PROVO — While the vast majority of recruits that verbally committed to BYU ended up signing with the Cougars Wednesday, Signing Day is always a bit unnerving for coaches.
After all, nothing is official until the school receives the national letter of intent form.
“For me personally, I prepare for the worst to happen. Anything else looks great,” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “Probably not the best way to live life but with recruiting, you kind of have to do that when you’re dealing so many different variables in recruiting. For the most part, we knew going into it who more than likely were going to be our guys. There really were no surprises.”
BYU signed 24 high school players, including several that will serve missions before enrolling. Among these signees were a few that hadn't committed prior to Signing Day — Timpview High safety Chaz Ah You, Hunter High defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea and West Jordan defensive lineman Alden Tofa.
Headlining this class is a pair of prized four-star recruits, Ah You and Bingham High defensive end Langi Tuifua.
“I offered those guys when they were really young. They took a long time to commit,” Sitake said. “They investigated a lot of different schools. I felt confident when we got the job last year that we’d eventually get the BYU-type of guys that need to be here.”
Ah You, whose father, Jasen, is BYU’s director of football athletic relations, became the final signee of this class. He showed a flair for the dramatic, announcing that he had picked BYU — over UCLA, Stanford and Washington — by landing in the middle of LaVell Edwards Stadium via helicopter. It was a stunt that was orchestrated, and filmed, by Bleacher Report.
The extravagant announcement wasn’t something that Chaz Ah You planned himself, Sitake said.
“He was approached by a recruiting service because there were a lot of schools in the mix and he was a highly touted recruit,” he explained. “He didn’t pay for that. They offered it to him … That’s not his personality. That’s not what he’s about. He looked at it as an opportunity to give BYU some publicity and it worked. People are talking about it.”
No doubt, times have changed. Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer recalled the day he signed with BYU 30 years ago. It was devoid of glitz, glamour and technology.
“Nobody 'Facetimed' me on my signing day. Now they take a picture of their NLI and send it to you," Detmer said. "I signed it and had to mail it. I think it was the days even before (fax machines). It was the ol’ letter in the mail, Pony Express. It’s way different now with social media.”
While Detmer said that the majority of this year's class was shored up long before Wednesday, the process doesn’t stop until the national letter of intent is signed and delivered.
For example, Detmer hadn’t heard anything from Elgin, Texas, wide receiver/defensive back Tariq Buchanan by 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. So he texted Buchanan, asking him if he was having second thoughts.
"He didn’t answer my texts," Detmer said. "He had me all nervous.”
As it turned out, Buchanan had sent his NLI to someone else on BYU's staff.
“You’ve got to keep recruiting all the way ‘til the end," Detmer said.
As part of the 2017 class, the Cougars signed seven defensive linemen. However, Sitake cautioned that there are players in this group that could switch positions based on body type and athletic ability.
“The key to me is that we were able to have so many versatile type of players that can play more than one position,” Sitake said. “They’re not limited to the position that’s listed.”
Sitake emphasized the importance of stocking the roster with both defensive and offensive linemen.
“We need to win the trenches in order to be successful as a program,” he said. “A lot of our energies are going to be there.”
One surprise to those outside of the program was the signing of quarterback Joe Critchlow, who originally signed with Southern Utah University two years ago before leaving on a mission. At that time, BYU’s associate head coach, Ed Lamb, was the Thunderbirds’ head coach. Critchlow, a Franklin, Tennessee, native threw for 4,427 yards and 50 touchdowns during his prep career. He is scheduled to return from his mission in June.
Meanwhile, the Cougars missed out on a few recruits they pursued, including five-star Bingham High defensive lineman Jay Tufele, who signed with USC, and East High lineman Jordan Lolohea, who chose Washington.