Provo • BYU lost six offensive linemen to career-ending injuries last season, including four who were starters or key backups.
It is no surprise, then, that the Cougars went after a lot of big bodies in their recruiting efforts the past few months in an effort to rebuild their decimated offensive line, coach Bronco Mendenhall said Wednesday.
Of the 26 players who signed with BYU, eight are offensive linemen and three are defensive linemen.
It is a signing class that lacks highly touted playmakers on offense — just one quarterback, no running backs and two wide receivers — but fills the program’s greatest needs, Mendenhall said.
“As you look at the [list], you can clearly see the need was offensive line,” Mendenhall said. “… So what our original plan was, or what it ended up being as the season went on, changed dramatically.”
There were a few surprises on Wednesday, as the Cougars added two junior college offensive linemen — Edward Fusi of Mount San Antonio and Tim Duran of Cabrillo College — who were not previously known to have been offered scholarships.
The only player signed by BYU on Wednesday who received what could be considered heavy recruitment from other top schools was Brayden Kearsley, a four-star offensive lineman from Aloha High in Beaverton, Ore.
But as he annually does, Mendenhall said he never recruits players based on the number of stars the player receives from recruiting services.
“I will honestly tell you that I have never looked at any of the services that have stars,” he said. “What I am interested in doing is recruiting stars for BYU. Not number of stars, but stars for this place.”
The lone quarterback, Billy Green of Shoreline, Wash., enrolled in January and will compete for the starting job, which both Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae said is considered open. Anae said the quarterback will run the ball more in his offense.
Green “is really tough, he knows how to win football games, and he is passionate to be here,” Mendenhall said. “You will like him, when you watch him play.”
At least five of the players who signed — linebacker Nathan DeBeikes, tight end Moroni Pututau, receiver Talon Shumway, and defensive backs Garrett England and Johnny Tapusoa — are expected to go on church missions first.
At least five players who committed to BYU and that “BYU is committed to,” according to its news release, will go directly on missions and were not listed among the signees because new NCAA rules stipulate that schools can only “sign” 25 players per year.
It is believed that the list includes East High running back Patrick Palau, Cottonwood receiver Inoke Lotulelei, Herriman running back Francis Bernard, Timpview linebacker Pita Taumoepenu and Maataua Brown, a defensive lineman from Cerritos (Calif.) Community College.