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BYU’s 2021 football recruiting class appears so-so; here’s why that’s not cause for alarm in the midst of a pandemic

Cougars only have 15 or so scholarships available to hand out to high school seniors this winter, 10 fewer than normal, because a large group of returning missionaries will grab them up before the 2021 season

Head football coach Kalani Sitake talks with members of the media after BYU opened football practice at the indoor facility in Provo on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
Head football coach Kalani Sitake talks with members of the media after BYU opened football practice at the indoor facility in Provo on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — The early signing period for college football recruits is less than three months away, and the BYU Cougars have only 10 prospects pledged to sign on Dec. 16.

Cause for concern?

Not really, say those familiar with BYU’s recruiting strategy during this cycle, which has been altered significantly by the coronavirus pandemic. The Cougars have somewhere between 12 and 15 scholarships to dole out to the class of 2021 because they have a high number of scholarship-promised players returning from missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between now and next summer.

“We have a unique challenge,” BYU executive coordinator of recruiting and player personnel Jasen Ah You said in May. “One of those things that we have to do is be able to manage missionaries coming and going, but also who we have committed. So we have a very finite number of people we can commit this year. As a matter of fact, this class is going to be a smaller class, and just being able to manage it properly (is difficult).”

This might not be a bad year to be low on scholarships (schools are allowed 25 per recruiting cycle and RMs count towards that number when they return) because coaches have not been able to recruit in-person, and prospects are not allowed to make campus visits due to fears over spreading COVID-19.

Earlier this week, the NCAA extended the Division I recruiting dead period to Jan. 1, 2021, a moratorium on in-person recruiting that began a few days after the pandemic hit last March. Like all coaches around the country, BYU coaches have not been able to perform on-campus or off-campus evaluations, or be involved in camps or clinics.

All recruiting has been done through phone calls, emails, text messages, Zoom meetings and on social media platforms, the latter a point of emphasis for BYU since Ah You replaced Alema Fitisemanu more than six months ago.

“I think the biggest thing is we have to have more social media impressions,” Ah You said on May 11. “We had to do more with graphics, with edits, with things that we are putting on our social media, because that’s what people are looking at, being locked into their homes.”

It appears to be working, but the next few months will tell the story as BYU is locked into nearly a half-dozen recruiting battles with some of the most prominent programs in the country. Because nearly 80% of FBS recruits have signed in December since the early signing period for football was instituted in 2017, it is “crunch-time” for recruiting, even though most experts are split on how the pandemic will impact that figure.

Recently, BYU picked up commitments from twin brothers Elia and Enoka Migao, an offensive lineman (Elia) and defensive end (Enoka) from Chaparral High in Temecula, California.

They were the ninth and 10th players to commit to coach Kalani Sitake. The others are in-staters Raider Damuni (Timpview), Kyson Hall (Maple Mountain), Ricky Wolfgramm (East), Jovesa Damuni (Ridgeline) and out-of-staters Weston Jones (Romeo, Michigan), Bentley Redden (Santa Clarita, California), Quentin Rice (Las Vegas, Nevada) and Nathan Hoke (Wexford, Pennsylvania).

Ah You said the emphasis has been quality over quantity, noting that fewer offers have gone out than in previous years due to the limited number of prospects the Cougars can sign, either in December or next February.

“We are going to actively recruit and build relationships with these players and make them feel the love we have for them and to showcase what the university is all about,” Ah You said. “Don’t get it twisted — we want to win games, and that is first and foremost. We are not trying to build a team of Boy Scouts. We want to win football games, and to win we have to have the best available athlete that fits BYU. We are going to swing big, man.”

Of those who have committed, keeping Timpview’s Damuni will be BYU’s biggest challenge, even though the three-star prospect is the son of Ah You’s right-hand man in BYU’s recruiting efforts, Jack Damuni. Jack’s official title is executive coordinator of on-campus recruiting and community/player relations.

Raider Damuni, who received an offer from Sitake when he was in the eighth grade, also has offers from Utah, Utah State and others. His cousin, Jovesa Damuni, made a big interception Thursday night in Ridgeline’s 17-14 loss to Sky View and is also a prized pickup for BYU even though he lives near USU and his brother Levani Damuni plays for Stanford.

What other players are the Cougars still targeting?

According to Jeff Hansen of Cougar Sports Insider on the 247sports.com network, BYU is still actively pursuing five or six high school prospects, most of whom are from the state of Utah. One of BYU’s most-desired recruits, Orem High lineman Kingsley Suamataia, committed to Oregon last week.

At the top of BYU’s wish list now are Timpview defensive end Logan Fano, Pleasant Grove tight end Isaac Vaha, Corner Canyon quarterback Jaxson Dart and Lone Peak athlete John Henry Daley, nephew of former outstanding BYU linebacker David Nixon. Of those, Daley is the most likely to land at BYU, followed perhaps by Dart, although his father played for Utah and he was recently offered by Utah State, Power Five schools Arizona State, Iowa State, TCU and UCLA and Ivy League schools Penn and Yale.

According to 247sports.com, BYU has also offered Bingham athlete Isaiah Glasker (who also holds an offer from Weber State) and Provo High athlete Dallin Havea.

A lot of BYU recruiting attention has already been turned to the class of 2022, according to Ah You. BYU’s lone commitment from that class is from American Fork linebacker Noah Moeaki.

BYU’s 2021 football commitments

Raider Damuni ATH 6-2, 190 Provo, Utah (Timpview High School)

Kyson Hall WR 5-11, 175 Spanish Fork, Utah (Maple Mountain High School)

Ricky Wolfgramm OLB 6-1, 235 Salt Lake City, Utah (East High School)

Weston Jones OL 6-5, 260 Romeo, Michigan (Romeo High School)

Elia Migao OL 6-2, 320, Temecula, California (Chaparral High School)

Enoka Migao DE 6-5, 230, Temecula, California (Chaparral High School)

Bentley Redden LB 6-5, 215 San Clemente, California (San Clemente High School)

Jovesa Damuni DB 5-11, 180 Millville, Utah (Ridgeline High School)

Quenton Rice WR 6-1, 170 Las Vegas, Nevada (Faith Lutheran High School)

Nathan Hoke LB 6-3, 225 Wexford, Pennsylvania (North Allegheny High School)