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Why national signing day is expected to be a quiet one for BYU football

BYU inked 16 prospects in December and only has room for a few more, but it could announce 10 or more “mid-year additions” Wednesday, players who are rejoining the program after returning from church missions throughout the world

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Timpview High School football player Logan Fano signs a letter of intent to play for BYU during a signing day event at the school in Orem on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

January usually finds BYU football coaches busy on the recruiting trail as they work hard to get new commitments from top high school football players and shore up previous pledges in the days leading up to the first Wednesday of February, otherwise known as national signing day.

But when the NCAA instituted an early signing period for football in mid-December in 2017, NSD lost a lot of its luster. That is especially true for BYU this year, because the possibility exists that the Cougars will have no new signings on Wednesday. Not one.

Coach Kalani Sitake and his staff signed 16 players on Dec. 16, the first day of the early signing period, and at the time said they were still dealing with a scholarship crunch that left few, if any, available scholarships to hand out in February. 

The Cougars have not received any new commitments since December, although they were “in the mix” for prospects such as Westlake defensive tackle Victory Vaka, defensive back Bryson Reeves of La Canada, California, and a couple of players in the transfer portal, according to Cougar Sports Insider on the 247sports.com network.

Schools are only allowed to hand out 25 grant-in-aid agreements per recruiting cycle.

When scholarship-receiving returned missionaries are factored in, the Cougars usually hit the 25-scholarship limit. That’s why the number of high schoolers and transfers that BYU will sign for the next few years will remain in the mid-teens, and most will sign during December’s early signing period.

So signing days in February will be quite boring for the foreseeable future.

This Wednesday, most of the fanfare will involve the 10 known “mid-year additions” — guys who signed one, two or even three years ago but did not immediately join the program.

Most, but not all, of the 10 went on missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and enrolled in January. All 10 will be participating in spring ball, which begins next month.

For instance, last year BYU on the first Wednesday of February announced eight mid-year additions, including three who made significant contributions to the 2020 team’s success: punter Ryan Rehkow, defensive end Tyler Batty and defensive back/kick returner Caleb Christensen. The Cougars also that day announced five “expected fall additions” — players who had not yet enrolled but were expected to join the team in the fall, most notably offensive lineman Connor Pay, who filled in admirably when centers James Empey and Joe Tukuafu were injured before (Empey) and during (Tukuafu) the bowl game.

Here are the 10 mid-year additions, with a little information on each prospect:

• Talan Alfrey, defensive back: The 6-foot-3, 185-pound product of Washington’s Auburn Mountainview High signed in December 2018 after earning three-star status from 247sports.com and making 176 tackles his last two seasons of high school. Served a mission in Montevideo, Uruguay.

• Campbell Barrington, offensive lineman: The brother of current BYU starting left guard Clark Barrington, also from Spokane, Washington, played both ways at University High. The three-star recruit returned from a pandemic-shortened mission to Mexico last summer.

• Donovan Hanna, tight end: Coached by former BYU QB Max Hall at American Leadership Academy in Arizona, the 6-foot-6 Hanna signed in February 2017 but delayed his enrollment after returning home from a mission to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 2019.

• Dean Jones, defensive back: Athletic 6-2, 180-pound safety signed with BYU in February 2020 out of Phoenix, but was a grayshirt (paid his own way) last season and not on the official roster.

• Josh Larsen, defensive lineman: Three-star recruit, 6-4, 240, made 48 tackles and five sacks his senior season at Woods Cross High before signing last February with BYU.

• Tysen Lewis, offensive lineman: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound product of Weber High signed with BYU in December 2017 and served a church mission to Peru before returning last summer during the pandemic.

• Isaac Matua, linebacker: All-around athletes also played quarterback and ran track at Kearns High before signing in December 2017. Scored 19 touchdowns as a senior after making 48 tackles as a junior. Served mission in Madagascar.

• John Nelson, defensive lineman: Salem Hills High product, 6-4, 260, signed with BYU last February and is the cousin of former USC linebacker Porter Gustin, now in the NFL.

• Oliver Nasilai, linebacker: Three-star recruit from Jessieville High in Arkansas signed in December 2017 and served a church mission in Brazil. Averaged more than 10 tackles per game as a senior, while also scoring 11 TDs as a running back.

• Ben Ward, tight end: The 6-foot-5 pass-catcher from Washington, D.C., walked on and redshirted at BYU in 2018 before a church mission to Argentina.

BYU could on Wednesday announce several “expected fall additions” as it did at this time last year. Players who are still on missions and could be on that list include American Fork receiver Chase Roberts (Canada) and Lehi tight end Dallin Holker (who played in 2018 before going to Chile).

BYU’s 2021 recruiting class

Prospects that signed a national letter of intent with BYU on Dec. 16, 2020

John Henry Daley  LB, 6-5, 225  Alpine, Utah (Lone Peak High).

Jovesa Damuni  DB, 6-0, 180  Providence, Utah (Ridgeline High).

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

Logan Fano  DE, 6-4, 225  Spanish Fork, Utah (Timpview High).

Isaiah Glasker  WR, 6-5, 205  South Jordan, Utah (Bingham High).

Kyson Hall  WR, 5-11, 180  Spanish Fork, Utah (Maple Mountain High).

Dallin Havea  LB, 6-2, 230  Orem, Utah (Provo High).

Sione Hingano  OL, 6-5, 285  Chandler, Arizona (Chandler High).

Nathan Hoke  LB, 6-3, 225  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (North Allegheny High).

Weston Jones — OL, 6-5, 255  Romeo, Michigan (Romeo High).

Elia Migao  OL, 6-4, 320  Temecula, California (Chaparral High ).

Enoka Migao  DE, 6-5, 240  Temecula, California (Chaparral High).

Bentley Redden  LB, 6-5, 220  San Clemente, California (San Clemente High).

Quenton Rice  WR, 6-1, 190  Las Vegas, Nevada (Faith Lutheran High).

Dylan Rollins  OL, 6-6, 285  Missoula, Montana (Sentinel High).

Ricky Wolfgramm  DL, 6-2, 258  Salt Lake City, Utah (East High).