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Virginia Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall and Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake talk at midfield.

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall and BYU coach Kalani Sitake talk at midfield prior to game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Why Bronco Mendenhall’s resignation became Kalani Sitake’s gain

A few prized recruits who had committed to Mendenhall at Virginia have now decided BYU is the place for them

SHARE Why Bronco Mendenhall’s resignation became Kalani Sitake’s gain
SHARE Why Bronco Mendenhall’s resignation became Kalani Sitake’s gain

Kalani Sitake is benefiting from the departure of Bronco Mendenhall from the University of Virginia and his recruiting class of 2022 will easily be the best of his tenure at BYU.

Three of four Virginia commits flipped to BYU the past week. Another Virginia recruit BYU had an interest in, offensive lineman Andrew Gentry out of Columbine High in Colorado, elected to sign with Michigan.

Receivers Dominique and Marcus McKenzie and offensive lineman Joe Brown, who defected from Virginia to BYU are 247Sports No. 3, 4 and 5 highest-ranked high school recruits on BYU’s board for Wednesday’s signing day.

These late-minute developments in BYU recruiting coincide with Sitake obtaining a contract extension from BYU’s administration last Friday.

recruiting rankings

247Sports recruiting rankings

Bronco Mendenhall

Year — ranking

2012 — 71

2013 — 66

2014 — 64

2015 — 65

2016 — 49

Kalani Sitake

Year — ranking

2017 — 66

2018 — 78

2019 — 81

2020 — 78

2021 — 72

2022 — 45*

*Final ranking TBA

The flurry of recruits who decommitted from Virginia and immediately came to the BYU camp emphasizes how big an impact Mendenhall and his staff of former BYU coaches had on keeping relationships and contacts.

In other words, Mendenhall’s departure from Virginia’s should choke off that ACC school’s ability to chase down what would routinely be BYU recruits.

Since Friday, the three Virginia commits from Utah high schools who flipped their destination from Charlottesville to Provo include Lone Peak offensive lineman Brown and the McKenzies, out of St. George. All are ranked three-star recruits by 247Sports.com and the flurry of weekend pledges elevated Sitake’s recruiting class rankings.

The McKenzie twins are the sons of former BYU running back Brian McKenzie, who finished his BYU career in 1997 with 218 carries for 1,044, 12 touchdowns and a 4.6 yard-per-carry average. He was ranked No. 16 all-time at BYU behind Curtis Brown and just ahead of Jamal Willis.

Marcus McKenzie is expected to enroll in January and participate on BYU’s track team. Dominique will leave for a church mission in January. Marcus has run 10.55 in the 100 meters.

When Brown, the younger brother of former BYU offensive lineman Terence Brown, flipped from Virginia to BYU last Friday, the 247sports 2022 class ranking stood at 51. With the McKenzie twins, it went to 45 heading into the national letter of intent early signing period, which begins Wednesday.

Above is a graphic illustrating how a No. 45 class would rank in recent BYU recruiting classes on the 247Sports board. The list centers on the last 10 years of BYU recruiting classes in the Bronco Mendenhall and Sitake eras.

“With the attrition of the McKenzie twins, BYU’s class moves up to a top 45 class,” said 247Sports BYU insider Jeff Hansen.

“247Sports now includes transfers into team rankings and BYU’s recruiting class, plus Kingsley Suamataia (four-star offensive lineman transfer from Oregon), is as good as they have done since Kalani Sitake took over.

“Cody Hagen (receiver Corner Canyon), Parker Kingston (athlete, Roy) and the McKenzies (Pine View) are all sub-11.0 100-meter guys.  This is legitimate speed BYU is adding to the roster,” said Hansen.

Suamataia, who will be eligible to play in January, gives the Cougars a solid offensive line class. Brown is expected to go on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January. Other linemen expected to sign this week are Trevin Ostler (Bountiful), Peter Falaniko (Pine View), Vae Soifua (Orem) and Talin Togiai (Rigby, Idaho).

A week ago, Highland High offensive lineman Trevor Pay, announced he had accepted an offer to play at BYU as a preferred walk-on, following in the footsteps of his father (Garry) and older brother Connor, a current starter on the Cougars’ O-line.

“All things considered, this class has — especially on the offensive side of the ball — just about everything that you could want in a recruiting class. BYU closed well, capitalized on the momentum of the season, and put together a very good class,” said Hansen.

In November, Weber High defensive end Aisea Moa announced he would flip from Utah to BYU and he announced on twitter on Monday he had signed his letter of intent. His teammate, athlete Cannon DeVries will join him.

Noah Moeaki (LB, Amerian Fork), Jarinn Kalama (athlete, Wasatch), Maika Kaufusi (safety, Alta), Liutai Kinikini (LB, West) and Brook Jones (DB, Mesa, Arizona), and tight ends Cooper Ross (Mesa, Arizona) and Kaden Chidester (Richfield)  are expected to sign with the Cougars too.

On Monday, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick told hosts of 1280 The Zone radio that BYU continues to have restrictions on who they will admit to school and recruit, but there’s been an uptick on response. 

“In the past, there were recruits who could fit in here but went elsewhere. Now, we are getting more of our share of those who fit here and decide to come here,” said Roderick.

Plus, the Virginia factor should now be a threat of the past.