As an Independent religiously-affiliated school that has to deal with missions and honor code, BYU has had several obstacles in securing top recruits for their football program. Despite all that, historically BYU’s recruiting classes have ranked in the 50-70 range, which is pretty good all things considered.
And BYU has always competed well for in-state recruits. However, since the University of Utah joined the PAC12 in 2011 the Utes have seen a significant uptick in their overall recruiting strength as well as in the head-to-head battle with BYU for recruits.
Since the hiring of Kalani Sitake the tide seems to be turning. For the Class of 2017 BYU and Utah went head-to-head for dozens of prospects. Thirteen of those prospects coming straight from high school chose one of the two schools: Chaz Ah You, Tyler Batty, Nick Ford, Bentley Hanshaw, Lorenzo Fauatea, Seleti Fevaleaki, Taniela Pututau, Michael Richardson, Miki Suguturaga, Alden Tofa, Langi Tuifua, Mo Unutoa, and Aliki Vimahi.
Seven of those prospects took their talents to Provo, six headed up to the hill. Win, BYU.
But that isn’t the whole story. There were also five highly sought after transfer students who had offers from both BYU and Utah: Jordan Agasiva (JUCO), Tristen Hoge (Notre Dame), Wayne Kirby (Oregon), John Penisini (JUCO), and John Vaka (JUCO).
Three are now Cougars, two are Utes. Win, BYU.
But wait, the story doesn’t end there. BYU has always had to deal with LDS missions interrupting the football careers of their student-athletes. That almost always has been a negative thing for the Cougars as returned missionaries need time to get back into playing shape and readjust to college life. But since Sitake came on board there have been several returned missionaries previously committed to other programs that have decided upon returning home that they’d rather be at BYU. Indeed BYU recently secured commitments from returned missionaries Joe Tukuafu (Utah State), and Ula Tolutau (Wisconsin).
And which school has been the biggest loser in the returned missionary game? It’s not even close. Not only was Tukuafu previously a Utah commitment, but there are three other former Utes that have switched to BYU in recent months since returning home from their missions: Austin Lee, Khyiris Tonga, and the most recent returnee James Empey.
RMs that flipped from BYU to Utah? Zero. RMs from Utah that switched to the Y? Three. Win BYU.
BYU is even welcoming a few walk-ons (Neal Pau’u and Austin Kafentzis) that previously had scholarship offers to the U. Chalk one more win up for the Cougars.
So the tide of the in-state recruiting battle has certainly turned. Players are running from the U to join Sitake and company at the Y. And that mass exodus is bolstering an ever improving class of 2017 and setting BYU up for even better classes in the future.
Of course none of that matters if BYU can’t win the rivalry game, and with so many former Utes now on the BYU roster, the week 3 matchup (September 9) should be a good one.