Sitake remains optimistic amid college football uncertainty

Despite the mounting sense of uncertainty as the college football season inches closer to its scheduled Aug. 29 start date, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake remains confident that everything will fall into place.

“I’m an optimistic person, so we’ll stay positive about it and then trust that things will work out,” Sitake told reporters via Zoom on Aug. 4. “I’m really anxious and excited for these guys to perform for our fans; that’s the goal. Although there may be some adjustments that you do along the way, I think we’re going to be fine. I feel like it’s kind of trending towards that.”

The Cougars have already lost six games from its 2020 schedule within the last month, with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences announcing they would be going conference-only this year. As it stands, BYU’s schedule remains empty until Oct. 2, when the team is slated to host Utah State.

A number of options remain for the Cougars to fill the current holes in their schedule. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe recently told BYU Sports Nation he is having “a lot of conversations” with other schools’ officials about working out potential replacement games. Sitake believes Holmoe will find a way to work out some sort of schedule for BYU this fall.

BYU Football head coach Kalani Sitake answers questions from the media via Zoom following the first day of the team’s fall camp on Aug. 4. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

“I have just been really pleased with the way Tom’s doing it,” Sitake said. “He’s got a really tough job and I am just trying to get us ready to go. My job is to get the team ready, not to do the schedules and things like that, that’s Tom’s job and I trust him.”

If the Cougars do have a season this fall, Sitake would oversee arguably the most talented group of players under his five-year tenure. At the quarterback position, BYU has three proven signal-callers who each won games last season. Zach Wilson went 4-5 as a starter last season while Jaren Hall went 1-1 and Baylor Romney went 2-0.

The Cougars also have a number of capable running backs returning this season, despite losing highly-touted transfer Devontae Henry-Cole to Utah State. Lopini Katoa, Sione Finau, Jackson McChesney and Tyler Allgeier are all returning starters and each saw significant playing time last season.

“I love the (running back) group,” Sitake said. “It’s a deep group, a lot of talent and a lot of experience. We’re really excited about that group.”

Other notable returning players include tight end Matt Bushman and defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga, who both decided to stay for their senior seasons after flirting with the idea of entering the NFL Draft. In all, BYU returns 15 of its 22 starters from last season.

Sitake remains high on his team’s potential not only because of individual performances from last season but also due to the dedication his players have shown throughout the pandemic. Coaches and players were notably impressed with the physical shape players have maintained despite not having held official team practices since March.

“During quarantine, we weren’t allowed to be at BYU, so it was more about finding places to get better,” Bushman said. “I feel like a lot of the players, not having to necessarily feel like they’re required to be at these workouts, are self-motivated. I feel like it brought more out of the players and it’s been exciting to see.”

Sitake is confident his team members will be ready to adjust to any type of situation that may come their way this fall.

“With all the uncertainties and things that are happening, I think our only goal is to try to be ready for whatever happens,” Sitake said. “I’ve been really pleased with our leadership on this team, our coaches, our administration — everyone has done an amazing job allowing us to be in this position right now.”

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