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

In just more than a week of the NCAA transfer portal opening for business, BYU football quickly brought in two offensive linemen, Caleb Etienne from Oklahoma State and Weber State’s Jake Eichorn, and veteran Utah State linebacker AJ Vongphachanh. More additions are expected as Kalani Sitake’s staff has made room with 19 players from last year’s roster announcing they are in the transfer portal. With an announcement that BYU basketball star Lauren Gustin entering the portal, BYU sports is learning the door swings both ways.

With the NFL draft this week, look for several Cougars to be in the mix:

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: What do you expect for BYU players in the NFL draft this week?

Jay Drew: A few years ago, it seemed like BYU’s potential NFL prospects ended up being disappointed on draft day(s), as rounds one through seven came and went with few, if any, Cougars hearing their names called. I think Kalani Sitake has done a nice job in getting that trend turned around, and now the Cougars are averaging a couple picks per draft. I think the perception of the program changed in 2020 when Zach Wilson and a bunch of other BYU players were drafted.

I expect that to continue this weekend; I will be surprised if Blake Freeland, Jaren Hall and Puka Nacua are not drafted, most likely in that order. Best case is Freeland in the second or third round, Hall in the fourth and Nacua in the sixth or seventh. I would not be terribly surprised if cornerback Kaleb Hayes gets picked up, after his outstanding showing at BYU’s Pro Day.

Another prospect I think scouts may be overlooking is running back Chris Brooks. But running backs are a dime a dozen in the draft and Brooks will probably have to go the free agent route to make an NFL roster.

Dick Harmon: The key word in the last few NFL drafts is momentum. Kalani Sitake is building relationships with NFL scouts, has established an outstanding Pro Day experience for league representatives and are developing and recruiting talent that attracts attention. That doesn’t mean BYU is turning into an NFL factory, what it means is his staff is getting respect.

I expect Blake Freeland to go in the first two rounds, Jaren Hall to be picked up on the second day and Puka Nacua, Kaleb Hayes and Chris Brooks to either be drafted or sign as free agents and find a place. Sometimes it is better for a college player to sign as a free agent and pick the situation that is right for him. I think BYU is beginning to establish a reputation for building offensive linemen and if Hall is drafted and Kedon Slovis is taken next year, there is a very obvious trend at quarterback. That can only help in recruiting.

Cougar tales

Mark Pope got one of his top priorities in the transfer portal when Charlotte 6-11 center Aly Khalifa signed to play basketball for the Cougars. BYU then got a commitment from a top-100 power forward Isaac Davis, a native of Egypt who is built like Yoeli Childs, his childhood hero. 

In track and field, records continue to fall as detailed in this piece by Doug Robinson. At last week’s Robison Invitational, four athletes recorded personal records and BYU’s women won nine events on the final day. In the annual Cougar Classic at Riverside Country Club in Provo, BYU’s men’s golf team held on for a convincing win.

Linebackers Ben Bywater and Max Tooley are almost ready. 

From the archives

How transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis became a celebrity in Provo, without playing in a game yet
Can Boise State transfer Isaiah Bagnah revive Cougars’ ailing pass rush?

From the Twitterverse

Extra Points


Comments from Deseret News readers:

So the Cougars look to the Eastern Hemisphere to shore up the middle with outside shooting and passing?

Last time they really did that, Krešimir Ćosić became a household name across the basketball landscape. In recent memory, the Cougars have not had a big with any passing skills whatsoever. Sadly, interior passing has not existed to any degree in the paint since the time of Ćosić. In the meantime, some outside shooters with big frames also came and went but not with a lot of notoriety?

Let’s see how the Egyptian rolls ...

— Bearsbrother

Good addition. Big win getting Khalifa over Florida; this would not have happened in the WCC. Highlights show he can shoot and pass, hope he can play the post as well. Are we still looking for a back-up point guard, and forward?

Projected 2+ deep

5 - Khalifa / Atiki

4 - Fouss / Waterman / Christensen

3 - Robinson / Saunders / Knell (will he be healthy)

2 - Johnson / Saunders / Toolson

1 - Hall / Stewart (good defender, needs to find offense)

— CougfaninTX

In the past decade (2013-2023):

BYU is 9 wins and 10 losses against Pac-12 teams, for about 47% winning rate.

In the past two decades (2033-2023):

BYU is 18 wins and 21 losses against the Pac-12, for about 46% winning rate.

Two points I would like to make:

1. As many of you Ute fans like to tell us BYU fans, Stop living in the past!

What is happening currently is more important than what happened in the past.

2. That is why the all time record against the Pac-12 is irrelevant. You have to see what is going on currently and BYU is winning about half its games against the Pac-12 on average. For two decades, BYU has held its own against the Pac-12.

To say they would be bottom feeders in that conference is an inaccurate comment.

3. Ute fans discount the fact that BYU went 5-0 against the Pac-12 (in 2022). They beat ASU, Arizona, Washington State, USC and your beloved Utah.

But then you have Utes fans who post meaningless exhibition game are not meaningful conference games.

Really, the teams that they played were meaningless? Not important? That the teams were not good?

Utah playing those exact teams won the Pac-12 championship.

To say they were exhibition games for BYU is also diminishing the value of Utah winning the conference championship.

— Confused

Up next

April 26 | 5 p.m. | Softball | vs. Utah Tech | @Provo
April 27-29 | 8 a.m. | Men’s golf | WCC Championships |  @Bremerton, Washington
April 27 | 11 a.m. | Women’s tennis | WCC Tournament | @San Diego, California
April 27 | 2 p.m. | Men’s tennis | WCC Tournament | @San Diego, California

Arkansas forward Trey Wade tries to shoot over Charlotte defender Aly Khalifa, right, during game Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. BYU coach Mark Pope snagged the Charlotte big man out of the transfer portal earlier this month. | AP