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Sitake announces hiring of Sione Po’uha on defensive staff

Former Utah coach and veteran NFL player joins Jay Hill’s defensive staff

PROVO, Utah — BYU head coach Kalani Sitake today announced the hiring of Sione Po’uha as a defensive assistant coach.

Po’uha is a former Utah defensive tackle (2001-04) and eight-year NFL veteran player who has coached at Navy and Utah since finishing his professional playing career.

“Sione is a great coach who really understands the game up front as a longtime NFL defensive tackle and a defensive line coach at Navy and Utah,” Sitake said. “He is a great technician and teacher, and he really knows how to work with people as a life coach and a leader in the community. I’m excited to work with Sione and welcome him to BYU.”

A Salt Lake City native, Po’uha comes to BYU after coaching defensive tackles at Utah from 2018-2021 and serving in the same capacity at Navy for the 2018 season. He was also Utah's director of football player development under Kyle Whittingham in 2017 before going to Navy. Po’uha previously worked two years as a Utah student-assistant coach in 2015-16 while completing his undergraduate degree after finishing his NFL career.

“Sione was a phenomenal player and is an outstanding coach,” said BYU defensive coordinator and associate head coach Jay Hill. “His reputation precedes him, both in how he coaches his players and in how he recruits. I’m super excited about Sione joining our staff and the difference he will make for us on and off the field.”

Po’uha developed great defensive linemen while coaching at his alma mater. He was a big part of the development of Leki Fotu, John Penisini and Junior Tafuna, among others. Under Po'uha's tutelage, defensive tackle Fotu earned All-America Second Team honors from Walter Camp and FWAA, and third-team accolades from AP, while earning his second-consecutive first-team All-Pac-12 recognition. Penisini also earned second-team All-Pac-12. Fotu was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by Arizona, and Penisini was selected in the sixth round by Detroit. Tafuna was named the 2021 Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

"It's a great day for my family and me," Po'uha said. "We have been graciously welcomed and instantly feel the love, passion and excitement of BYU—the university, the football program and the family. We would like to thank the administration, Kalani Sitake and Jay Hill for this opportunity. I’m extremely excited to be here and can’t wait to get working. Go Cougars!"

Po’uha first joined the Utah staff during preparations for the 2018 Holiday Bowl against Northwestern and coached in the game later that month. In 2019 Po'uha was part of a defensive staff that helped lead the Utes to one of the most successful seasons in school history. Utah ranked No. 2 in the FBS in total defense that season and held six opponents to seven points or fewer, the most by an FBS team since 2006. The Utes had the No. 3 rushing defense in the FBS and recorded the best statistical season by a conference team in the Pac-12 era in three categories: total yards (269.2), rushing yards (81.8) and points allowed (15.0).

The Utes finished a shortened 2020 season leading the Pac-12 in rushing defense and second in the league in total defense, holding opponents to just 107.8 rushing yards per game, which ranked No. 11 nationally. In 2021, Utah earned the program’s first Pac-12 championship and berth in the Rose Bowl, going 10-4 on the season. Utah’s defensive front helped the Utes rank No. 19 in the nation that season in rush defense (119.4 ypg), No. 19 in sacks (3.00) and No. 21 in tackles for loss (6.9).

As a player, Po’uha completed his four-year career at Utah as a first-team All-Mountain West defensive lineman for the program’s undefeated Fiesta Bowl champion team in 2004 before embarking on an eight-year NFL career. He was selected in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft by the New York Jets and played in 106 games with 55 starts from 2005-12, accumulating 263 career tackles.

Po’uha earned a bachelor’s degree from Utah in sociology in 2016. He and his wife Katie have four children, sons Viliami and Sonasi and daughters Leilani and Kesaia.

Specific position assignments for Po’uha and other defensive assistant coaches will be announced later once the entire staff is finalized.