Another day, another Sonny Dykes story. It seemed to be the theme over the past week as the Big 12′s native son took his TCU team into the national championship game against Georgia on Monday.
So let’s tell a Dykes story that actually pertains to BYU these days. We will take you back to four years ago, when Dykes took his upstart SMU team to play the almighty Horned Frogs.
SMU won that day, an unlikely victory by pretty much every metric. And in the bowels of Amon G. Carter stadium, Dykes was asked the obvious question “How do you get a team from the American Athletic Conference to beat a Big 12 power?”
For the next several minutes, Dykes spoke of two things really: recruiting and coaching Texas. He put together a staff of essentially all Texas coaches with deep roots at the high school level. He left no stone unturned, joking that he sealed the deal with running backs coach Ra’Shaad Samples, the son of legendary high school coach Reginald Samples, in a Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. He’d be a linchpin to the strategy — a guy who’d bring instant credibility and connections.
Once he had his coaches in place, Dykes went on an all-out blitz to reel in Texas transfers and high school kids. Anybody interested, anybody with relationships, he tried. His method was simple: You beat Big 12 teams with Texas talent. And you get that Texas talent by having Texas coaches.
“This is the best state to recruit in the country,” Dykes said this summer. “And this place is all about relationships. Showing up, being there and having a history.”
There is a point to this story. BYU finalized its defensive staff this week. It is a good staff by most metrics — a Power Five staff even.
It flexes a new monetary commitment as the Cougars transition to the Big 12 and has coaches with former head coaching experience (Jay Hill) and coordinating experience (Justin Ena). It hits all the right notes, except one. This staff has very limited ties to Texas, the main hub of recruiting in the Big 12 and a proven key to winning in that conference.
Kalani Sitake has acknowledged that publicly, saying part of the recruiting strategy must be hitting Texas in some capacity (he also mentioned Florida and Ohio as potential hotbeds). Which is why not having one guy on the staff either from Texas, or with ties to the state, is a surprise.
“I think it’s important for us to span [to Texas],” Sitake said. “... It’d be foolish of us not to go down that path in recruiting. Widening the net a little bit more and seeing the other possible candidates.”
Yet, this staff — while in many ways is an upgrade — still feels like Sitake went back to his Utah roots and relationships he has already had. Hill coached with him at Utah, and the two are close friends.
Ena is a former BYU football player who has coached pretty much everywhere in Utah — except Snow College — but has only coached at San Diego State outside the state’s boundary.
Essentially the closest person to Texas recruiting remains cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford — who has ties to Oklahoma — but he was on the staff before.
It felt telling last month when Hill was asked where he wanted to focus on recruiting as the new defensive coordinator. It took him listing off five different states before he even touched on Texas.
“First and foremost you have to put a stake in your home territory,” he said. “Then everything surrounding the state is critical. Nevada, California, the Pacific Northwest — those will be critical hotbeds that I feel comfortable recruiting. Then Texas as well, I think, has got to be a piece.”
Maybe BYU can compete in the Big 12 without many Texas recruits. It does have a much different recruiting strategy than most college football teams. But in the Big 12, Texas talent is proven to work. As of now, BYU still doesn’t have the staff that shows it can recruit it. And it didn’t make much of an effort this offseason to show it was a priority.
• New BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis arrived on campus on Monday. What is BYU getting in the former USC and Pitt transfer?
• The funeral for former BYU football player Sione Veikoso will be held this week. Veikoso was killed in a construction accident in Hawaii a week ago.
• BYU men’s basketball will host Gonzaga in the presumed final meeting between the two schools in Provo for the foreseeable future. While still a juggernaut, Gonzaga has shown some rare cracks this year in WCC play. Still, with BYU very much a work in progress, the prospects for an upset look slim this year.
• Jamaal Williams and Tyler Allgeier became the first two BYU running backs to break the 1,000-yard mark in the NFL on Sunday.
• Speaking of Williams, the six-year veteran had himself quite the Sunday night, going viral multiple times on the SNF broadcast.