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‘It is cool to play at BYU again’: Why BYU’s 2022 football signing class could be Kalani Sitake’s best yet

Cougars have commitments from 19 high school prospects heading into Wednesday’s opening of the early signing period and saw a recruiting uptick after Big 12 announcement

BYU football coach Kalani Sitake answers questions during media day at BYU Broadcasting in Provo on Thursday, June 30, 2016.
BYU football coach Kalani Sitake answers questions during media day at BYU Broadcasting in Provo on Thursday, June 30, 2016.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

It took an invitation to the Big 12, a pair of wildly successful seasons and former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall resigning at Virginia.

But somehow it has finally happened for coach Kalani Sitake, barring some last-minute changes of heart.

The football signing class that Sitake will start inking to national letters of intent when the three-day early signing period begins Wednesday will likely be the highest-ranked class in the coach’s six-year tenure at BYU.

“It is cool to play at BYU again, right?” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said on 1280 AM The Zone Monday. “Doesn’t it feel like that, for lack of a better way to say it?”

As of Tuesday morning, BYU’s projected 2022 signing class — which includes 19 high schoolers who have already committed — was ranked No. 51 in the country by 247 Sports and No. 59 by Rivals. That is without adding in Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia, a former five-star offensive lineman who signed in November and will join the program in January.

It could get even better if the Cougars land Snow College cornerback Keionte Scott, a four-star junior college recruit from La Mesa, California, who will announce his college choice Wednesday.

According to Casey Lundquist, publisher of the Cougs Daily page on the Sports Illustrated platform, Scott has narrowed his choices to BYU and Auburn and is said to be leaning toward Auburn. About the only other last-minute addition the Cougars are hoping for is four-star running back Jaydn Ott, from Norco, California.

But Ott’s scheduled campus visit to BYU last weekend was scratched over fears that he had already taken five official visits and it is highly doubtful a prospect with offers from the likes of Utah, Oregon, Arizona State and Colorado would pick BYU without having ever been to Provo.

“They sent him a letter of intent anyway as a last-second desperation heave,” Lundquist said.

Lundquist said that in July the Cougars’ class was looking “pretty disappointing, given how BYU was coming off such a successful year” in 2020 when it went 11-1 and was ranked No. 11 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Then the Big 12 invitation came on Sept. 10, and recruiting picked up accordingly.

Three-star defensive lineman Talin Togiai, of Rigby, Idaho, committed a few days after BYU defeated Utah 26-17 at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and when Corner Canyon receiver Cody Hagen, a four-star prospect, committed on Sept. 30, BYU’s class was taking shape as one of the better ones in Sitake’s tenure.

“Cody Hagen is the crown jewel of this class,” Lundquist said. “He is so good. I think he makes up for a lot.”

On Oct. 9, only 11 days after he decommitted from Utah, Weber High defensive lineman Aisea “Ice” Moa, another four-star, committed to the Cougars. On Nov. 5, Suamataia announced he was coming home.

After Mendenhall resigned on Dec. 2, the Cougars picked up three commitments from three-star players who had previously committed to Virginia: Lone Peak offensive lineman Joe Brown and Pine View twins Dominique and Marcus McKenzie.

“BYU closed red-hot ever since the Big 12 announcement,” Lundquist said. “This is the class that gets them a step in the right direction as they head to the Big 12. There are still areas they need to improve, particularly in the bottom third of the class.”

Lundquist said an under-the-radar guy from the class might be Wasatch’s Jarinn Kalama, a 6-foot-3 athlete who played wide receiver and safety for the Wasps and committed last March before a productive senior season in Heber City.

“He prepped at a small school. If he played at a Lone Peak or a Bingham, he would have had a lot more attention,” Lundquist said. “And he also committed to BYU so early that took away (getting offers from other schools). I think he is really good.”

Lundquist believes the full effect of BYU’s Big 12 move as it pertains to recruiting won’t be seen until next year.

“I think it will take a full cycle,” he said. “I am expecting the class of 2023 to be the highest-ranked class since 2010, probably. … You will have an entire cycle of kids knowing BYU is in a Power Five conference, which is the most important pillar of all the recruiting pillars, is having that Power Five membership.”

According to the Cougar Sports Insider on the 247sports.com platform, BYU already has two commitments from the class of 2024, a pair of three-star prospects in Timpview’s Pokaiaua Haunga and Hezekiah Anahu-Ambrosio.

If all goes as planned, and predicted, the Cougars will ink 19 prospects on Wednesday. Most of those players will go on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling.

The Cougars could also announce some returned missionaries who will be enrolling in school in January.

Speaking to Hans Olsen and Scott Garrard on 1280 AM, Roderick said the overwhelming majority of BYU’s 2022 signing class will be announced Wednesday, but the Cougars could add a few more on National Signing Day, which is Feb. 2.

“We will have some more,” Roderick said. “I don’t know exactly what the numbers are, but we have room to make some moves when the time comes.”

Those moves could also include adding some guys from the transfer portal, obviously.

“We are not going to get them all, but we are starting to get our share of those (top recruits who fit BYU’s standards) now,” Roderick said. “Everybody gets upset about the ones you don’t get. But it is more about the ones you do get. You want to make sure the ones you do get are the right ones, the ones that fit your program, the ones that are willing to sacrifice and play as a team and do all the things we ask.”

BYU’s 2022 football signing class commitments

Dominique McKenzie WR 6-0, 170 Saint George, Utah (Pine View High School).

Marcus McKenzie DB 6-0, 170 Saint George, Utah (Pine View High School).

Joe Brown OL 6-3, 285 Highland, Utah (Lone Peak High School).

Kaden Chidester TE 6-8, 240 Richfield, Utah (Richfield High School).

Cannon DeVries ATH 6-0, 160 Pleasant View, Utah (Weber High School).

Peter Falaniko OL 6-3, 305 St. George, Utah (Pine View High School).

Cody Hagen WR 6-1, 175 Draper, Utah (Corner Canyon High School).

Brooks Jones ATH 6-6, 200 Queen Creek, Arizona (American Leadership Academy).

Jarinn Kalama ATH 6-3, 200 Heber City, Utah (Wasatch High School).

Maika Kaufusi DB 6-3, 170 Sandy, Utah (Alta High School).

Parker Kingston ATH 5-11, 175 Roy, Utah (Roy High School).

Liutai Kinikini ATH 6-3, 195 Salt Lake City, Utah (West High School).

Aisea Moa DE 6-3, 220 Ogden, Utah (Weber High School).

Noah Moeaki LB 6-3, 205 American Fork, Utah (American Fork High School).

Trevin Ostler ATH 6-5, 240 Bountiful, Utah (Bountiful High School).

Cooper Ross TE 6-5, 245 Mesa, Arizona (Heritage Academy).

Vae Soifua OL 6-4, 285 Orem, Utah (Orem High School).

Talin Togiai DL 6-6, 290 Rigby, Idaho (Rigby High School).

Micah Wilson LB 6-2, 195 Draper, Utah (Corner Canyon High School).

Transfers

Kingsley Suamataia OL 6-5, 317 Orem, Utah (Orem High School/Oregon).