BYU football: How Fesi Sitake sold a 4-star wide receiver on BYU

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PROVO — BYU has made notable strides recently in recruiting and developing NFL-quality receivers, and top recruits are beginning to notice.

Take LaMason Waller as perhaps the most recent example.

Waller is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound wide receiver prospect from Hesperia, California, who is rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports. Waller announced his commitment to sign with BYU on Friday over many top programs, both regionally and nationally, but pledged to BYU due in large part to the unique relationships he established, particularly with BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake.

"It's been a bit chaotic, but I learned to go where you want to and not (necessarily) the big-name schools," Waller said during an interview conducted by ESPN 960 a little more than a week before he announced his commitment, "and get to know all these great coaches and build bonds with them, because you never know what's going to happen in college football."

Waller has become familiar with where BYU stands through his initial introduction to Fesi Sitake and by witnessing the recent success of former BYU receiver Puka Nacua at the professional level. Both of these aspects played big in the Cougars' favor in securing his commitment.

Strong first impression

Long before Nacua even began his remarkable rookie campaign for the Los Angeles Rams, Waller began the process of learning about BYU from someone who spent a good deal of time covering Cougar receivers before becoming a teacher at Waller's junior high.

The teacher's name was Tim McTyer, who starred for BYU in the mid-1990s and stands as one of the best cover cornerbacks to ever play in Provo. McTyer talked positively about BYU to Waller and taught him good habits, which lasted until this day.

"He always made sure I did my work and that I wasn't playing around," Waller said. "He was hard on us, but we appreciate that now."

So with McTyer's influence in store, it made sense as to why Waller decided to stop by BYU a couple of summers ago while on a recruiting trip to the state of Utah. Upon arrival at BYU, Waller was introduced to Sitake, and the two hit it off instantly.

"That's the first time I met him; and ever since that first conversation I've (learned) that he's just a real dude," Waller said. "What he did with Puka — I've seen that, and he's just a genuine guy who relates to me. That's the biggest thing for me."

Strengthened impressions

Fesi Sitake has been diligent in keeping in good contact with Waller since the initial introduction, which culminated in an official visit taken by the Sultana High product earlier this month, and ultimately his commitment to sign with the Cougars.

As to what has retained his interest in BYU despite overtures made by many other programs, Waller puts his relationship with Sitake at the center of it.

"It's really just my relationship with Fesi; that's my dude," Waller said. "I've liked him every year since I was a sophomore when I visited. We've always been talking once a week or twice a week, so that's my guy."

Helping BYU's cause is that Waller is the prospect of stability of a coaching staff that has shown good recent success in developing professional talent.

"I know that he's going to be my coach for four years if I plan on going to BYU, so that's really big," Waller said.

Waller has also built relationships with current Cougars players, particularly freshman quarterback Noah Lugo, who he's known since the time he was 6 years old.

A legit four-star talent

While a lot of four-star receivers showcase elite top-end speed, Waller isn't necessarily that type — much like other standout NFL receivers. Nacua, himself, clocked a 4.57 40-yard dash at his BYU pro day, while others, including one notable player that Waller compares himself to as one of the NFL's top pass-catchers, but not someone anyone would define as speed merchant.

"I've been getting a lot better with my route running. ... I feel like I'm a Keenan Allen-type guy in that I'm not the fastest guy, but I've got nice routes and I can get open and create separation," Waller said.

With good height, ball skills and precise route-running, Waller has seen a lot of initial success in the prep ranks that any college coach would be privileged to develop.

"I think I'm a really great deep threat, and I have sure hands and crisp routes. … So that's all I bring to the table as a receiver and as a football player," Waller said.

Criddle's conclusion

The receiver room, historically, has been one of the positions that rarely, if ever, produces NFL talent. In the modern era (since 2006), the following are BYU receivers that were rostered or placed on a practice squad in the NFL:

  • Puka Nacua
  • Dax Milne
  • Jordan Leslie
  • Mitch Mathews
  • Austin Collie
  • Todd Watkins

The list is obviously not as long as any BYU fan would like, but I believe the list will be changing in the years to come. Sitake has been the wide receivers coach since 2018 and has already produced two NFL draft picks in both Nacua and Milne.

The receiver room is, arguably, the most talented room on the roster; that has everything to do with Sitake. Waller is bought into BYU, but he's committed to Sitake.

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Ben Criddle


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