PROVO — On the first day of the inaugural early signing period for college football, BYU loaded up on big bodies.
The Cougars signed a total of 13 players Wednesday, including five giant offensive linemen — Harris LaChance (6-foot-8, 275 pounds) from Herriman High School; Tysen Lewis (6-5, 270) from Weber High; and Jacob Smith (6-6, 305) from Farmington, Minnesota — as well as one defensive lineman, 6-8, 270-pound Chinonso Opara from Juan Diego High.
“There’s a lot of athleticism in that group. You talk to (defensive coordinator Ilaisa) Tuiaki and he thinks some of them can play on the D-line,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “If you look at the guys on the list, they can swing at both O-line and D-line. It’s a matter of how we think they’ll project and develop in the next little bit. We’re trying to get big, strong bodies, whether they’re playing O-line or D-line. We feel really good about this group.”
Though he was just hired last week, new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, a longtime offensive line coach, was involved in last-minute recruiting efforts.
“Once everything was done, he went to work quickly. The goal is to get him involved with all of the offensive guys,” Sitake said of Grimes. “He was on the phone quite a bit, talking to a lot of families and a lot of recruits. It’s a good sign that you see a lot of these O-linemen sign. Coach Grimes is a great recruiter. He has a vision of what he sees. It’s got to be built from the O-line. He liked the fact that we have some big bodies there. I thought we got better but we definitely got bigger.”
BYU also signed one quarterback Wednesday, Stacy Conner from Wylie, Texas.
“He’s a great athlete. He’s big. He’s got humongous hands and a large wingspan. He’s got a rocket of an arm,” Sitake said. “If you have a guy that can do that and be that big of a person, we’re fortunate to get him out of Texas. This is his dream school.”
BYU also signed defensive back Talan Alfrey, wide receiver Brayden Cosper, defensive back Brach Davis, linebackers Isaac Matua and Oliver Nasilai and tight end Ben Tuipulotu.
Assistant head coach Ed Lamb said the 13 signees, who hail from six different states, was “the exact number we anticipated.”
Another national signing day will take place on Feb. 7.
Lamb added that a couple of other prospects signed Wednesday but BYU won’t release their names until February — at the players’ request.
What is Lamb’s description of this early signing period class overall?
“Versatility and fit. As a coaching staff, since we first got here, we wanted to recruit versatility, development potential, length, speed, guys that play multiple positions and sometimes multiple sports,” he said. “Guys that could be better than maybe other schools think they could be with a lot of pushing, prodding and pulling. I think we have that.”
Lamb said he likes the early signing period.
“It’s definitely different. One of the things I enjoy the most about it is, it’s cleaning up the language of recruiting. Commitment has started to mean, ‘Hey, coach, I’m committed to you. You’re the best thing I’ve got going right now.’ This early signing period lets us know that he’s truly committed, 100 percent,” Lamb said. “We don’t need everybody we’re recruiting to sign early or to be committed early. We’re not even chasing that. We would like to know that a commitment — there are no other reservations. They’re not committed pending their visit to campus. They’re not committed pending on who we hire as our offensive coordinator. They’re committed 100 percent to BYU, no matter who the coaching staff is and no matter if we won or lost our last game.”
BYU also announced the following returned missionaries that will join the program this winter — linebackers Jeremiah Ieremia and Hirkley Latu; and defensive linemen Devin Kaufusi and David Lui; and placekicker Skyler Southam.
The following returned missionaries will join the program in the fall: Offensive linemen Clark Barrington and J.T. Gentry; quarterback Jaren Hall; defensive backs Drew Jensen and Max Tooley; tight end Hank Tuipulotu; and defensive linemen Atunaisa Mahe and Darius McFarland.