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Kalani Sitake finished his 2023 recruiting class with a series of signings Feb. 1 that will shore up his defense, QB and RB rooms. Among the big stories on signing day was the announcement of El Paso four-star running back LJ Martin, who previously committed to Texas Tech and then Stanford. While Martin, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound star, committed in December, he kept his signing choice confidential for more than a month. Martin is the kind of player BYU really needs to compete in the Big 12 with his combo skills of size and speed.

Here is a great rundown of who BYU signed in February as well as December, and what players are entering the program as transfer portal products or returning missionaries. It is hard to rank BYU’s recruiting class because of its diversified and staggered admissions due to church missionary service. One ranking has the Cougars near the bottom of the Big 12, but if you break it all down, it is among BYU’s better recruiting classes.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: What stood out about BYU’s February signing day when so much recruiting news has filtered in since the early signing day in December?

Jay Drew: To me the biggest revelation on signing day wasn’t the signing of LJ Martin, the four-star running back from El Paso, Texas, who originally committed to Texas Tech, and then Stanford. That was significant, no doubt about it. BYU doesn’t often flip players from Power Five programs.

But the biggest news came when offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Martin had actually signed with BYU in December, then kept it quiet for six weeks so he could break the news at a school assembly because he knew it meant so much to his school and community in El Paso.

That was one of the best signing day stories I can remember.

Perhaps the other notable signing day developments were Roderick saying BYU still has a couple offensive scholarships available to add guys from the transfer portal when it re-opens on May 1, and defensive coordinator Jay Hill’s assessment that the defense isn’t quite ready for Big 12 play in terms of physicality and talent. It was an honest, and refreshing, assessment from the former Weber State head coach.

Dick Harmon: Recruiting service 24/ has BYU’s 18 commitments in the class of 2023 ranked No. 65. Rivals had BYU 77th, just above last-place Kansas in the new Big 12, according to The Daily Oklahoman. But that doesn’t take into account the 13 previously signed athletes like Raider Damuni, who have been gone for two years doing missionary work. It also does not take into account a busload of preferred walk-ons which BYU coaches are prevented from identifying until they enroll in school. Of this PWO class, Cougars coaches are ecstatic because many of them had scholarship offers and could have signed with many Division I schools. This PWO program, which brought NFL products Dennis Pitta, Dax Milne and Tyler Allgeier to the squad has drastically been charged with the Built Bar (NIL) money the past two years and this class will reflect it.

I believe BYU will announce anywhere from two to four transfer portal athletes in spring and all of them could challenge for a starting position.

It is hard to put tons of credibility into recruiting rankings when players haven’t played a down. For instance, last year Texas A&M had the No. 1 recruiting class and didn’t make a bowl game with just five wins, TCU played for the national championship this past year when it had the No. 45-ranked class (24/7 Sports) in 2022. Last year BYU’s recruiting class was No. 56 by 24/7 Sports. These rankings do not take into account unnamed PWO athletes that could yield stardom.

Cougar tales

BYU’s basketball team blew out Loyola Marymount and Pacific in the Marriott Center, ending a three-game losing streak. Read how this domination unfolded here with Jeff Call’s report on the LMU win. Here is Call’s story on the win over Pacific.

BYU women staged a comeback against San Diego that fell short.

The date for the spring football game has been set for March 31.

From the archives

‘The best is yet to come’: BYU director of player personnel says roster has been upgraded
‘A complete game-changer’: Big 12 membership has boosted their Signing Day efforts, BYU coaches say

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

  • Getting to know 4-star flip LJ Martin (BYU Insider)
  • BYU excited about preferred walk-on class (KSL Sports)
  • New Mexico Bowl MVP QB switches positions (KSL Sports)


Comments from Deseret News readers:

I predicted at the first of the year that they’d take fourth in the league and I’m sticking to it. They’ll beat Pepperdine but then get beat like a drum by Gonzaga. Too many turnovers, not enough good shooters. Don’t see either one of those changing consistently.

— Bifftacular

WCC is the toughest basketball conference in the West. Losing by a point to two ranked teams is nothing to be ashamed of. Wins over Creighton and a rival marks a good season.

You take the cards that were dealt.

— Worf

This is a young team that seems to be improving. One-point losses to Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s hurt but did provide some hope for things to come. I think BYU has a decent chance of winning the WCC tournament.

— GChris

Up next

Feb. 9 | 11 a.m. | Men’s tennis | vs. New Mexico | @Provo

Feb. 9 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Pepperdine | @Malibu, California

Feb. 9 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Pepperdine | @Provo

Feb. 11 | 2 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. LMU | @Provo

Feb. 11 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Gonzaga | @Spokane, Washington

BYU’s student section hold up signs as Loyola Marymount forward Keli Leaupepe (34) shoots a free throw, Feb. 2, 2023.
BYU’s student section hold up signs as Loyola Marymount forward Keli Leaupepe (34) shoots a free throw during game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News