Provo • BYU has not had more than one player selected in an NFL Draft since 2009, when receiver Austin Collie was taken in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts and running back Fui Vakapuna was picked in the seventh round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
This weekend, safety Daniel Sorensen — and perhaps receiver Cody Hoffman, defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna and linebacker Uani ‘Unga, hope that trend ends.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy will be drafted in one of the first three rounds, but experts say the Cougars could get shut out the rest of the way, or have two or three more players hear their names called in rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
It’s that uncertain.
Along with the aforementioned, linebacker Spencer Hadley, guard Manaaki Vaitai, tight ends Kaneakua Friel and Richard Wilson and receivers JD Falslev and Marcus Mathews participated in Pro Day last March and are angling for free-agent tryouts.
Because he had a phenomenal senior season defensively and on special teams and put up some impressive numbers in the agility drills at the NFL Combine, Sorensen is the Cougar most likely to be drafted after Van Noy.
“That’s the hope,” Sorensen said Tuesday. “It is hard to say right now. Nothing is guaranteed or a sure thing, obviously.”
Sorensen had the best 3-cone drill time of anyone at the combine (6.47 seconds) since 2006, and his time of 10.8 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle was the best for a safety in the last nine years. His 20-yard shuttle time of 3.95 seconds was best among safeties in 2014.
His agent, Jim Grogan, said “there was more buzz about him before that, because he was such a good all-around player,” but acknowledged the combine is where Sorensen became a bonafide draft prospect.
Grogan said no NFL teams flew Sorensen in for any private workouts because they are already comfortable with him from a character and physical standpoint.
Plus, most teams visited with him at the East-West Shrine Game, in addition to the NFL Combine.
“He’s got consistent interest across the board; he will probably be drafted somewhere between the fourth and seventh rounds,” Grogan said.
Sorensen’s brother, former SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen, was taken in the seventh round of last year’s draft by the San Diego Chargers, so Daniel would love to join him in America’s Finest City.
“But I can’t afford to be picky,” he said. “I’ll play anywhere.”
While Sorensen helped himself immensely at the combine, Hoffman certainly did not. He failed to show the athleticism that made him the most prolific receiver in BYU history, posting a 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash and just a 27.5-inch vertical leap.
Hoffman changed agents a few weeks agov, and is now with Empire Athletes, the same agency that represents Missouri’s Michael Sam, set to become the first openly gay NFL player.
Cameron Weiss of Empire Athletes said despite the poor showing at the combine, Hoffman will be “an early Day 3 pick” and has had several private workouts.
“The way he played in the Senior Bowl showed people he is a better game-day player than a [combine] player,” Weiss said.
Manumaleuna, 26, is one of the oldest players in the draft, but has an outside shot at being picked. If not, he said, he’s prepared to become a free agent and take advantage of the additional options that route brings.
“Only a couple of teams have shown interest, so I’m not counting my chickens,” Manumaleuna said, noting that his agent, David Canter, has been reminding teams that he started in front of Ziggy Ansah in 2013 before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Boise State. Ansah, of course, was taken by the Detroit Lions with the fifth pick in last year’s draft.
Van Noy got the glory, but the most reliable linebacker for BYU last season was Uani ‘Unga, who led the team in tackles. Unga suffered a knee injury in the Fight Hunger Bowl and was unable to perform at the NFL Combine or at Pro Day. But his agent, Provo attorney Rose Blakelock of NFL Draft Masters, said she still believes he will be drafted because of the incredible improvement he made from his junior to senior year.
“He was just cresting [before he got hurt],” Blakelock said. “We are fairly sure he will be drafted. We just don’t know where.”
BYU’s draft hopefuls, 2014
Kyle Van Noy Linebacker
Will be first Cougar selected, likely in second round
Daniel Sorensen Safety
Strong performance at NFL Combine boosted his stock
Eathyn Manumaleuna Def. Tackle
Started ahead of 2013 first-round pick Ziggy Ansah
Uani ‘Unga Linebacker
Was a tackling machine before knee injury in bowl game
Cody Hoffman Receiver
Poor showing at NFL Combine caused his stock to drop
Drafted Cougars in Mendenhall Era
2013 — Ezekiel Ansah, DE (first round, fifth overall, Detroit Lions)
2010 — Dennis Pitta, TE (fourth round, Baltimore Ravens)
2009 — Austin Collie, WR (fourth round, Indianapolis Colts) and Fui Vakapuna, RB (seventh round, Cincinnati Bengals)
2008 — Bryan Kehl, LB (fourth round, New York Giants)
2007 — John Beck, QB (second round, Miami Dolphins)
2006 — Todd Watkins, WR (seventh round, Arizona Cardinals)
Note: Running back Harvey Unga was taken in the seventh round of the 2010 supplemental draft after being dismissed from BYU for violating the school’s honor code.