Kalani Sitake casts a wider net for BYU football recruits, but two high-profile LDS prospects remain at the top of coaching staff’s wish list

Andrew Gentry, an OL from Colorado, and Sol-Jay Maiava, a QB from Washington, D.C., by way of Hawaii, are considered must-gets Cougars as search for 2020 stars heats up

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU running backs coach AJ Steward (right) has only been on the job for a year, but already he's considered a rising star in recruiting due to his work bringing non-LDS athletes to BYU.

Provo • Although there is still the matter of running back Ty’Son Williams getting accepted into a graduate program at BYU, Cougar coaches were thrilled a few weeks ago when the transfer from South Carolina announced via Twitter that he hopes to exhaust his final season of eligibility in Provo.

However, the more pressing issue for head coach Kalani Sitake’s assistant coaches — the primary recruiters from mid-April through the end of May — is assembling the prospects who will comprise the 2020 recruiting class, guys who will be high school seniors this fall.

They’ve been scouring the country since April 15, looking for players who have Division I talent, but can also get admitted into BYU and abide the school’s Honor Code. As usual, it’s not a big pool.

“Sometimes the fit can be more important than a position need,” offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said on BYUtv.

It is early in the process. The early signing period is Dec. 18-20, 2019. But two highly sought-after high school players who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have already emerged as must-gets for the Cougars, according to BYU football recruiting expert Jeff Hansen of 247sports.com.

Sol-Jay Maiava, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound three-star quarterback from Kahuku, Hawaii, who is currently living in Washington, D.C. and attending St. John’s College High School, is LDS and has had a BYU offer since last May. He also has offers from Michigan, Oregon, Virginia, Utah and Utah State, according to 247sports.com.

“BYU has to get the high-profile LDS quarterbacks, in my opinion,” Hansen said. “They absolutely have to get Maiava.”

Passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick and receivers coach Fesi Sitake are Maiava’s primary recruiters. Coaches cannot comment on recruits until they have signed, but Roderick hinted during spring practices that “there is a special one [quarterback] out there” that BYU covets.

It is not clear if Maiava has mission plans.

The other big-time LDS prospect in the class of 2020 is Andrew Gentry, a 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive lineman from Colorado’s Columbine High who is the brother of current BYU OL JT Gentry. A four-star recruit, the younger Gentry has offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Oklahoma and Michigan.

“Gentry would be one of BYU’s biggest gets in school history, if it gets him,” Hansen said.


• Bodie Schoonover, outside linebacker, American Fork High School

• Josh Wilson, inside linebacker, Corner Canyon High School

• Logan Pili, defensive back, Timpview High School

• Nukuluve Helu, athlete, Tooele High School

• Dahlin Mesake, linebacker, Bishop Gorman (Nevada) High School

• Isaiah Perez, defensive end, Othello (Washington) High School

BYU was the first school to offer Gentry, on Aug. 11, 2017, and since then more than 30 schools, the biggest names in college football, have followed suit. Grimes and new offensive line coach Eric Mateos are Gentry’s primary recruiters.

Hansen said Mateos’ personality has been a hit with several BYU OL prospects he’s talked to, including Gentry. “They just rave about how fun of a guy he is, how energetic he is, and people are happy to be around him,” Hansen said. “He hasn’t signed anyone yet, but he’s on track to be an all-star recruiter for them.”

As of Friday, BYU had six commitments from the 2020 class, including four from Utah: American Fork linebacker Bodie Schoonover, Timpview defensive back Logan Pili, Corner Canyon linebacker Josh Wilson and Tooele athlete Nukuluve Helu. Wilson is the brother of current BYU starting QB Zach Wilson and Pili is the brother of current Cougar defenders Trajan and Keenan Pili.

Dahlin Mesake, an outside linebacker from Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, and Isaiah Perez, a defensive end from Othello (Wash.) High, have also committed to BYU.

A three-star prospect who blew up as a sophomore (when he committed to BYU in 2017) and then didn’t play as a junior due to injuries and a school change, Mesake will be difficult to keep in the fold because he’s starting to get offers from Power 5 schools, Hansen said.

Missouri, Mississippi State, Florida, Oregon and LSU have offered, according to 247sports.com’s website.

The site says BYU has made 58 offers, including one to Georgia linebacker Choe Bryant-Strother, a three-star prospect who happens to be the younger brother of former BYU basketball star Elijah Bryant.

Hansen said a couple of other intriguing offers have gone out to a pair of running backs who are not LDS but have genuine interest in BYU and could live the BYU lifestyle: Ikaika Ragsdale of Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) and Israel Benjamin of Scottsdale, Ariz. (Saguaro High).

BYU running backs coach AJ Steward, who was mostly responsible for getting the aforementioned Williams of South Carolina to commit, is the primary recruiter on Ragsdale and Benjamin.

Steward “is another BYU recruiter I’m hearing good things about,” Hansen said.