustained QB success.
This year he missed Demaricus Davis - he committed to Washington. He missed Luke Moga - Oregon bound. He missed Maealiuaki Smith - he'll be at Oklahoma State after a bizarre recuritment.
The guys he brought in over the last few years are Ryder Burton, Noah Lugo, Cade Fennegan, and a few others who had little recruiting attention. We're paying attention to those evaluations - and maybe they will or maybe they won't work out. But should the attention be more about Roderick not getting guys with other offers?
Sure, he elected to stop recruiting Isaac Wilson last year and that's proving to look foolish. He (and the staff as a whole, I suppose) elected to move on from EJ Caminong this year. There are some questions with evaluations, for sure, but I think recruiting is the bigger issue.
Looking ahead, BYU needs to recruit a big talent at the quarterback position. Maybe that's Brown out of the portal (if he gets there). Maybe that's a high school dude that isn't currently on the radar.
A-Rod tends to get involved with A LOT of really talented quarterbacks who end up going to very big time schools. But they just don't end up being the guys who sign with BYU in the end. Roderick has got to start pulling in some of the guys he wants first.
"Pushing Out Fence-Sitters vs. Keeping Talent At All Costs"
If anyone actually knows the answer to this one you should probably apply for a job in college football. This is the million dollar question that every coach in America is asking themselves.
How do you establish a consistent culture in the transfer portal and NIL era?
I have no idea. You need talent to win games. Winning games is what breeds a winning culture. You need to have a strong NIL program to get the best players. But at the same time, it's NIL that could be the biggest detriment to your locker room's culture.
Threading that needle is going to be so difficult for every coach to figure out.
There are programs with deep, deep pockets. Those guys will just replace talent with more talent. When one five-star leaves, they'll pay for another one to replace him.
But for the rest of the world, you have to attract potential, develop talent, and sell a culture.
I think we're going to see more and more teams struggle with that balance from a year-to-year basis than any of us realize.
In hist post-game with Greg Wrubell, Sitake talked about not wanting to convince anyone to stay at BYU. Those are great words - and as the leader of the 'push people out' movement, I was especially excited - but is it realistic?
If LJ Martin wants NIL money, you can bet Sitake will do everything in his power to get it.
But what about if it's Jakob Robinson? He's one of the guys I would love to see come back to the program. Does it hurt the locker room if you have to convince him a little bit?
What about Connor Pay?
What about Ace Kaufusi?
The words sound great in a press conference. The reality is a lot more gray.
And that doesn't even factor in the role that NIL and 'convincing' is going to play when it comes to attracting in new players who aren't currently in your program.
We've seen coaches like Dabo Swinney who were slow to adopt the NIL changes. Clemson took a step back this year.
Dave Aranda didn't immediately embrace it either - and Baylor was worse than BYU in 2023.
Mike Gundy didn't jump on it either but somehow he managed to rebuild his locker room pretty quickly.
Is it luck? Is it having a core group of players that are committed? Is it just outcoaching everyone and it doesn't matter who you have on the field?
The balancing act seems impossible. I have no idea what the answer is. At the end of the day, all of it seems like priority #1.
Get better players with NIL.
Don't ruin your culture with NIL.
Keep your players with NIL.
Don't let your program become all about NIL.
Good luck, Kalani. I have no idea.
Today is brutal...
Losing sucks. Firing everyone probably isn't the answer. Firing Darrell Funk probably is the right answer. If that means throwing Harvey Unga or Steve Clark or some other combination of coaches out with the Funky bath water then so be it. BYU is 5-7. Everything needs to be on the table, no question about it.
There are a lot of factors for BYU to consider moving into their new world. It's not going to be an easy couple of months - but it is sure as hell going to be a lot of fun.