They’re (the Utah football team) practicing on their own every morning at 6 a.m., on their own accord, just organizing things and getting a head start. The way they’ve taken charge will hopefully end up being a big benefit for us during this season. —Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham
SANDY — Kyle Whittingham likes the internal engine the Ute football team is showing this offseason and BYU’s Kalani Sitake is pleased to be achieving stability in the Cougar program.
Whittingham, fresh off a contract extension at Utah, and Sitake, entering his second year as BYU’s head coach, stepped up big time Monday for the annual Kidney Foundation Charity Golf Invitational. Unlike years past, the Ute and Cougar football pilots played with one another rather than bringing staff members for a match of cutthroat competition.
Whittingham and Sitake laid down traditional rivalry smack for golf clubs and friend time on Monday. They shared a golf cart for this 29th version of the annual event. In that private time, they no doubt had a lot of coachspeak and who wouldn’t have wanted to be a fly hanging on a water bottle in that cart?
It is a unique turn in the rivalry between these two schools, where Ron McBride and the late LaVell Edwards set the ultimate public stage, trading comedy for rancor, and buddyship for rival awkwardness. There was no “us” versus “them” theme going on Monday.
And it was, shall we say, OK.
So, what two things stand out the most in this offseason for Whittingham and Sitake, with their respective programs as they head into the dog days of summer?
“I’d say number one is the way our guys have taken ownership of the program this offseason,” said Whittingham. “They’re practicing on their own every morning at 6 a.m., on their own accord, just organizing things and getting a head start. The way they’ve taken charge will hopefully end up being a big benefit for us during this season."
No. 2? "The talent level of this incoming recruiting class. We don’t have all of them here yet, we have about 90 percent of them here. There are some good-looking recruits in this class who can be developed.”
Always looking for speed, Whittingham said the class includes Javelin Guidry, who recently ran a 10.18 time in the 100 meters in the California state high school track meet, a new state record. Guidry is a four-star corner from Murrieta, California.
"Speed, speed and speed — those are the three things you need the most,” said Whittingham.
Sitake, who has assembled two new coordinators as part of his first year as a Division I coach, has had 16 months of putting his imprint on the BYU program in the post-Bronco Mendenhall era. Season ticket sales are up more than 5,000 from a year ago for a 2017 home slate that includes the Utes, Wisconsin and Boise State.
“The number one thing this offseason is that we have a quarterback that is returning who has experience and that we know who our quarterback is,” said Sitake.
Tanner Mangum, who led BYU to a bowl win over Wyoming in December, has started 13 games for the Cougars.
“The second thing is that we retained all of our coaches,” said Sitake.
This Sitake statement could be taken to mean some schools came after one or more members of his staff since the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
“When you are establishing new systems on offense, defense and special teams, it’s good to have some consistency so I’m really excited to have guys who want to be here and believe in the system. I’m looking forward to making it work for our benefit this season.
"It's important to have a staff that wants to go to work every day, a staff that gets along, enjoys each other’s company, loves the people they are with, and love the players they coach. Hopefully that brings us good moments on the field, too. When you can combine friendship with business, it makes things easier for us.
"We’ve been in this business for a long time," Sitake continued. "We have an assistant head coach who left a head coaching job to be here (Ed Lamb) and he was successful in putting a lot of guys in the (NFL). We have a Heisman Trophy winner on our staff and guys with backgrounds at BYU, but we don’t have egos on our staff.”
Both had football camps Monday. Whittingham had to cut golf short to be the “closer” at a one-day camp on the Ute campus where approximately 300 campers signed up. Sitake said he had the same demand in Provo but his camp began mid-afternoon.
Whittingham and Sitake didn’t claim golf superiority but did make a case for having the biggest calves on the golf course at the annual Liberty Mutual Kidney Foundation of Utah-Idaho annual charity at Hidden Valley Country Club.
Their foursome, which included Troy Tait and Brad Johnson, fired a 12-under-par 61. Not too shabby for guys who never practice and primarily answer the call for charity events.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to the Kidney Foundation to have two coaches of this caliber help us, be a part of this, and are such good friends. It is a big deal,” said Deen Vetterli, executive director of the Utah-Idaho chapter of the National Kidney Foundation.