BYU Cougars

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Nation’s top-rated unsigned QB to play for Stanford… eventually

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It will take a bit for Stanford to realize the benefits of it, but the Cardinal landed a fairly significant Herbie Hancock Wednesday morning.

Entering National Signing Day, Tanner McKee was the highest-rated unsigned recruit at the quarterback position.  The California high schooler was rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 46 prospect overall.

While Alabama, BYU, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington were viewed as potential landing spots, Stanford was viewed as the overwhelming favorite to land the signal-caller.  In the end, McKee did the expected and projected, confirming that he will, eventually, head down to The Farm.

As has previously been reported, McKee will serve a two-year LDS mission before enrolling in college.  That means he won’t be available to the Cardinal until the 2020 season — provided he doesn’t change his mind in the interim and moves on to another program, of course.

BYU turns to Rice assistant to round out coaching staff

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An offseason of coaching staff upheaval has come to an end in Provo.

AJ Steward, the football program announced Tuesday, has been named as the Cougars running backs coach.  The 28-year-old Steward, who played his college football at Kansas, had spent the past four seasons as the running backs coach at Rice before moving on to BYU.

Steward’s first job at the collegiate level came as a graduate assistant for the Owls, meaning this move marks his first coaching gig outside of that Conference USA program.

“AJ is known as an excellent recruiter and for his ability to develop players,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement. “He has done great things as a running backs coach and brings unique experience from an outstanding academic school, which helps him understand one of the important focuses we have here at BYU. I’m excited to welcome AJ to our coaching staff.”

“My wife and I are tremendously excited and are blessed to join the BYU football family,” Steward said. “I am grateful for Coach Sitake, Tom Holmoe, President Worthen and Coach Grimes for entrusting me with this amazing opportunity to come to Provo and be part of the rich football tradition at BYU. I sincerely look forward to not only making a difference on the field but also making a life-long impact on the young men in the program.

“I also want to express my appreciation to Coach David Bailiff and Rice University for such a great experience, which has granted me the opportunity to learn, build and grow into the coach that I am today.”

Including Steward, five of the 10 coaches on Sitake’s staff weren’t with the program a year ago.

Three weeks after putting the finishing touches on a 4-9 season, the lowest point for the program since a 3-8 1970 campaign, BYU hired LSU line coach Jeff Grimes as its new coordinator. Grimes replaced Ty Detmer, who was fired in late November after directing an offense that was 123rd (out of 129 teams) in scoring and 118th in yards.  In late December, three new offensive assistants were added as well.

On the defensive side, longtime assistant Steve Kaufusi stepped down from his post as linebackers coach last month and was replaced by Preston Hadley, who was named safeties coach.  Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers job.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.

Transferring Hawaii WR Dylan Collie narrows choices to BYU, Vandy

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It’s not yet known to where Dylan Collie will transfer, but we do know his two likely landing spots.

In the middle of last month, Collie announced that he would be transferring from Hawaii. Wednesday, the wide receiver confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune that he has narrowed his potential destinations down to a pair of programs — BYU and Vanderbilt.

A move to the football independent would serve as a homecoming for Collie as he signed with BYU in 2012.  After redshirting as a true freshman and completing a two-year LDS Church mission after that, however, he opted to transfer to Hawaii. There’s also a deep family connection to BYU as two of Collie’s brothers, Austin and Zac, played receiver at BYU. Their father, Scott Collie, also played his college football for the Cougars.

“I had a great in-home visit with coaches from both schools,” the youngest Collie brother told the Tribune. “Between the football and the education, both are great opportunities, and both give me a chance to play at the next level.”

Regardless of which of the two schools he ultimately chooses — there’s no timeline for a final decision — Collie will be eligible to play immediately as he would be coming into either football program as a graduate transfer.

This past season, Collie led the Rainbow Warriors in receptions with 56, and was second in receiving yards (636) and receiving touchdowns (four). In three years at the Mountain West school, Collie totaled 118 catches for 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns.

NC State lines up home-and-homes with BYU, USF, La Tech

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NC State has lined up a series of home-and-homes with three future opponents, though, as of this writing, the Pack haven’t talked about any of them.

Their opponents have, though.

First up is South Florida. The Wolfpack and Bulls have inked a 2-game series calling for USF to visit Raleigh on Sept. 2, 2021 and NC State to visit Tampa on Sept. 14, 2024.

“We are excited to add N.C. State, a high-quality program that has played in four straight bowl games, to our football schedule,” USF AD Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Bulls football is sustaining a run of tremendous success and we will continue to seek exciting, top-level opponents to challenge during the non-conference season and bring to Raymond James Stadium.”

The two sides have met three times previously, with NC State holding a 2-1 edge and a win in their last meeting, a 49-17 blowout in 2014 in Tampa.

Next up is Louisiana Tech. NC State will actually play three future games with the Bulldogs, also beginning in 2021. NC State will host Louisiana Tech on Oct. 2, 2021 and Sept. 7, 2024, and visit Ruston, La., on Sept. 6, 2025. The Wolfpack and Bulldogs have played just once previously, a 40-14 NC State win to open the 2013 season.

Finally, NC State has also agreed to a home-and-home with BYU, calling for BYU to visit Raleigh on Nov. 9, 2024, and NC State to return the favor on Aug. 29, 2030.

NC State and BYU have never played previously.

The 2030 game is not the furthest out game on the NC State schedule. As per the Irish’s agreement with the ACC, NC State is slated for a TBD visit to Notre Dame at some point in the year 2037. The freshmen in that game have yet to be born.

Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down

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A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.

The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach.  Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.

Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU.  From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”

“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”

In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired.  Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.

Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.