BYU fans celebrate after winning an NCAA college football game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, September 11, 2021. BYU won 26-17. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)
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PROVO — Justin Anderson has a pretty straightforward way of describing his job as the new director of player personnel for Kalani Sitake’s football support staff at BYU.
“It’s like a general manager at the NFL level,” he said evenly.
Simple enough in a world ruled by the growing emergence of the NCAA transfer portal, isn’t it? Anderson is the guy in charge of balancing the spreadsheet, filling roster spots and checking scholarship limits, making sure the number of incoming rookies matches – or at least doesn’t exceed – the outgoing players. and graduates.
It runs the portal, like all programs, and coordinates arrival times on campus for each football player, determining when the eligibility “clock” can start and when it ends. Add to that the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which reaches players from several colleges, but none higher than those from the church’s flagship institution.
Simple enough, right? Anything else you want to add?
Perhaps add name, image and likeness legislation, which radically reshapes the way rosters are run on a day-to-day basis – often working in tandem with the transfer portal, as recent players have shown college basketball courts across the country.
“I think it’s just a matter of balancing your roster,” Anderson said. “The Transfer Portal and NIL are here to stay, so it’s just a matter of who fits your program and what kind of culture you’re trying to build. Culture is most important for every program.”
In his new (and also returning) role at BYU, Anderson will work under Sitake’s support staff, working closely with recruiting coordinator Jasen Ah You and other personnel managers while reporting directly to the chief of staff. Jon Swift.
It’s all designed to take what BYU has been able to do so far – be competitive among the Power Five, if not always spectacular – and be consistent with that. And if you want a director of player personnel or a “general manager” like you find in the Power Five, then why not get one with experience in the Power Five?
“He’s been a coach before, he was a teammate of mine, and he knows what the BYU experience is,” Sitake said of Anderson. “But he also has the experience of seeing what it is at the P5 level, and more recently when he was hired quickly at East Carolina.
“We spoke to people in East Carolina, asked permission to speak to him to gauge his interest, and as we spoke with him, we knew he would be a good fit here and with this support staff. I think that “There are still a number of people who can really improve this program; that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Anderson was among eight new recruits and staff promotions announced Monday by BYU, a group that included six promotions within BYU athletics to roles more directly associated with the football program, as well as the hiring of a former rising star equipment manager of the Mountain West via Fresno State and UNLV.
Although Anderson is officially a new recruit, he is not new to the program. And there’s nowhere else the former Orem High star would rather be.
“This is my home,” Anderson said. “My family is here. I was really grateful to coach with (ECU coach Mike Houston) in East Carolina, and I learned a lot in three months. But when that opportunity came, he gave me good advice and really supported me. It’s not easy for him either.”
Anderson, who played wide receiver at BYU and Ricks College from 1995-2002 (with a stint in San Antonio in between), worked across the country from offensive coordinator at Harmony High School in St. Cloud, Florida shortly after graduating with a communications grad in 2002 to become an assistant head coach, passing play coordinator and wide receivers/tight ends coach at Nicholls State from 2010-15.
After returning to his alma mater as recruiting coordinator in 2015, Anderson followed former coach Bronco Mendenhall east to Virginia to work in the same role, coordinating program recruiting and identifying, evaluating and retaining potential athletes for the football program.
Under Anderson, the Cavaliers produced the two highest-ranked signing classes in program history, helping Mendenhall earn bowl eligibility for four of his five years at the helm, including an Orange Bowl berth. in 2019.
When Mendenhall abruptly quit after the 2021 season, Anderson (along with the rest of the Virginia staff) was left to the wind. He took a job with East Carolina, where he worked hard for three months, before personnel reorganizations in preparation for BYU’s jump to the Big 12 opened up an opportunity for him to come home.
It’s not an easy task for Anderson either. He’s tasked with preparing a roster to join a Power Five conference for the first time in the program’s history, where an increase in television revenue awaits him – but also an increased and constant level of competition.
How does Anderson think BYU will acclimate to the P5 ranks? Pretty good, if the past is to be believed — he saw firsthand how close the Cougars could be to “Power Five” when he returned to Provo for Virginia’s 66-49 loss at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Last year when we played them I thought they looked great,” he said. “They managed to beat the Power Five programs, so they have a Power Five list. You can’t beat those teams without a Power Five list.”