For myself, and I can’t speak for the other coaches and what their visions is, I really just want to have a lot of tough guys who can compete. —New BYU safeties coach Preston Hadley
Preston Hadley comes home.
The latest addition to BYU’s coaching staff is described as a guy who always wanted to get into coaching, did so through the junior college ranks, then Weber State and, now, at the ripe old age of 29, is a Division I safety coach for the Cougars.
Folks who know Hadley say Kalani Sitake hired a young but experienced coach with a light bulb personality.
“Count me in as one of those who is super excited that Preston was hired,” said Hadley’s former teammate and captain of BYU’s defense, Brandon Ogletree.
Back in the day, Hadley played for one of the best defenses the Cougars have had in the past decade. It was a unit that included first-round NFL draft pick Ziggy Ansah, former Detroit Lion and current New England Patriot Kyle Van Noy, Kansas City Chief safety Daniel Sorensen, and one of the NCAA’s top tacklers, Uani Unga.
“I’m glad he’s back,” said Ogletree. “He brings a lot of passion and enthusiasm. That is kind of what he was known for, always being in a good mood, always had a smile on his face. He’s one of those guys who just loved practice, loved the team and wanted to be a part of it.”
The Hadley hire is part of an overhaul by Sitake entering his third season, after a four-win campaign. It includes the hiring of young coaches with Hadley and Ryan Pugh, 29, and Fesi Sitake 31. That speaks to energy, ambition, something to prove and experiences closer to the generation currently recruited.
Within hours of being hired, Hadley was given recruiting duties, escorting prospects on campus Friday and Saturday. He hadn’t even had time to have a philosophical “vision” chat session with the other defensive coaches. It was hit the ground running.
On Saturday, Hadley had just finished taking recruits to a visit at LaVell Edwards Stadium when he took a break for a phone call. He said the timeline for his hire took about two weeks of talking. He was approached by defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki and other coaches. Without a formal interview, he was offered the job and took it after myriad conversations.
“For myself, and I can’t speak for the other coaches and what their visions is, I really just want to have a lot of tough guys who can compete," he said. "That, in a simple way, is what I want, guys who have the ability to compete in every phase of the game and love the game. That is what I hope to bring is to help the guys become tough, smart guys.”
With hiring Hadley this past week, Sitake turned to Weber State for two coaches including Fesi Sitake, who was the Wildcat offensive coordinator who helped etch out a three-game run into the NCAA playoffs.
Hadley went against Sitake every day in practice.
“I call Fesi my cousin,” said Hadley. “That is the kind of relationship I have with him. It was fun and competitive. He’d be working with the quarterbacks and I’d be working with the DBs. We’d be talking trash, but it was friendly competition every day and it was fun.
“I learned a lot from Fesi about offense,” said Hadley. He would often go to Sitake and ask him what the quarterbacks were reading in his safeties in a certain look, and what the quarterbacks were looking for in another look.
“I’m excited to work with Fesi in that regard.”
Hadley, who coached junior college in southern California after leaving BYU, was the recruiting coordinator for Weber State under head coach Jay Hill. He believes that because he once played for BYU, he is more fully capable of understanding the type of recruit who can benefit from the Provo school.
“It allows me to relate,” he said. “I have coached here as a graduate assistant, also. It allows me to show the best part of this school and go and get the kids who can thrive here. It is not for everybody, obviously, but I think this is one of the dynamics I bring. Also, having been at Weber State, I have a different perspective outside of BYU on what it takes to recruit. There is more than one way to skin a cat.”
With these new hires, Sitake has made some significant changes in both personalities, experience and institutional connectivity in the past several weeks.
With 16-year veteran defensive coach Steve Kaufusi not retained for the 2018 season, it puts an end to an era where longtime veteran coaches on BYU’s staff had always been in the offices. These men dated back to employment with LaVell Edwards, before he retired in 2000.
I wouldn’t argue that it is a good or bad move, but it is different. And it signals a move towards interjecting new, young blood into a BYU system that does not hire or fire athletic figures often and, at times, has asked new head coaches to retain staff members.