Provo • More than two dozen prospects will sign national letters of intent on Wednesday to play football for Brigham Young University, one of the biggest signing classes in coach Bronco Mendenhall’s nine-year tenure.
Clearly, though, biggest class doesn’t mean best class, if the recruiting experts who make a living handing out stars to high school and junior college football players know what they are talking about.
BYU’s projected class
Player Hometown HS/JC Pos Ht/Wt Comment
Chasen Andersen Logan Logan LB 6-0/220 Son of ex-USU coach Gary Andersen picked BYU over USU
Quincy Awa-Dubose Oxnard Calif. Moorpark JC OL 6-3/305 Late find at the recommendation of new OL coach Garett Tujague
Francis Bernard Herriman Herriman RB 6-0/215 Rushed for 3,123 yards in his prep career, will go on mission first
Maataua Brown Norwalk, Calif. Cerritos JC DL 6-5/290 Committed to Wash. out of HS, but didn’t qualify academically
Josh Carter Tuscon, Ariz. Eastern Arizona OL 6-5/280 Returned missionary overlooked after heavy recruitment out of HS
Michael Davis Los Angeles Glendale WR 6-2/180 Also a top sprinter on school’s track team
Nathan DeBeikes Thousand Oaks, Calif. Thousand Oaks LB 6-2/195 Also a standout running back
Garrett England Salt Lake City Skyline RB 6-3/185 Will likely play on defense for Cougars after a church mission
Rylee Gautavai Bountiful Bountiful LB 6-1/200 Became a tackling machine for well-coached Braves, had 116
Billy Green Shoreline, Wash. Christian King’s HS QB 6-2/196 Graduated from high school early, enrolled in January
Keegan Hicks South Jordan Bingham OL 6-3/280 Bingham pipeline to BYU continues with top-rated center
Brayden Kearsley Beaverton, Ore. Aloha OL 6-6/290 Four-star lineman committed early, wavered, then stayed with it
Dallin Leavitt Portland, Ore. Central Catholic DB 5-11/200 Some early commits from Oregon fell through
Sam Lee Gwynn Park, Md. College of Canyons DB 6-0/180 Played for new BYU OL coach Garett Tujague at juco
Inoke Lotulelei Salt Lake City Cottonwood WR 5-8/175 Had two 1,000-yard seasons, originally committed to UCLA
Kalolo Manu-Utu Compton, Calif. Compton JC LB 6-2/250 Has had trouble staying in linebacker shape, could be an OL or DL
Kai Nacua Las Vegas Liberty LB 6-2/200 Younger brother, Isaiah, also has an offer from BYU
Patrick Palau Salt Lake City East RB 5-11/240 In same mold as former East and Cougar RB, Fui Vakapuna
JonRyheem Peoples Rigby, Idaho Rigby Senior OL 6-6/300 Went back and forth between offers from BYU and Utah
Trajan Pili Las Vegas Centennial LB 6-2/225 Got offers after strong season, but stuck with early commitment
Jordan Preator Plain City Fremont DB 6-0/183 Missed most of senior season with injury, will likely grayshirt
Addison Pulsipher Temecula, Calif. Temecula Valley DE 6-6/250 Two-way lineman could grayshirt or leave immediately on mission
Moroni Pututau Hyrum, Mountain Crest TE 6-4/190 Two-way star is speedy enough to play receiver, or on defense
Thomas Shoaf Columbus, Ind. Columbus North OL 6-6/265 Also had offers from Indiana, Iowa and Ball State
Talon Shumway Highland Lone Peak WR 6-3/190 Also on Lone Peak’s nationally ranked hoops team
Merrill Taliauli Salt Lake City East OL 6-2/305 Stayed a BYU fan despite growing up in shadows of rival Utah
Johnny Tapasoa Laie, Hawaii Kahuku DB 5-10/190 Helped Kahuku win back-to-back state titles
Trenton Trammell Oakland, Calif. San Francisco CC DB 5-11/185 Committed because of inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell
Barring a last-minute development, BYU will sign no five-star recruits, and just one high schooler who rated four stars from both Scout.com and Rivals.com, the two leading recruiting websites. That is Beaverton, Ore., offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley of Aloha High School, and he wavered quite a bit before recommitting to BYU last week.
Scout gives eight probable BYU signees three stars; Rivals hands out three stars to just six would-be Cougars.
Altogether, as of Friday afternoon, Scout ranked BYU as having the 50th best signing class in the country, while Rivals had the Cougars tied for 67th with Georgia Tech, Minnesota and Fresno State.
That’s a far cry from 2010, when both services had BYU in the top 25, mainly because five-star quarterback Jake Heaps picked the Cougars and persuaded a few of his highly recruited pals to sign with BYU as well. And BYU fans know how that turned out.
Which is why national experts are telling BYU fans to step back from the ledge. Mendenhall knows what he is doing, they say. Still, a disturbing trend has unfolded in the last few months for Mendenhall, as several highly touted recruits who had committed to BYU last summer, or even before that, decommitted late in the game and said they will sign elsewhere. That list includes Wilsonville (Ore.) High teammates Tanner Shipley, a receiver, and Johnny Ragin, a linebacker. Shipley decommitted twice from BYU before settling on Boise State; Ragin jumped over to Cal, but is still being pursued by Oregon.
That’s the nature of the beast nowadays in football recruiting. As Mendenhall acknowledged last summer, verbal commitments are becoming less and less meaningful, and don’t stop coaches from pursuing athletes who have pledged to other schools.
Of course, Mendenhall says he never pays attention to how many stars are next to a prospect’s name, noting that several of the Cougars’ top players in his era have been walk-ons or were lightly recruited out of high school.
The Cougars lost three other commits, but some extenuating circumstances were attached to each case. BYU lost Bingham receiver Hayden Weichers to Utah State because the Aggies had a scholarship available for the All-Stater, and BYU did not, expecting him to first go on an LDS Church mission. Washington running back Darrin Laufasa committed to BYU last summer, but the Cougars withdrew the offer and Laufasa will sign with UTEP. Claudell Louis, a defensive end from College of the Sequoias in California, decommitted after Mendenhall made some changes to his offensive coaching staff.
Louis would have been one of a half-dozen or so junior college transfers expected to sign with BYU, a high number for Mendenhall.
Two players signed in December and are already enrolled: prep quarterback Billy Green of Christian King’s School in Shoreline, Wash., and juco cornerback Trenton Trammell of City College of San Francisco.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.