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Provo • Along with preparing three defensive players last season at Southern Utah University who would eventually sign with NFL teams in 2016, Ed Lamb coached a couple of the top offensive players to ever suit up for the Thunderbirds running back Malik Brown and receiver Mike Sharp.
Now Lamb gets the unwanted task of figuring out ways to stop them, having traded the head coaching role at SUU for a job as BYU's assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and safeties coach. The 5-4 Cougars and 5-4 T-birds, who have almost too many connections to count, kick off Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (1 p.m. MT, BYUtv) in the first meeting between the schools some 208 miles apart.
"It certainly helps with our personnel scouting report," Lamb said Tuesday when asked if his presence on the BYU sidelines will give the Cougars an advantage. "I know what their strengths and capabilities are. But at the same time, I don't know if that helps our guys necessarily. Like, I see all those SUU players in the finest light. … I am sharing with our guys here more of that."
Lamb acknowledges this has been an interesting, if not difficult and conflicting, week for him. He says he wishes nothing but success for the program he directed for eight years "364 days a year."
"I have had to make a conscientious decision to make it business as usual," he said. "The very honest answer is that those players and coaches that are still at SUU that were there during my time, I consider them my family for the rest of my life, and would do anything for them.
"So I really have to take that emotion out of it, and I don't have a problem recognizing that, talking about it," Lamb continued. " But when I show up for work, just as it was for eight years down there my whole priority professionally was to make each one of those players the best student-athlete they could be 100 percent of my focus has changed to BYU players, and that is fairly simple to keep straight. There is no conflict there as far as my day to day routine is concerned."
Gilford, Clark joined BYU, too
BYU cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford also coached at SUU last year, and made the difficult decision to return to his alma mater when new BYU head coach Kalani Sitake offered him a job. It was especially hard for Gilford because his close friend, Demario Warren, was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach when Lamb moved on to BYU.
Gilford has spent the week telling BYU's players how much the game means to SUU's guys.
"They feel that they can win," Gilford said. "That was our message: No matter who we played, we felt like we had the guys to win. We went into every game expecting to win."
SUU knocked off three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents in Lamb's tenure: South Alabama, UNLV and Texas-San Antonio.
New BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark coached at SUU from 2008-13 before joining Jay Hill's staff at Weber State.
Saturday's expected attendance of more than 60,000 will be the largest crowd ever to witness an SUU football game. … SUU's Brown has rushed for 839 yards on 142 carries in nine games, while receiver Sharp has 63 receptions for 744 yards. BYU's Jamaal Williams has rushed for 1,034 in eight games.… BYU is 7-0 against FCS teams the last 10 seasons, outscoring them by an average of 54-8 in that stretch. … BYU starting offensive linemen Andrew Eide and Keyan Norman played for and graduated from SUU last year before enrolling in graduate programs at BYU in 2016.
Southern Utah at BYU
P Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • BYUtv