It was the month that Fesi Sitake played the old crafty offensive coordinator card leading up to Weber State’s 2017 season opener against Western Montana. He held back formations and played vanilla before meeting the University of California in the Wildcats' second game.
Weber State had just beaten Western Montana 76-0. Sitake then unleashed a 571- yard total offense attack against Cal in Berkeley in a 33-20 loss. Weber State threw for 431 yards and held a time of possession advantage over the Pac-12 opponent by nearly 11 minutes.
It was scheming at its best.
“It allowed us to come out guns blazing against Cal,” said Sitake. “Because we had a new quarterback and skill set and he was surrounded by more experienced players, we were able to come out swinging with things not showed. From a schematic standpoint, they were unprepared. We did as much shifting and motion and movement as we could, and it worked.”
On the flipside, it was hard for Weber State because Cal came in just having played North Carolina, a no-huddle offense.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to face Justin Wilcox’s defense from Wisconsin or Tim DeRuyter’s defense from Fresno State," Sitake said. "Whose identity would we face in a no-huddle offense? We had a disadvantage there, but we were going to be prepared no matter what.”
What those two weeks of 2017 showed in a young offensive coordinator is that he did his homework. He adjusted to personnel. He created mismatches. He gamed Cal, even in a loss. This is the mind of Fesi Sitake, now BYU’s receiver coach under new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
When Grimes called Sitake to interview him for a job, Sitake had previously been a candidate for the offensive coordinator job at BYU.
So, what did Sitake tell Grimes? What were his talking points?
“One of the biggest blessings I’ve had in my coaching profession is these last two years as a coordinator, just gaining experience and maturing as a coach,” Sitake told Grimes.
“My first four or five years were spent coaching receivers, and it’s a position I’ve played or coached all my life. I had good intentions, but I only saw the game through the eyes of a receiver and it had been all I’d coached.
“I told him I’d tried to branch out and coach through other lenses, but I only knew it as a receiver, so to be able to be a coordinator and coach the quarterbacks and see the broader picture of an offense, well, oh man. I had a level of confidence that I really understood the game but I also had an attitude that I really wanted to learn.
“I’d been under the same brand of offense so long and there are strengths in that, but I want to learn. I’m not stuck in my ways. My whole approach to him was how humbled I was to work alongside him and learn and do whatever he needed me to do, but also know how well prepared I felt I was as a coach and bring the knowledge I could bring as a coordinator. I wanted him to feel my passion for being at BYU with a great staff.”
This past week, Grimes assembled his staff and met with BYU players. The theme was simple: This is a new day.
“He wants to make sure these offensive players know that every single day they have an opportunity to get better. He painted the picture beautifully in the first meeting with the offense.”
Sitake said that two days later, Grimes asked players to think of one thing they did that day to be better as a man, a player, as a teammate. Some shouted out ideas, things they’d accomplished as he introduced the model.
Grimes said if guys were hesitant to say, or scratching their heads as to what they’d done, they hadn’t done enough.
“He then said, ‘Here is the beautiful part: today is a new day and every day is another opportunity to get better.’”
Sitake’s spin on it was if they are coming off a tough season, for whatever reason, it is easy for them to get caught up in looking at the end result, which can be overwhelming. The guys are so ambitious and want to accomplish so much that they could skip a bunch of important pieces.
“He’s done a great job of letting players know if they want to go where they want to go, every single day they better be doing something to get better. I’m super excited about the approach. He’s such a great teacher, he commands respect and when he speaks, the guys listen and are attentive.
“It is awesome to watch him speak. He is very principled and he is going to make sure people are held accountable. He has a clear vision and I’ve seen that in the short week with him and the other coaches. It’s been fun.”
It’s a long way from scheming and gaming like Sitake did last August.
But it’s a start. The theme is set.