BYU’s football recruiting class will lean heavily on returned missionaries

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young head coach Kalani Sitake smiles as the Cougars celebrate their win 42-14 win over the Aggies, in football action between Brigham Young Cougars and Utah State Aggies in Logan, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.

Provo • While college football’s national signing day is still set for the first Wednesday of February, the early signing period — a 72-hour window — gets underway Wednesday for recruits wanting to sign their 2020 National Letters of Intent.

As far as BYU coach Kalani Sitake is concerned, the earlier the better.

“We can sign them and lock them up and let them have a good holiday break and announce it later,” Sitake said. “Right now, I think it'll be good for the missionaries to get recognized, who are starting in January as well.”

Returned missionaries will most likely take up the bulk of BYU’s early signing period commitments.

Six of those players will be able to enroll in January, while seven others should return in time for fall camp.

The group of those that previously committed includes some standouts, like Tyler Batty, Donovan Hanna and Oliver Nasilai.

Batty, a three-star defensive lineman out of Payson High, picked BYU over Utah. Hanna, a tight end from Queen Creek, Ariz., was coached by former BYU quarterback Max Hall at American Leadership Academy. Nasilai, nicknamed “The Punisher,” is a 6-foot-2, 245-pound linebacker who averaged over 10 tackles per game at Jessieville High School in Arkansas.

As far as new commits, BYU just landed a big one. Three-star prospect Micah Harper announced his commitment to the Cougars via Twitter on Monday.

Harper will bring a lot of versatility to BYU. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound athlete has played running back, quarterback, cornerback, safety and punt returner at Basha High School (Arizona).

He could help the Cougars at the running back position or go wherever needed on defense.

BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said last week that the coaching staff was going to focus on the running back and wide receiver positions in recruiting.

“With some of the guys we've had committed for a while at other positions and with, obviously, the seniors that we lose at those two spots, certainly that's a critical spot for us in this class,” Grimes said.

Of the Cougars’ top four receivers, three (Micah Simon, Talom Shumway and Aleva Hifo) are seniors. Tight end Matt Bushman is a junior, but he will decide after the Hawaii Bowl if he’ll forgo his senior season for the NFL draft.

In the running back category, BYU suffered a large loss when grad transfer Ty’Son Williams suffered a torn ACL during the fourth game of the season. As of Monday, Sitake said he still isn’t sure if Williams will seek a medical waiver and return to play one more season at BYU.

But either way, Grimes said the coaches are doing the best they can to bring in the recruits they think will fit in best at BYU. Even if that means looking for another grad transfer like Williams.

“We’re looking in every nook and cranny that we can to hopefully find a guy that’s the right fit for us, like I think we did last year,” Grimes said.