A pair of speed athletes, both track stars, will find themselves in a tug-of-war between BYU’s offensive and defensive coaches when they arrive on campus this summer.
On Wednesday’s letter of intent signing day, Tariq Buchanan from Texas and San Diego’s Keenan Ellis delivered their signatures.
“They are the only two guys in this group that can play either corner or receiver,” said offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. "Right now, Tariq will play receiver.”
BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb said Ellis is a cornerback until further notice.
Unlike the majority of the recruits BYU signed Wednesday, Buchanan and Ellis will enroll for the 2017 season.
Head coach Kalani Sitake said he likes versatility and he said Detmer has still been “campaigning” for starting corners Troy Warner and Dayan Lake to play receiver.
Here are the backstories on Buchanan and Ellis.
Detmer turned to a 31-year-old relationship to tap into a receiver outside of Austin, Texas, at Elgin High. The Elgin offensive coordinator is former BYU linebacker coach Claude Bassett, who recruited Detmer out of San Antonio in 1986.
“Claude put me on to Tariq early,” said Detmer.
“He was my best receiver,” said Bassett. “He also played corner. Tariq ran 22.47 (seconds) in the regional track meet last year as a junior, but he finished third so he didn't get to go to the state meet. The two guys that beat him finished first and third at the state meet. He can really go.”
Buchanan earned first team all-district 19 in 5A. He caught 46 passes for 782 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns. “He plays basketball and was all-district last year. He’s an excellent student, plays on both sides of the ball and is a distinguished kick returner,” said Bassett who compared Buchanan to former BYU corner Brian Mitchell, who he recruited out of Waco.
“He may be as physical as Derwin Gray was coming out of Judson. He loved his visit and loves Ty Detmer. He was honored to have had Coach Sitake in his home. He was recruited by Houston, Texas Tech, UTEP, SMU, Kansas State and North Texas. He committed to BYU in May of 2016 to focus on his senior season. He’s been loyal and never wavered.”
In San Diego, BYU signed Bonita High receiver Ellis, who's 6-1, 170. His athletic ability stood out to former BYU track coach Craig Poole, who moved to Chula Vista, California, to be the director and head coach of the U.S. Olympic Resident Training facility for USA Track and Field after leaving BYU half a decade ago.
Poole attended BYU bowl practices in Chula Vista at this year’s Poinsettia Bowl. The community college where the Cougars practiced was only a few blocks from Poole’s house.
Ellis is a 3-star recruit by Scout.com and had 41 catches for 472 yards and 9 touchdowns in 10 games this past season. He averaged 23 yards per catch and helped Bonita capture a CIF title. He ran the 200 and 400 meters for Bonita. Poole put BYU coaches on to Ellis after Tony Campbell, the coach at Southwestern Community College, praised Ellis for making the finals in the state track meet.
“I did attend one of his games and saw him play,” said Poole. “I met him and shook his hand. He’s a nice kid, he’ll fit into BYU. His coaching staff had high praise for BYU and said they wanted him to move out of the area to Provo where he could have something to live for and develop in a good environment.”
Poole said Ellis has the moves, athletic ability, hands and speed to be a good one for the Cougars and he passed along his name to BYU's track coaches. “I don’t know what they’ve done with that, but we’ll see.”
Lamb said he’d been on Ellis early, noticing his track abilities first. "The first place I look is track times and it’s all on the internet now. He has demonstrative skills in track. He has long arms and at just over 6 feet, he can play longer than that. He can play big as a man cover corner."
Lamb offered Ellis a scholarship at a satellite camp at Linford Christian High. “He was playing receiver and doing well. I asked him to show me what he could do as a corner and immediately saw how competitive and quick he was. I immediately extended an offer.”
Ellis asked Lamb what BYU’s receiver depth was like. “I told him, 'don’t even think about that now, you’re a cornerback. We love your versatility. If we need you at receiver, to take one for the team, we’ll do that but right now I’m asking you to trust us.’ He committed and stuck with it, even after some big time Pac-12 schools came in late and asked how solid he was committed to us.”
And that’s the backstory.