Analysis: Factor in returning missionaries and preferred walk-ons, and BYU’s No. 73-ranked football recruiting haul is better than it looks
Cougars are No. 73 in the 247Sports Team Rankings after signing 16 prospects Wednesday, but that’s misleading because nearly a dozen will depart on church missions, and nearly a dozen will return to play in 2021
BYU football fans who are bemoaning the fact the Cougars lost a recruiting battle with USC for local hotshot quarterback Jaxson Dart and have another mediocre ranking, No. 73, in the 247Sports Team Rankings should find solace in at least one development when the early signing period began Wednesday.
It could have been worse.
Coach Kalani Sitake said Wednesday that BYU’s success on the field this season — the Cougars are 10-1 and ranked No. 14 in the AP Top 25 poll heading into Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl clash with 7-3 UCF — helped it hold on to all 16 of its previous commits and strengthened its brand in the eyes of future recruiting classes.
BYU’s special season “has actually opened up conversations with a lot of different recruits that were out there,” Sitake told “BYU Sports Nation” on BYUtv. “A lot of people that didn’t know about us have contacted us and like the brand of football we play, the style we play on offense, defense and special teams.”
“It has actually opened up conversations with a lot of different recruits that were out there. A lot of people that didn’t know about us have contacted us and like the brand of football we play, the style we play on offense, defense and special teams.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
Recruiting for the class of 2021 isn’t over, Sitake said, noting it is a year-round endeavor in Provo and BYU could possibly add a few more recruits and/or transfers the first Wednesday in February when the traditional signing day occurs. Also, BYU attracted several preferred walk-ons, which NCAA rules forbid it from announcing, that will bolster the class but aren’t reflected in the team recruiting rankings.
“We spend a lot of time trying to get (prospects) here as preferred walk-ons, because our numbers don’t afford us a chance to give them scholarships,” Sitake said. “… This program is going to function because of the heart and soul of our walk-ons, people that love this game and love this program. They are the glue that keeps this team together and a big part of our team culture.”
One of those highly productive prep stars who received a PWO offer from BYU, Corner Canyon receiver Noah Kjar, who the staff was hoping could develop into a Dax Milne-like story, signed with Weber State.
The Cougars’ success “has made the net a little bit wider,” Sitake said. “But we still have to choose young men that represent what BYU is all about, that will live the honor code, that will relish the environment that is here at BYU and will flourish as an individual here.”
It should also be pointed out that BYU’s “real” recruiting class are the four or five signees who won’t immediately go on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the dozen or so missionaries who have already returned or will return between now and the opening of fall camp next August.
Factor those guys in, and the team ranking is better.
Those are the players who will be expected to carry the 2020 success forward against the likes of Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, Baylor, Washington State, Virginia and USC next fall. Most of the top guys BYU signed Wednesday, guys such as Timpview’s Logan Fano and Raider Damuni, Lone Peak defensive end/linebacker John Henry Daley, San Clemente (California) tight end Bentley Redden, Bingham safety Isaiah Glasker and Pittsburgh linebacker Nathan Hoke, will probably be on church missions when the Cougars face the Wildcats and their new coach on Sept. 4, 2021, in Las Vegas.
“There are a good number of them that are still figuring out (when and if they are going on missions),” Sitake said. “That is a personal decision between them and their families. … There is a chance that some may want to play a season first.”
It’s all part of the juggling that Sitake is used to, and doesn’t shy away from.
“It is a lot of fun,” he said. “I can’t sit up here and pretend that it is so hard to do. … I love it all.”
Jeff Hansen of CougarSportsInsider on the 247Sports network notes that the team rankings can be misleading because they are skewed toward quantity and not quality.
“BYU’s average of 83.7 per recruit is the highest average rating that they have had in the last decade,” Hansen wrote.
The biggest get is probably Fano, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end from Timpview who had offers from Utah, Michigan, Washington and several other Power Five programs.
“He brings a lot of length and athleticism as a speed rusher off the edge,” said BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. “A good fit for us in the locker room, as well as on the field. We are going to be able to do a lot with him.”
An under-the-radar guy might be offensive lineman Dylan Rollins, the 6-6, 285-pounder from Missoula, Montana.
“One of the toughest guys we watched on film all year,” said BYU offensive line coach Eric Mateos, who CougarSportsInsider proclaimed as BYU’s “recruiter of the year” for the second straight year. “A relentless run blocker, very long arms, very athletic. … A little bit mean-spirited, the (kind of) edge we want. We had to recruit him a long time, but we are excited to have him.”