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BYU hires former player Kalani Sitake to replace Bronco Mendenhall

Sitake is the first former LaVell Edwards player to coach the Cougars, and is known for his aggressive defenses.

Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

BYU has picked Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake to be its new head coach, the school announced Saturday. Sitake replaces former head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who left Provo to become the head coach at Virginia.

While Oregon State's defense struggled in a transition year, ranking 110th nationally in the S&P+ ratings, Sitake became known for having impressive, super-aggressive defenses while at Utah. That will bring some familiarity to BYU, which also plays an aggressive style.

BYU fans at Vanquish the Foe, on why the hire makes sense:

Sitake brings not just a connection to BYU, but experience recruiting in BYU's natural territories, and a record of building impressive defenses without access to lots of blue chip athletes. He also isn't tied to an offensive system that some BYU fans would find controversial, like [Navy coach Ken] Niumatalolo.

Sitake, 40, played fullback at BYU, graduating in 2000. He became and assistant coach at Eastern Arizona for a year, before returning to BYU as a graduate. He left to become an offensive assistant at Southern Utah for two years, before going to Utah, where he was the linebackers coach four years and eventually elevated to defensive coordinator in 2009. Sitake held that position through the 2014 season. In 2015, he left to join former Utah colleague Gary Andersen at Oregon State to become the defensive coordinator of the Beavers.

Sitake made $730,000 as OSU's defensive coordinator this year, making him the 27th-highest paid assistant coach in the country.

The BYU coaching search was unique from the beginning, and Sitake was one of only a few qualified candidates. Because of the current college football landscape, and with the Cougars in a bit of limbo, this might be BYU's most important hire ever, as explained by SB Nation's Steven Godfrey and Matt Brown.

Godfrey: Not to play with hyperbole, but considering the long-standing campaign for BYU to join a Power 5 (most likely the Pac-12 or Big 12), is this the most important hire in the program's modern history?

Matt: I don't think it is hyperbolic at all. BYU cannot afford to drop into mediocrity now. This athletic program will be in a tough spot if it misses the hire and goes 4-8 over the next few seasons.