BYU coach Kalani Sitake defends strength staff as another Cougar is lost for season due to injury

Linebacker Grant Jones will have season-ending surgery, becomes 36th player to miss significant time due to injury

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Grant Jones (37) makes an interception past Boise State Broncos wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (1) during the game LaVell Edwards Stadium Friday, October 6, 2017.

Provo • The mood was understandably lighter and more upbeat Monday at BYU coach Kalani Sitake’s weekly news briefing after the Cougars snapped their seven-game losing skid with a 41-20 win over San Jose State last weekend.

However, the coach still delivered some sobering news.

The injury that caused senior linebacker Grant Jones to leave the game is season-ending. Jones will have surgery soon, Sitake said.

“That is really unfortunate,” Sitake said. “He was starting to come along really well, especially at that linebacker position, made a lot of plays for us. Sad to see it end this way.”

Running back KJ Hall and linebacker Fred Warner also left the game with injuries and did not return.

Sitake said neither injury is season-ending, but the players will both be evaluated this week and are day-to-day.

“There is still a chance for Fred and KJ to play,” Sitake said.

BYU at Fresno State<br>Saturday, 8:45 p.m. MDT<br>TV • ESPN2.

Jones becomes the 36th BYU player to miss significant time with an injury this season. Hall is also on that list, having been injured in the LSU game the second week. Warner is not, but his brother Troy Warner is, having suffered a season-ending foot injury against East Carolina.

After fielding two questions about why the Cougars are suffering so many injuries this season, and whether he sees a pattern emerging, Sitake defended coach Nu’u Tafisi, BYU’s director of football strength and conditioning.

Tafisi and his staff have been criticized recently by several prominent former players, including Jordan Pendleton and Brady Poppinga.

“It is not the weight room, if that is what everybody is trying to get to,” Sitake said. “We have the best strength staff, strength coach in the country, so Nu’u Tafisi, I will back him up 100 percent. The guy played at Cal, worked at Boise State. Look at his resume. … He went to USC and is doing a great job with our guys right now.”

If Hall can’t play against the Bulldogs, the Cougars will have to further rely on junior Squally Canada, sophomore Riley Burt, sophomore Austin Kafentzis and fullback Brayden El-Bakri.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake, sits down for interviews during BYU Football Media Day at BYU Broadcasting in Provo on Friday, June 23, 2017.

“That one is always hard,” Sitake said when asked why the injuries are piling up. “Life would be simpler if you could name one problem, one reason why things happen. There are a bunch of factors that go into it.

“ Whether it is guys coming home from missions, or sometimes the field surface, or sometimes the wear and tear of football, injuries are not brand-new to this game,” Sitake continued. “We see it in all levels, whether it is little league all the way through the NFL. So yeah, if there were a secret remedy, I think everybody would have figured it out by now.”

Sitake said there is no single injury that is more prevalent than the others.

“I don’t think you can narrow it down to one thing,” he said.

Linebacker Adam Pulsipher said the unit that has been plagued by injuries and the preseason suspension of Francis Bernard will carry on in Jones’ absence. Junior Morgan Unga stepped in when Warner went down Saturday and led the team with eight tackles. Senior Va’a Niumatalolo and freshman Isaiah Kaufusi could see expanded roles, as well as Johnny “Ku-J” Tapusoa.