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BYU football coach Kalani Sitake announced his early signing class this past week, a 2024 class that is fixated on rebuilding the defense. Here is an analysis of BYU’s “unique philosophy” in recruiting as a Big 12 program under Sitake by Jay Drew. Here is a rundown and video of BYU’s signing day and capsules of players by Jackson Payne.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the Week: What is the meat and spin of BYU’s recruiting class of 2024?

Jay Drew: My first thought as the bulk of BYU’s 2024 signing class took shape on Wednesday was that the program may have finally turned the corner in regards to high school recruiting, which needs to be the backbone of the enterprise, in my opinion.

It is probably the first time in a dozen years, since the Jake Heaps-Zac Stout-Ross Apo news conference in 2009 that began the creation of the stellar 2010 class, that BYU fans have been this optimistic about a class. I felt that optimism as I watched Kalani Sitake, Aaron Roderick and Jay Hill break down the class at Wednesday’s news conference.

Speaking of Hill, my second thought was that his fingerprints are all over this class, and that he’s a big reason for the signing of many of these recruits. Last December’s hiring of Hill continues to pay dividends.

There’s still a long way to go to upgrade the overall talent level in the program, but Wednesday’s haul seems to indicate Sitake and company are on their way.

Dave McCann: Among the impact NIL and the transfer portal is having on college football includes the necessity for coaches to re-recruit players who are already in the program. Back in the not-so-old days, a player who is on the team was considered off-limits to other suitors. Not so anymore.

Today’s coach not only spends years recruiting high school kids, but he also monitors junior college prospects and the ever-changing transfer portal and now — his own roster. So, when offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said the most important recruiting BYU did was retain their own players, he wasn’t kidding.

While my colleagues write about the new names, I will focus on the old ones. Connor Pay, and Brayden Keim’s decisions to come back give the offensive line a pair of pillars to rebuild with. Keanu Hill’s decision to return, but switch from receiver to tight end, creates a needed athletic option for whoever is playing quarterback.

Tyler Batty’s decision to return for one more year will not only improve his draft stock, but also give the group of newcomers on the defensive line a mentor who is a menace for opposing quarterbacks.

The return of a healthy Ben Bywater is huge after leading BYU’s defense in tackles for two seasons. The dynamic linebacker was sidelined last fall with shoulder issues and by returning another year he should be healed enough to make a huge impact for the Cougars.

Running back Miles Davis entered the portal, but after Aidan Robbins announced his plans to enter the draft, Davis made a quick exit and announced his return. With a good offseason, Davis has every chance to become the playmaker he was originally recruited to be alongside LJ Martin and Hinckley Ropati.

Fesi Sitake’s ability to retain Chase Roberts, Kody Epps, Parker Kingston, Darius Lassiter and Keelan Marion give him an experienced receiving corps that has already been schooled in dealing with Big 12 secondaries.

The large group of newcomers give Kalani Sitake’s program a jolt of offseason electricity and much-needed reinforcements, while the players who decided to stay give the Cougars their best chance of winning next fall.

Jackson Payne: The Big 12 bump is real. Kalani Sitake and his staff weren’t afraid to fight in this past cycle, actively diving into recruiting battles with Power Four teams and emerging victorious at a rate unheard of in the independence era. 

Jay Hill’s effort to bolster BYU’s front seven on defense deserves a round of applause. There was an obvious emphasis on D-line and linebacker recruits, and the results are easy to love. Anything Hill can do to generate adequate depth in the Big 12 is extremely crucial, and he’s passing the test thus far. 

Sure, the Cougars’ overall class rankings aren’t anything crazy, but don’t be deceived — there’s a lot to like about this new crop of signees, especially the number of players who can contribute right away. There’s a legitimate sense of urgency within the program to raise its ceiling going forward, and the talent acquired this past week is a really encouraging start. 

Dick Harmon:  When I look at this recruiting class, I see a renewed effort to just go get some dogs on defense, players who other P4 schools wanted but BYU previously simply yielded because the work was hard. Sitake mentioned last week that his staff had engaged in a “developmental” program in the past and had gone after low-hanging fruit. In this class, he explained they’d moved away from that philosophy and decided to go after players who were more prepared to play right away. In other words, they went head to head with other recruiters and did not back down or shy away. That’s good to see. Actually, it was necessary and a five-win season dictated it. 

Defensive coordinator Jay Hill and his staff got in the trenches and battled for these signees. As a result BYU will have signed a gob of highly sought after Polynesian tackles and defensive ends — athletes they normally lose or don’t even try to sign after initial challenges from the past defensive staff. The seven defensive ends and three junior college transfer tackles — Sani Tuala, Danny Saili and Luke Toomalatai — are exactly what BYU needs to cause more chaos.

It remains to be seen how good this class will be, but it is different and it addresses some long-overdue needs and effort. It gives Hill more tools to run his four-man front with edge rushers and corners who can disrupt routes and make tackles.

If you are stuck on numbers and rankings, this class will be in the lower third of the Big 12. But in reality, there isn’t much difference between a class ranked in the 30s and one in the 50s. The margin is very slim and word is BYU will add some other key players in weeks to come.

Cougar tales

BYU hired TJ Woods to replace Darrell Funk as offensive line coach and run game coordinator and you can read about the hire here. Jimmer Fredette talks about his current and future plans and his gig at BYUtv in this article.

From the archives

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BYU adds another commitment from a JUCO defensive lineman
BYU gets commitment from Herriman HS linebacker Ephraim Asiata

From the X-verse

Extra points

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers:

This is a solid incoming recruiting class. BYU isn’t going to dethrone the Alabamas and Georgias of the recruiting world. Pair quality coaches with this talent pool, and BYU will be more than just fine in the Big XII. The expectation of ascending to the championship throne in Y1-Y4 (at least) is a fantasy. BYU is just fine if you tune out the yappy dogs.

— ThinkFirst

Actually if an alumni NIL consortium wanted to pay an athlete (like Slovis) to play at BYU and throw him more than $1 million, Sitake or BYU’s sponsoring organization would have nothing to say about it as it falls outside the university’s control. This has and will continue to happen. Sitake never said it wouldn’t. What he said is that at BYU it is not just about the money, it is culture, environment, education and relationships. I have no problem with the way they are recruiting this year. They took some big swings and won on more than they lost.

— Wazzup

Up next

Dec. 30 | 4 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Wyoming | @ Provo

Dec. 30 | 7 p.m. | Men’s volleyball | Blue and White game | @ Provo

Jan. 3 | 8 a.m. | Men’s and women’s swimming | Florida International | @ Miami

Jan. 3 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Oklahoma | @ Provo