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How BYU, Sitake made an uptick in recruiting of 2022 class

The defection of Virginia commits after head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced he would be stepping down elevated BYU’s recruiting efforts this year.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake celebrates a turnover with his players during game against Virginia, Oct. 30, 2021, in Provo, Utah.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake celebrates a turnover with his players during game against Virginia Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Provo, Utah. The 2022 signing class will be Sikake’s strongest since taking the reins of the program.
George Frey, Associated Press

This article was first published as the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

With the flip of three University of Virginia-bound recruits heading down the wire, Kalani Sitake and BYU football will enjoy the highest-ranked recruiting class in years this week.

This class of 2022 features a lot of speed, size, depth on the offensive line and some defensive specialists that could buoy up the Cougar defense heading into the 2022 season.

Here is my column on how big a gain it was for BYU football for Bronco Mendenhall to step away from Virginia and his head coaching duties. The Cavaliers have been a thorn in the side of BYU’s current football staff for several seasons. It looks like that will come to an end with the decisions of an offensive lineman and set of twins from Utah to stay in-state and sign with the Cougars. All are legacy BYU prospects — sons of former Cougar stars, OL Joe Brown and Dominique and Marcus McKenzie. Also, Colorado’s Andrew Gentry, a top-rated LDS lineman who signed to play at Virginia after his mission, switched his choice to Michigan.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: How will the Independence Bowl game between BYU and Alabama-Birmingham shake down? Give a scored prediction.

Jay Drew: Maybe because I saw the Cougars struggle against Georgia Southern, I’ve got a feeling that the BYU-UAB matchup in the Independence Bowl is going to be closer than most Cougars fans want to believe. On paper, BYU should waltz to a win. BYU is clearly the better team in almost every statistical category, has played a more difficult schedule and has the better quarterback. But stranger things have happened.

A lot of the intangibles favor the Blazers — including motivation, a home-crowd advantage, and more of a chip-on-their-shoulder attitude.

This one reminds me a little of the Hawaii Bowl in 2019, when BYU clearly had the better team, but Hawaii just seemed to want to be there more. Coach Kalani Sitake and his players have said all the right things about not taking this game for granted after the NY6 bowl snub, but that won’t really be known until they kick things off in Shreveport Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: BYU 34, UAB 31

Dick Harmon: I don’t think UAB can stop BYU’s offense, especially the passing game. On the other hand, I see a repeat of the Coastal Carolina and Boise State games where BYU’s defense can’t get off the field and UAB keeps making first downs and keeping drives alive. In that case, BYU will get fewer possessions and must make the most of them by scoring.

It is hard to break down these kinds of end-of-season bowl games when you do not have a clear understanding of who is injured, who is playing injured or who their replacements are. Kalani Sitake has been pretty good at hiding that until the KBYU-TV sideline reporters come on just before kickoff and spill the beans.

I do think Tyler Allgeier with fresh legs, healthy Puka Nacua, Sampson Nacua and Gunner Romney will be a handful for UAB’s defense. BYU needs to score early and make a statement in taking control of this game and then, unlike the USC game, put it away.

Prediction: BYU 38, UAB 24

Cougar tales

One of the biggest stories of the decade was how BYU is planning to approach new membership into the Big 12 by investing in Kalani Sitake and the football program with the extension announced last Friday.

Here are our stories and commentary on this “unprecedented” move by BYU’s administration:

  • Cougar players are excited about the vote to lift Sitake (Jay Drew)
  • Why locking up Sitake is key for Big 12 entry (Dick Harmon)
  • Inside the new deal: How Oregon’s opening kickstarted it all (Dave McCann)
  • Why fans should be excited about Sitake’s extension (Jay Drew)

From the Archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

How Taysom Hill beat Zac Wilson (Associated Press)

Utah rewarded, BYU dissed, USU deserved more (Salt Lake Tribune)

Why its the right time for Connor Mantz to turn pro (Deseret News)

What motivates Cougars after NY6 snub? (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers

We LOVE Coach Sitake and appreciate AD Tom Holmoe, BYU President and any others who made this extension possible. And, thank you to the great Dick Harmon for hitting it out of the ball park with this great article!

Go BYU in the bowl game on Dec. 18th.

— BYUalum

Kalani was smart not to jump aboard the hot mess known as the Pac-12. It’s a sinking ship, pure and simple. Good luck to the new coaches at USC and Oregon, they’re going to need it. And they’ll probably get fired in a couple of years.

Exhibit A to illustrate the mess the Pac has become: Utah is the conference champ and they lost to BYU and San Diego State this season, plus a loss to lowly Oregon State (Ore St lost to Colorado, for cryin’ out loud). Exhibit B: BYU went 5-0 vs the Pac; USU beat Wash St, their only Pac game; and SDSU went 2-0 vs the Pac.

Sure, Oregon beat Ohio St but they also had quite a few close games against weak opponents, got beat by Stanford (only 2 Pac wins, 3 wins overall), and got beat twice by Utah. So their win over Ohio St was nothing more than a lucky fluke.

Ranking the p5 conferences from top to bottom this year you’d have:

#1 SEC

#2 B1G

#3 New Big12

#4 ACC

#5 pac12

And it could easily be debated that the New Big12 is #2 and the B1G is #3. Sorry pac12, but you are simply ... sorry.

— Steve24/7

Up next

Dec. 18 | 12 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Washington State | @Pullman, Washington

Dec. 18 | 1:30 p.m. | Football | vs. UAB | @Shreveport, Alabama

Dec. 18 | 6 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Weber State | @Ogden

Dec. 21 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Montana State | @Bozeman, Montana