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Kalani Sitake Sees Big 12 Experience Helping BYU Football In 2024

Feb 29, 2024, 12:14 AM

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PROVO, Utah – BYU football spring practices have arrived. The 15 practices over the next month will significantly shape who BYU football will be in 2024.

Practice number one takes place on Thursday at either the Indoor Practice Facility or the Student Athlete Building practice fields.

After a disappointing 5-7 season that started with a 4-1 record last year, BYU was home for the holidays with no bowl game. It was only the second time in the Kalani Sitake era. The first bowl-less campaign since 2017.

Sitake enters his ninth year with the BYU football program.

In December, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe silenced any notion that Sitake was on the hot seat. Last year was a transition season after going through the Big 12 schedule for the first time.

“Everybody knows that we’re not excited about how we finished the season and not getting to bowl eligibility,” Sitake said to KSL Sports. “But at the same time, there’s some correction that needs to take place. I always start with myself as the head coach: what can I do differently? What can I do better and what can I do to improve?”

BYU finished last year with a 2-7 record in Big 12 play. The only wins were against last-place Cincinnati and Texas Tech, who had a third-string quarterback as the starter.

BYU’s offense was 118th nationally in total yards per game. The defense wasn’t much better, ranking 108th in the country.

Despite the struggles, BYU did an excellent job of retaining its roster. Everyone on offense who was expected to be back –except running back Aidan Robbins– returns in 2024. On defense, key performers such as Second-Team All-Big 12 defensive end Tyler Batty and Honorable Mention DB Jakob Robinson return. Captain linebacker Ben Bywater also returns as he works his way back from a shoulder injury.

BYU ranks 49th in ESPN’s Returning Production rankings for 2024.

Players wanted to return because of the culture that Sitake has built within his program.

“I hope everybody knows that my mindset is always to do what’s best and what’s right for the players. Also, do what’s right and what’s best for the fans,” Sitake said. “So as we work through that, I’m not perfect as a person, but I do feel that I am doing my best. I’m doing the right things as a head coach to get this program right.”

Big 12 experience created a “new focus” for BYU football

So, what are Sitake’s goals for 2024?

“The goals in terms of 2024, I think the sky’s the limit for this group. I know that it will take a lot of hard work and dedication and sacrifice. But we know what it’s like now [in the Big 12] as a team. We know what it’s like to go through the Big 12 Conference and that schedule. To have that reference is huge.

“I say that because after the Oklahoma State game, our team went into offseason conditioning in the weight room, there’s a new focus that I’ve never seen before. That’s because they know what to expect now.”

BYU enters spring practices with the worst odds to win the Big 12 in 2024. The Big 12 has always been a league where unexpected outcomes can take place. But expectations are low for BYU. Despite the low outside views, Sitake feels the power conference experience will benefit his team entering year two.

“We didn’t have that reference [to power conference play] play before. All we had was me, A-Rod (Aaron Roderick), and Jay [Hill], saying, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go this new conference. It’s gonna be really tough going into a P5.’ But even going into the Big 12 was way different for us. Even though we knew that it would be an adjustment. I think there were some surprises. One of them is that the Big 12 is a lot more physical than people want to give it credit for. We didn’t understand all of that until we went through it and saw how it affected our team.”

BYU looks to be the best they can be in 2024

BYU wrapped up off-season winter conditioning with its retooled strength and conditioning staff led by Ryan Phillis. One of Sitake’s goals for the players was to get “bigger and stronger at a rapid rate.” We’ll see how the players look on the practice field in spring ball.

How and where BYU improves will ultimately be decided in the fall. But the experience gained in the Big 12 last year gives Sitake hope for better days ahead in year two.

“I think we can accomplish a lot of our goals that we want. Number one is to be the best we possibly can be. I think if we can get to that, we’ll be in really good shape by the time of week one.”

BYU Football: Key Spring Practice Dates

  • February 29: Day One – Spring Practice
  • March 22: Alumni Game
  • March 30: Final Day of Practice

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Kalani Sitake Sees Big 12 Experience Helping BYU Football In 2024