BYU Football Making Great Strides in the In-State Recruiting Battle as the University of Utah exodus continues

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.

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  • Spoons44

    As stated if you don’t win the rivalry game none of this matters. Utes had 8 players drafted in the NFL, BYU? Utes are now going after national recruits.

    • who_dat

      it’s the total experience for athletes at BYU that draws athletes there. and I’ll leave it at that.

      • Does the total experience involve losing football games?

  • VegasUte .

    As you stated, none of this propaganda matters, because by any real measure Utah is still more talented and and BYU still hasn’t beat Utah in 7-1/2 years!

    • who_dat

      If winning sporting events is any kind of indicator of how great a school is, then Harvard has no reason to boast about their school. Bragging rights mean nothing in the scheme of things. BYU is a better school by any objective measurement. Utah is better in sports at this time in life because of BYU’s academic standards, Honor Code and religious affiliation. I’ll take the entire body of work at BYU.

      • GreekSophistry

        UU is a good state university, comparable with most. In the PAC, it would be hard to compare with UW, Cal, Stanford, and UCLA academically or athletically. In certain fields, each university some outstanding programs. But we’re talking football here, and neither BYU or Utah has impressed many. But because of BYU’s media access and history, BYU is far more recognized than is Utah, and BYU has fans nationwide, the result of being BYU. Talented Mormons want to go to BYU. Utah is far less attractive to out-of-state high school kids.

        What does this have to do with football? Nothing. While a world class artist might choose Yale, a brilliant physics student might choose Princeton, a world class football player is more likely to choose Alabama.

        Let’s enjoy football for what it is, a game. Football teams have nothing to do with a school’s academic credentials. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case (with the exception of Stanford, perhaps).

    • FloydJohnson

      Hey Vegas, thanks for stopping by. It is always good to hear from you. Utah has had excellent success recruiting, and it was inappropriate for the author to suggest otherwise. The author was correct in his position that BYU recruiting has shown significant changes with the new coaching staff. He would have done well to focus on that premise (for example: by recalculating the recruiting class ranking including the transfer students) rather than making comparisons to Utah’s success. His head to head comparisons could easily be countered with the positions that the majority of Utah’s recruits were not offered by BYU, resulting in a sample size too small for useful analysis, or a review of the ranking of the athletes signed by Utah (they may have been higher ranked suggesting a greater impact). Some recruits may have made their decision based on roster analysis, choosing a team based on lack of competition at their position rather than quality of the programs as a whole. That factor seems to be particularly relevant to transfer students seeking increased playing time.

      A question from the recent transfer activity not yet published: Does Hoge’s signing at BYU have any implications for the renewal of the ESPN contract.

  • Birdist21

    This is too funny. Propaganda is absolutely correct. That blue kool-aid is STRONG!!!

  • Fred Astaire

    VegasEwe: Don’t count your Ewe’s until they are hatched. Play the game on Sept 9th you Chicken Ewe and then come back and squawk like a Chicken Ewe all you want when the Cougars have Chicken Ewe for lunch.

    • Chad Spence

      As Jim Rome would say, that’s some pretty lame smack. We can do better.

  • GTwo

    Always amazes me why “Ute” spend all the time in their parents basements on BYU sites. Does the U even have fan sites? I don’t know and don’t care but that must be the reason they spend their time on BYU sites.

    • Chad Spence

      I’m as die hard a BYU fan as there is, and don’t follow Yewt football at all (despite my entire family and extended family being huge Yewt fans). But posting that stereotype about “Utes” (especially when that is the really all the post says), is rather puerile and sophomoric and gives BYU fans a bad name.

  • FloydJohnson

    Five years ago, we thought BYU would never again be able compete with power 5 programs for top athletes. Mendenhall was missing on LDS players with family ties to the program who should have been easy pickups for the program. It has been exciting to watch the new excitement in the program, and I am intrigued to see how it translates on the field a couple of years from now.

  • Bronco4Prez

    Great work, Tyler! I do think the inclusion of Austin Lee is a bit disingenuous, since by most accounts, he returned to the U in 2014 from his mission and they didn’t have a spot for him, so he completed a year at SLCC in order to transfer to BYU. He definitely shouldn’t be counted as a head-to-head win, since Utah let him go willingly.

    Also, I wouldn’t say the “tide has turned” nor would I call it a “mass exodus”, since I think that’s a bit hyperbolic and if anything, the changes have just stemmed the tide of Utah winning the head-to-head matchups and evened the playing field. We’ll see if that trend continues to shift moving forward, but it’s certainly been a shift in BYU’s direction.

  • Sportyguy_1

    Wait..so recruiting victories include taking a guy who transferred because he wasn’t going to get playing time and a guy who’s dad was hired as a coach?

  • El Tigre121

    After a mission, these guys have good study skills and now want to take a shot at a top notch university.

  • uteman10111

    Hm. Curious. Every kid has his reasons for choosing a school in-state or out. And RM’s are a completely different breed so not sure how you count them as a “win”.
    Utah is 6-0 over the last 6, 7-3 over the last 10 and 59-34-4 all time. I’ll take the regular season wins over the perceived recruiting class “wins”. Proof is in the pudding.

  • Man its almost like they sre setting themselves for an even bigger blowout during the rivalry game! 🤣