PROVO — Kalani Sitake will deploy analysts in BYU’s football program this fall. It’s a trend made popular by Nick Saban at Alabama.
There will be four analysts on Sitake’s staff this fall and those positions are in the process of being filled. There’s no formal announcement planned at this time as to who they are. No practices, no games, no rush. But they’re coming, according to athletic director Tom Holmoe, whom I bumped into this week at a Utah National Football Foundation event.
So, what do analysts do?
First, here's what they don't do.
The NCAA allows for 10 full-time assistant coaches. Unlike those assistants, analysts cannot coach players. They cannot recruit. They cannot be involved in the skill development of players at any time. That’s coaching.
Analysts can be used as a hybrid, something akin to a quality control coach, kind of like a graduate assistant or administrative assistant. They can break down film, make cutouts of plays, and develop computerized data that show tendencies. They can prepare agendas for position group meetings, create scouting reports and help prepare game plans.
Alabama basically has an analyst assigned to every full-time assistant coach. Some programs assign a couple of analysts for the defense and a couple for the offense.
At Virginia, Bronco Mendenhall had three analysts last season and will enter this fall with six. It’s part of a $500,000 a year investment Virginia’s made in the football program and also increases his conditioning staff from three to five, according to The Daily Progress.
A four-win BYU season may have inspired the school’s administration to also make an investment. A lot of titles and hats have been switched around. It was evident in assistant hires since December, including luring Jeff Grimes from LSU to be the offensive coordinator and adding two experienced former offensive coordinators in Fesi Sitake and Aaron Roderick.
Holmoe explained that a lot of analysts are used in much the same way you see in the NFL. In college, many analysts are hired because they are in transition, having just lost a job and are looking for a place to land. He gave examples of Steve Sarkisian after leaving USC and Roderick with the Cougars this past year after leaving Utah. Former Cougar graduate assistant coach JD Falslev was an analyst this past year, although Falslev was paid part-time and volunteered additional time.
Falslev said analysts are removed from the emotion and day-to-day exposure with players and personalities and politics so they can be more objective by seeing things from a distance.
What’s different this year is Holmoe created paid positions for four analysts, a move that will help BYU keep pace with college football trends.
“You have to give Holmoe credit for taking the next step in trying to further BYU’s football premise,” said Falslev. “You could really see the difference in spring and I’ll promise you this team will be improved because of things he has done this offseason. It is all about the players, giving them what they need to play at a higher level and all the coaches have bought in; it’s about the players.”
Analysts fill a need and schools can help them too because many are in transit.
“It gives a guy a chance to land somewhere and keep involved,” said Holmoe. “It keeps them engaged in the game. It’s a place they can keep themselves busy while other opportunities might come.”
You’d expect this might be perfect for graduate assistant coaches who have gone beyond their allotted two years allowed by the NCAA. Analysts do not have to be enrolled in school.
I can envision BYU, Utah State and Utah hiring analysts who are up-and-coming talent in the coaching profession, former players or GAs, or former full-time coaches who can add to the knowledge base. Trained extra sets of eyes are valuable.
Some head coaches feel they’re just fine with staff positions like personnel director, quality control assistant, player development and other titles.
But the bottom line is productivity. How much knowledge can be analyzed and applied in the course of a week where seasons are crazy and coaches swamped?
Win only four times and you'll take all the analysts you can get.