Sitake names Tialavea and Middleton to BYU coaching staff

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BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake announced three new coaching hires Monday afternoon. In addition to naming Steve Clark as an assistant/tight ends coach, Sitake hired Russell Tialavea as the director of football operations and AJ Middleton as assistant football strength and conditioning coach.

“I’m happy to announce the hiring of Steve, Russell and AJ,” Sitake said. “AJ adds great experience to our strength and conditioning staff, and Russell has kept the overall program running smoothly amidst the recent changes and I’m excited to have him serve as the director of football operations.”

Tialavea was defensive lineman for the Cougars (05-09, 12) and becomes the director of football operations after serving as the assistant director for the 2015 season.

“I’m very humbled and grateful for the opportunity,” Tialavea said. “I know and love all of our players, and I’m excited to get to know all of our new coaches. I expect great things from this group.”

The Oceanside, California, native started in 31-of-47 games as a significant contributor each year for BYU football. He recorded a total of 74 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, five fumble recoveries, five pass breakups and six blocked kicks.

Tialavea worked as an academic specialist in the BYU Student Athlete Academic Center in 2014 and an academic liaison with the football program. He graduated from BYU in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He was named the BYU Service Athlete of the Year following his senior season in 2012.

His new responsibilities include managing day-to-day operations, student-athlete academic and career development, alumni relations and additional team programs. Tialavea is married to Jessa Jeppesen.

Middleton joins new head football strength and conditioning coach Nu‘u Tafisi after working at UNLV as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the 2015 season.

“I’m looking forward to helping develop our players and being part of a program that has such a great winning tradition,” Middleton said. “It’s exciting to be part of an organization with such an emphasis on integrity.”

Before coaching at UNLV, Middleton worked with the USC and the University of Redlands strength and conditioning programs over the past two years. He was also an assistant track and field coach at the University of Puget Sound in 2013.

Middleton played football and competed in track and field at Puget Sound and was a first-team All-Northwest Conference honoree at nose tackle in 2008. He was also a two-time NWC champion in the shot put in 2006 and 2007.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology at Puget Sound in 2009 and then earned a master’s degree from Redlands in 2015.

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